Walla Walla County is in south-eastern Washington State. The county was originally formed April 25, 1854. The county is named after the Walla Walla tribe of Native Americans. Loosely translated Walla Walla means many waters. The county is adjacent to Columbia County to the east. Umatilla County Oregon to the south. Benton County is to the west. Franklin County is located to the northwest. Walla Walla County is approximately 1300 Square Miles in size.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the county in 1805 when they canoed through the Snake River. On the return trip the expedition used the Columbia River and began their eastern journey by starting near Wallula.
Soon after Lewis and Clark returned to the east the North West Fur Company and the Pacific Fur Company setup fir trading centers in what would become Walla Walla county. The North West Fur Company built Fort Walla Walla. Due to the size of the fort it was called the Gibraltar of the Columbia. The two trading companies merged in 1821 with Hudson Bay Company taking control of the fort and the fur trade.
In 1836 Presbyterian missionaries arrived in the area. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman started the Waiilatpu mission on the Walla Walla river. This mission served as a welcoming waystation for pioneers who were moving westward. In 1847 the Whitman’s were and other settlers were killed by members of the Cayuse tribe. The Cayuse were upset because of a measles outbreak they attributed to the settlers.
Gold was found on the Clearwater River in Idaho. The town of Walla Walla grew as it became the main place for miners to find supplies. By 1861 the town of Walla Walla had a population of 3,500. At that time Walla Walla was the largest city in the Washington Territory.
Whitman Seminary was founded in 1859 and was named after Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. In 1882 the name was changed to Whitman College. In 1913 Whitman College became the first institution of higher learning to require exams in a students major to qualify for graduation.
The Walla Walla State Penitentiary was opened in 1887 and is still in operation today. Currently the prison has minimum, medium and maximum areas.
The Walla Walla District of the Corp of Engineers opened in 1948. The Corp was responsible for building dams on the Snake River. The Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor Dams have been operational since the 1960’s.
Agriculture is a vital industry for Walla Wall County. Wheat is the largest crop in the county. The Broetje Orchards located in Prescott has 5,000 acres of Apple trees making it one of the largest privately held orchards in the word. Grapes have grown in importance and Walla Walla County is considered one of the premier grape growing regions in the United States. The Snake River Vineyard is the largest Concord Grape vineyard in the world. There are over 90 vineyards operating currently in Walla Walla County. Walla Walla Sweet Onions were developed and are exclusively grown in the region.
Walla Walla is the largest city in the county. Estimated population in 2018 is approximately 33,000. The city of Walla Walla is also the County Seat.
Things to do in Walla Walla County
Visit the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. There are many activities for visitors. See the Whitman Museum. Walk the trails and take a self-guided tour. Enjoy a picnic at the picnic shelter. Let the kids become Junior Rangers.
Bike the Kooskooskie Ride. This 30ish mile ride that will have you peddling through downtown Walla Walla and continuing through tree lined county roads towards the Blue Mountains. Certainly, a beautiful ride.
Enjoy some of the local wines. With over 90 wineries you will not have any trouble finding someplace to sample some of the amazing wines from the region.
Go to a Baseball game. During the summer you can sit in Borleske Stadium and watch The Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League compete against some of the best young talent in Baseball. Afterall who does not want to root for Sweet Lou the team mascot? You guessed it, he’s An Onion!
Learn all about Lavender. Visit the Blue Mountain Lavender farm in Lowden Washington. 10 acres of fragrant Lavender. Open to the public approximately 2 weeks a year you will need to plan ahead. 25 varieties of u-pick Lavender await.
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