Note: Wanapum State Park is closed until further notice.
Wanapum State Park is located in Central Washington 40 minutes east of Ellensburg. It sits on 27,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Wanapum Reservoir on the Columbia River. As one of the many campgrounds on the Columbia River it is home to the Ginko Petrified Forest which hosts one of the most diverse collections of Petrified Wood in North America. The campground offers 50 full hook up sites in a beautiful setting on a bluff overlooking the river below. Wanapum is open year round, but only open on the weekends and holidays from November 1st-March 15. It is a popular destination during the summer months due to the close proximity to the Gorge Amphitheatre.
While the park is an easy 5 minutes off of I-90 the surrounding area does not have a lot to offer. The town of Vantage is essentially just an exit with gas stations. The nearest towns, Ellensburg, and Quincy are 30 minutes away. While both Ellensburg and Quincy offer many things to do, the drive to get there makes it inconvenient for campers. The only thing offered at the park itself is the day use area, boat launch and swim beach. It is a very nice day use area but is heavily populated even during the week with non-campers. It is also very popular with boaters and the fishing is fantastic. The Ginko Petrified Forest section of the park, on the other side of I-90 offers a museum and several hiking trails with beautiful views. The weather gets extremely hot in the area so be prepared when taking hikes. It is also rattlesnake country so heed warnings. The museum was closed while we were there in spite of having daily hours of 10-6.
Things to see in the area:
Most of the campsites are very nice and level and some offer amazing views. The view sites cost $39.00 a night, $5.00 more than the other sites. The lower loop is the better loop but is also windier. There are some oddly configured sites in the upper loop, some of which have the sitting area down a short trail away from the site itself. Our campsite was amazing. We had a very large site with a perfect view of the river. The park is super green in spite of the warm climate. The rangers were very visible and the park was really quiet when we were there. The wind is an issue at this park. We were fortunate to have 2 nights of calm but the normal is really strong winds in the evening, so strong that tenters struggle to keep their tents up. Our awning went in every night.
*you can see pictures of every campsite when making reservations.
The facilities around the park are decent. Typical Washington State Parks style restrooms, with pay showers(.50 for 3 minutes). They were well maintained, and clean. The day use area restroom had garbage overflowing in every can however. This is due to the heavy use of the day use area. It was extremely busy even on a Tues afternoon. The day use area is nice, and has a nice sandy beach. Only the left side of the swim area has a sandy bottom, the right side is full of sharp rocks that hurt your feet when walking on them. There is an outside shower, a nice touch, to rinse off at after your swim. The water is really cold. Do not let the hot temperatures fool you. The Columbia River is glacier fed so the water never really warms up even in the extreme heat. A Discover Pass is required for the day use area if you are not camping there. Cell service at the park was pretty poor. We had between 1-2 bars the whole time. The 3G service wasn’t bad, better than a lot of places. There was no TV reception at all at this park. We also had troubles with our electrical but to be fair we were in the middle of an extreme heat wave. Our trailer was almost never below 90 degrees and the AC tripped the breaker constantly with nothing else running.
It’s a decent park for kids, but there is no play area. The kids loved swimming at the swim beach and there are plenty of places to ride bikes and scooters. Our campsite was big enough to set up some games, like Lasso Golf. There was also plenty of room for football, and frisbee. We saw a few campers there that brought some inflatable swimming pools for the little kids. We set up misters on our awning to beat the heat which the kids enjoyed. The park is also watered all the time so the kids took full advantage of the sprinklers.
This park is pretty typical for state parks. Dogs are welcome but need to be on a leash and supervised at all times. There are doggie bags around the park placed for your convenience. The rattlesnakes were a concern to me however as our dogs are little. Dogs are more likely to get bit by a rattlesnake then humans so I kept them away from the sagebrush around the campsite. The nearest vet was 35 minutes away in case of an emergency so I didn’t take any chances.
We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think of Wanapum State Park in the comments below.
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