Adams County

Adams County is in Central East Washington State. The county was incorporated on November 28, 1883. Adams was formed out territory from Whitman County. Adams County is named after John Adams the second president of the United States. Adams County is adjacent to Lincoln County to the north, Whitman County to the east, Franklin County to the south, and Grant County to the west.  Adams County is approximately 1,930 Square Miles in Size.

The Missoula Floods were the ultimate cause of the topography of Adams County. Geologists have named the region The Channeled Scablands. From Pothole series of small lakes to the large coulees Adams County was indelibly marked by these ice age floods.

The Palouse tribe were the original inhabitants of the area that would become Adams County. The Palouse tribe were noted for their horses. Using the area to keep their horses ranged. Without an abundance of natural resources both Native Americans and early settlers simply viewed the area as a place to pass through.

The first permanent settlement was located at Cow Creek. The settlement was simply a waystation on the way to Fort Colville.  This road ultimately became known and the White Bluff Trail and wandered through South East Washington ending in the Dalles Oregon. Without natural resources to develop around the area remained mostly unsettled.

In 1881 the Northern Pacific Railroad started to lay track through Adams County. This led to the creation of Ritzville in 1884. In 1907 The Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad laid tracks in the region. With the railroads can settlers and the area began to enjoy modest growth. In the 1880’s farmers started planting wheat in the area. Due to the arid nature of the area they had to resort to dry farming. Leaving their fields fallow every other year to conserve water to grow wheat. 1897 was a record year for wheat and more settlers arrived in the area.

Ritzville shipped more wheat that any other town in the world in 1901. Leading to the County proclaiming itself “The Breadbasket of the World” at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Exposition in Seattle.

A catastrophic drought created dustbowl conditions from 1928-1931. Many of the residents were forced to leave the area. Adams County remained underdeveloped until the early 1950’s

The Columbia Irrigation Project began to deliver irrigation water to Adams County in 1952. This brought growth to the area.  Currently Adams County is a leading producer of both wheat and potatoes.

Othello is the largest city in Adams County with a population of approximately 8,000 people. Ritzville is the county seat and has an estimated population of 1,700 people.

Things to do in Adams County

Paint a bus. #ThatNWBus is an abandoned bus that has been moved to a permanent location at the intersection of Hwy 26 and HWY 261.  It is a great photo op

Visit Potholes State Park with 640 acres and over 6,000 freshwater shoreline Potholes is a popular camping and fishing destination. You can also enjoy the birdwatching or perhaps water skiing or paddle boarding.

Tour the Ritzville Railway Depot Museum. The 1910 Northern Pacific Railroad depot is now home to a museum where you can explore old school memorabilia from Ritzville and Adams County. There is a horse drawn hearse and more.

Take a hike or a bike ride in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. With over 29,500 acres of preserved land there is a wide range of animals, birds, and insects that call the area home. Depending on the season it may be quiet, or it may be a chorus of wildlife noises.

Watch cowboys ride broncs and bulls at the Othello Rodeo. This professional rodeo was started in 1948 and has a long-celebrated history.

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Cities in Adams County

Ritzville  Othello

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