The Tri Cities, Washington is pretty much the best place to live on earth! It is a growing area with 300+ days of sun each year and a population of over 300,000. It can get pretty cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, but usually the extremes are fairly short-lived. In any case, it’s hard to notice the weather when you’re so busy. There’s biking, bowling, hunting, soccer, fishing and water-related fun in the 3 large rivers that run through. The cost of living is also relatively low and real estate has done very well, even through 2008-2009.
There are also 10 great golf courses, from the put-puts to the nationally ranked that are open year-round. Of course they close when in snows, but the white stuff is not common around here anyway. If that disappoints you, perhaps you’ll be happy to learn that there are several ski resorts within a 2-3 hour drive of the Tri Cities. Plus, 3 professional sports teams and the annual hydroplane races always need you to cheer them on. Wine-lovers are also welcome since our climate and geography is so well…awesome…that we have over 200 wineries within 50 miles.
The incredible farmland and population explosion over the past 100 years have attracted many businesses to the area. Here are a few of the biggest names with major operations right here in the Tri Cities:
- Fluor Corp.
- US Cellular
- Lampson Cranes
- Lockheed Martin
- Reser’s Fine Foods
- Twin City Foods
- Tyson Foods
- URS Corp.
- ConAgra Foods (Lamb Weston)
- SSC Aero (formerly manufactured the fastest car in the world)
History of the Tri Cities
Pasco was the first of the Tri Cities to be incorporated in 1891. Kennewick followed in 1904 and Richland in 1910. After the Hanford project, some unhappy Richlanders formed West Richland in 1955. Pasco grew quickly for two main reasons. First of all, the railroad station was there. Second, it contained the most farmable land and thus attracted thousands of Hispanics, particularly during the harvest season. Even today Pasco is about half Hispanic/Mexican.
The Hanford Project
In the 1940’s the government began a project to create a nuclear bomb and what better place to do it than the Tri Cities? Enter Hanford, WA which attracted thousands of workers to support the project. The effort produced millions of gallons of radioactive waste stored in crude underground containers and is still being cleaned up. At first the surge in jobs was an enormous boost to the population and economy of the area and is still significant today, although less so. In fact, economists have recently suggested that if the Hanford project were to end operations, the impact would only be minor. Nonetheless, the original project was original driving force that catapulted the Tri Cities. As the number of residents exploded, so did the need for additional services. Therefore, business-people moved to the area to take advantage of the growth and the cycle has continued until today. Of course the downside to Hanford has always been that government funding oscillates. When cuts occur, mass lay-offs ensue and some leave the Tri Cities for work elsewhere. This has become less and less of a problem as the population has increased, but is still a hot button political issue for many.
Rivers of the Area
The Columbia River
All 3 of the Columbia, Snake and Yakima Rivers intersect in the Tri Cities. The Columbia is the biggest of the three and orginates in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. It follows a northwest and then southern route through Washington and then careens west to the Pacific Ocean. This path also forms the border between Washington and Oregon. In total the river is 1,243 miles long and is the fourth largest in the country. The Columbia also has the largest flow of any river flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
The Snake River
The Snake River is the largest tributary to the Columbia River. It is 1,078 miles long and the largest North American river to empty into the Pacific Ocean. The Snake’s drainage basin consists of parts of six states and supported many Indian Tribes for centuries. Millions of salmon that swim to the ocean and then return to spawn each year provided a significant food-source. Later the river was also utilized for shipping by early settlers. Today that tradition continues as enormous barges and tugboats are commonplace along the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Fifteen major dams have been constructed along the river’s course, providing hydroelectric power and irrigation. These structures can be problematic to salmon however and so there are a great deal of politics surrounding their continued existence.
The Yakima River
The Yakima River is much smaller than the Columbia and Snake. It is a mere 214 miles from beginning to end, but never ventures outside the state. The headwaters of the Yakima are located in the Cascade Mountains at 2,449 feet and drop an average of nearly 10 feet per mile to its mouth. Although the Yakima is too small for motorized boats, skiiing and other water recreation, it is popular for fishing, floating in tubes and swimming. Despite its small size relative to the Columbia and Snake, the Yakima River exclusively provides irrigation water to the Tri Cities area. This is a problem every few years as flows are abnormally low and irrigation useage therefore restricted.
Farming, lots of Farming
As mentioned, a large part of what originaly drove the growth of the Tri Cities and particularly Pasco was farming. Although the area is actually a desert, vast irrigation canals, fed by river water, make huge farm tracts possible. In fact, Washinton (mostly eastern Washington) produces many agricultural foods, especially apples. Every year more than 4 billion pounds of apples are grown in Washington, more than any other state. That’s enough to stretch around the world nearly 30 times! Tri Cities farms also produce huge amounts of other crops including potatoes, onions, wheat, asparagus, cherries and hundreds of others. Here are some major crops and how Washingon ranks in their production with other states:
- Apples #1
- Hops #1
- Sweet corn #1
- Mint #1
- Corn for grain #1
- Barley #1
- Kentucky blue grass #1
- Onions #1
- Asparagus #1
- Cherries #1
- Grapes #1
- Pears #1
- Potatoes #2
- Hay #3
- Wheat #5
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