The Lewiston Shamrock Tour® promises diverse roads in a land of canyons, prairies, mountains, and forests. This rough country was settled by tough people eking out a living off the land, and they built roads through the canyons and high on the prairies. Their hard work sets the stage for this tour along some amazing roads with equally amazing history. Let’s ride!
Big Rivers, Big Floods,and Big Horizons
After a hearty breakfast at my home base, the Red Lion Hotel Lewiston, and a quick coffee at Starbucks, I begin my journey. I’ve plotted a northwest course to explore the Snake River, rolling farmlands, and ice age floods geology. My escape from the Lewiston, ID/Clarkston, WA, metropolis is a 15-minute affair, and I’m soon alone, riding parallel to the Snake River. Rugged hills dressed in multiple shades of green are reflected perfectly in the stillness of the river, creating a circular appearance to the land. With a soothing rhythm and low rumble, the Triumph Bonneville glides along this ribbon of asphalt adjacent to two other key transportation corridors that helped shape this region: water and rail. The tranquil setting is a perfect juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle of daily life—one of the reasons many of us enjoy these remote areas on our motorcycles. An occasional pothole keeps me focused on scanning the road while taking in the views.
I turn north, climbing past farms to the western edge of the Palouse, a farming area of Eastern Washington and North Idaho containing fertile soils blown in from Oregon thousands of years ago. Wheat, barley, and other crops present a palette of different greens in the early summer as I follow these horse-and-wagon-trails-turned-roads around and over the rolling hills. Most of the small towns in this area were shaped by the railroad. For example, LaCrosse, WA, exploded in population when the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co. connected the city from Riparia to the southwest in 1888.
Traveling west, I enter Washington’s “Channeled Scablands,” an area eroded away by the great ice age floods 12,000 years ago when over 100 large ice dam breaches from Glacial Lake Missoula in Montana flooded this area with tumults of water hundreds of feet deep. Floodwaters scoured everything in their path down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean some 350 miles away. I stop in the bottom of Washtucna Coulee to capture a photo, and I try to imagine what it was like when these huge floods came through. It’s hard to comprehend. Palouse Falls was formed from these floods when a new channel, arrow-straight to the south, was carved through the basalt rock faults, creating a spectacular waterfall and new channel south to the Snake River.