North Central Washington may be famous for apples, pears, and other fruits and vegetables, but visit Waterville and you'll be in the heart of wheat country.
Waterville was founded in 1885 and sits high on a plateau above the Columbia River. Early dreams of cattle farming were dashed when the harsh winter of 1889-1890 killed most of the local stock. Thereafter, potatoes and wheat vied for supremacy as the dominant cash crop.
Wheat farming eventually won out, thanks to fertile soil, plenty of winter snow and spring rain, dry summers, and high market demand, and became a mainstay of the local economy. Today, as you drive Highway 2, you're surrounded by rolling hills resplendent in amber waves of grain.
Wheat farming was not without its problems in the early days, transportation being a major one. Waterville’s location on the high plateau made access to the river ports barely possible for heavily loaded wagons.
The solution arrived in 1902, when the Columbia River Tramway Company began operating trams from the edge of the bluff down to a steamboat landing three miles north of Orondo. Large steel buckets on cables supported by wooden towers carried wheat sacks the two miles down and returned laden with freight and merchandise. The tram was discontinued in 1910 when a railroad spur line began providing shipment via the Great Northern connection at Douglas.
The Douglas County Historical Museum displays much of the local history, including a mural of the Waterville Wheat Tramway, historic buckets, and a wooden portion of the Tramway. The Douglas County Museum is free and open mid-May through mid-October. To see the top of the former Wheat Tram, visit GCWBRM.
The museum also has several pioneer exhibits, and the excellent Schluenz Rock Collection, which includes gems, minerals, thundereggs, petrified wood, and the Waterville and Withrow meteorites. The 73 1/4-pound, iron-and-nickel Waterville Meteorite, discovered in 1917, was the first recovered in the state.
The cache: Located outside the museum and available 24/7. Placed with awareness and permission of museum management.
The Cascade Farmlands GeoRomp is a series of 12 caches that showcases the agriculture, recreation, and scenery of North Central Washington. Each cache has a different theme and highlights a different community: Leavenworth, Plain, Peshastin, Cashmere, Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Entiat, Chelan, Manson, Orondo, Waterville, and Quincy.
- There are 12 geocaches in the series, and all the names start with "CF GeoRomp:" Bookmark list.
- Visit the GeoRomp page to download your passport and see the series prize.
- To qualify for a prize, you must stamp the passport with the ink stamp inside each cache. The passport includes instructions for claiming your prize (150 available, one per family/household).