"In like a Lion out like a Lamb…" – I always felt that the stormy weather that marked the beginning of Spring was Winter’s stubborn grip, hanging on as long as she could. Try as she might, around the Ides of March, she begins to lose her grasp and slips off to the Southern Hemisphere.
This year we are halfway through April and she’s still hanging on. It’s been a long cold winter but fear not, the days are getting longer and soon they’ll be warmer as well.
Nothing signals the beginning of Spring like the return of the birds, and of all the birds who come home in the Spring, there is none so grand as the Bluebird. Unfortunately, in the Puget Sound area, a Bluebird is a rare sighting. In Eastern Washington, or more specifically Southcentral Washington, in the little hamlet of Bickleton, the Bluebirds are abundant.
History is full of Bluebird mythology, legend, art, poetry, and music. Far too much to list here but suffice it to say that the Bluebird’s vibrant blue color and beautiful song have touched our hearts for all our know existence.
“If funny little Bluebirds fly, above the rainbow why oh why can’t I”, The Wizard of Oz, or maybe, “Don’t fly mister Bluebird I’m just walking down the road”, Allman Brothers, Blue Sky.
Although Bluebirds have been migrating between Mexico and the Columbia River Basin for a millennium or more, the Bickleton Bluebird story started about 50 years ago when Jess and Elva Brinkerhoff nailed a coffee can to a tree and a pair of Bluebirds moved in. Inspired, the Brinkerhoffs began building and installing hundreds of their blue and white birdhouses on fenceposts all around the Bickleton area.
The community joined in and now it is estimated that there are as many as two thousand Bluebird houses in and around Klickitat County and the town and Bickleton is known as “The Bluebird Capital of the World”.
A Wonderful Long Weekend Getaway.
The area around Bickleton, Goldendale, and the Columbia River Gorge is beautiful with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and the Columbia River across the rolling farm and grasslands. The Bluebirds begin arriving in April and May. We went in early June and the weather was perfect, with shirtsleeve warmth and blue skies. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the songbirds were everywhere.
I’ve traveled through the Goldendale area on Hwy 97 heading North or South on my way to somewhere many times, but I never pulled off the highway to explore. We went for the Bluebirds but there is so much more to see and do.
The town of Goldendale is the perfect base to explore the area. It is a quaint little town with good food and wineries. Centrally located, it’s 35 miles out the scenic Bickleton Hwy to the town of Bickleton or 17 miles south on Hwy 97 to the Columbia River Gorge.
Things to Do
On the evening we arrived we took the short drive up to the Goldendale Observatory which offers astonishing views to the South across the farm and grasslands to Mt Hood and beyond to Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson in Oregon. This is a very nice place to watch the sunset.
The Bickleton Pioneer Picnic and Rodeo
This year the Pioneer Picnic and Rodeo will be held June 9th, 10th and 11th. This would be the perfect time to combine Bluebirds with a small town rodeo and festival.
The Bickleton Highway Loop
From Goldendale head east on the Bickleton Hwy to the tiny town of Bickleton. Spend the morning exploring the miles of dirt roads around the town spotting Bluebirds, Goldfinches, and other songbirds. Be sure to have lunch at the Bluebird Inn, the oldest tavern in Washington. After lunch head south on County Rd E which winds down into the Gorge. Keep your eyes open for song birds and wildlife. The views of the Gorge, the Columbia River and the Palouse are beautiful. The road turns into the Roosevelt Grade Road just before it intersects with Hwy 14 at the Columbia River. Turn west on Hwy 14 then north on Hwy 97 which takes you back to Goldendale.
The Centerville Highway Loop
Go south on Hwy 97 for about 4 miles then turn right on the Centerville Highway. We loved this drive. It winds through wildflower-filled grasslands with stunning views of Mt Adams, Mt Hood, and the Columbia Gorge all along the way. In the town of Centerville, we turned south on the Dalles Mountain Road and drove for many beautiful miles before it connects to Hwy 14. Go east on Hwy 14 then north on Hwy 97 to complete the loop.
One of many options on this loop is to stay on the Centerville Highway as it winds through Pine forests and grasslands all the way to the town of Lyle on the Columbia River. We didn’t do this, but it was a tough decision. If you choose to go this way the town of Lyle would be a perfect place for lunch before heading back to Goldendale.
These are just two of the many options to explore in this part of Klickitat County.
Don't forget your camera and binoculars!
We don’t need to travel far to see beautiful new places, we just need to step out our door and go. Check out our article 10 Washington Birds to See Near Your Home to help you start your birdwatching adventure right in your own backyard!