Benton County

Benton County is in south-central Washington State. Originally formed on March 8th, 1905. Benton County was created out of parts of Klickitat and Yakima Counties.  Named after Thomas Hart Benton. The Columbia River is the boundary of the County on three sides. (north, south, and east) Benton County is adjacent to Grant County to the North, Franklin County to the Northeast, Walla Walla County to the east, Klickitat County to the southeast, Yakima County to the west. Additionally, Benton County is adjacent to Morrow County Oregon to the southwest and Umatilla County Oregon to the southeast. Benton County is approximately 1,700 Square Miles in size.

Located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains the Benton County area is naturally dry with fertile soil. Native Americans found the area had deer and elk which made the area popular for hunting.

In the late 1850’s a gold rush in Canada brought many would be gold diggers through the area on the Okanogan Trail. Some decided to become settlers in the area and the region began to grow.

In the 1890’s canals brought water from the Columbia River to allow farms to expand and grow. Crops like wheat, potatoes, and grapes were grown in the area. Slow but steady growth in the area until the Great Depression.  Many people in the area were struggling until World War II.

During World War II Franklin and Benton Counties grew rapidly due to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, Hanford was the first full scale plutonium reactor in the world.  Plutonium manufactured at Hanford was used in the first nuclear bombs including the bombs dropped on Japan in World War II.

The McNary Dam was started in 1947 and completed in 1954. The construction of the dam brought more residents to the area. The reservoir allowed for improved river navigation. As the infrastructure of the area continued to grow manufacturing businesses moved in. Many chemical, and metal manufacturing businesses continued to power the growth of the area.

In 1983 the Yakima Valley AVA was the first American Viticultural Area established in Washington State. Benton County saw the increase of grape production and with the increase of grapes followed an increase in wineries. Currently there are two more AVA’s in Benton County.  The Red Mountain AVA which is completely within the county and the Horse Heaven Hills AVA which is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA.  The wine industry has significantly impacted the economy of Benton and surrounding counties by providing both increased tourism and increased economic growth.

The largest city in Benton County is Kennewick with an estimated population of 84,347 as of 2019.  Together with Pasco and Richland Kennewick makes up the Tri-Cities metropolitan area of Washington State. Prosser is the County Seat for the County.

Things to do and see in

Benton County

Play a round of golf.  Benton County has seven public golf courses you are sure to find one that will be both fun and challenging.

Take a tour of The B Reactor at Hanford.  Visit the first nuclear reactor that was commissioned as part of the Manhattan Project.  This is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Go for a hike on Badger Mountain.  Choose from one of the five recommended trails. There is a hike that is exactly right for you.  Enjoy looking at the many varieties of wildflowers.

Watch the Unlimited Hydroplane boat races. See boats that can go 200mph!  Held annually in July as part of the Water Follies Festival.

Stay a night on Clover Island. Enjoy the Clover Island Inn and simply sit back and watch as the might Columbia rolls by.

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Cities:

Kennewick   Richland

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Explore Washington State

Explore Washington State is committed to highlighting every corner of Washington State, publishing new content focused on hidden gems, travel tips, outdoor activities and more throughout the week. Remember, there is always more to explore!