There are a lot of fun and interesting cool things to know about our great state of Washington. For instance, it’s the only state to be named after a president, which while obvious, makes the name of our state unique. Or one of our unusual fun facts about the state — it’s actually illegal to kill Sasquatch in Washington. Can you believe it?!
Just as there are plenty of interesting facts to learn about the state, there are also plenty of fun facts to learn about each of the state’s individual cities, including the Tri-Cities community.
The Official Folk Song of the State is About the Columbia River
Way back in the 1940s, America’s favorite folk singer, Woody Guthrie, visited the area and couldn’t help but feel inspired. So much so that he went on to write 26 songs about our ever-flowing river that became known as the Columbia River Ballads.
One of these songs, “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On,” became the most popular song of all 26, immortalizing the river as it is “turning the darkness to dawn,” a lyric in the song that refers to the electricity generated by the New Deal hydropower projects at the time that was bringing electricity to homes in rural areas.
The fondness of the song only grew as the years wore on. Because of the song’s message and popularity throughout the state, it was eventually established as the official folk song of Washington in 1987.
The Hanford Site Played a Key Role in World War II
During the Manhattan Project the now historical landmark in the Tri-Cities known as the Hanford Site was developed in Richland during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. The site became home to the Hanford Engineer Works and the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor.
Plutonium manufactured at the site was then used in the first atomic bomb, and during the war, the Tri-Cities developed most of the weapons used in the United States Army’s arsenal. One of the physicists working at the Hanford Site during this time was John Archibald Wheeler, who coined the phrase “wormhole” and popularized other terms such as the “black hole.”
Today, visitors can catch a peak at what life was like during this time in our country’s history by taking a tour of the reactor, as well as a walking tour of Richland’s Alphabet Houses that were built alongside the reactor in response to the growing population need within the time period.
One of the Most Complete Ancient Skeletons Ever Found Came from Kennewick
On a hot summer day in July of 1996, two young men accidentally found part of a human skull near the shore of the Columbia River outside of Kennewick. Authorities were alerted, and over the next few days, a dig was conducted with some three hundred bone elements and fragments discovered over the next month. In the end, 90% of an adult male human skeleton was unearthed with a surprising twist. What was assumed to be the untimely passing of someone from the current day and age turned out to be the skeletal remains of someone who had lived almost 10,000 years ago!
He became known as the Kennewick Man or the Ancient One to Native Americans and was the most complete ancient skeleton to ever be found. The remarkable discovery immediately sparked public interest, and with it came controversy. The stretch of river where the remains were found is an area of the Umatilla Tribe’s traditional homeland. As a result, they requested custody of the Ancient One’s remains so that they may bury him according to tribal tradition. Since the remains were so well preserved, they became a coveted item among scientists and historians who wanted to keep the remains and study them.
What ensued as a result of this tug-of-war was a nine-year case over ownership of the body. Though the court would find in favor of the scientist during the original verdict, claiming that the remains could not officially be defined as “Native American,” the tribe refused to give up. As the years flew by and DNA testing became more precise and modernized, the tribe finally proved that Kennewick Man was indeed a member after two dozen tribe members provided DNA samples for comparison. Astounding matches were able to prove that he was one of their own. He was returned to the tribe and was laid to rest following tribal traditions on February 18, 2017, with 200 members of the five Columbia Basin Tribes in attendance.
It’s All About the Stars in the Tri-Cities
Limited city lights in the Tri-Cities region have allowed for some amazing stargazing opportunities and set the stage for some astronomical studies. Sometimes you can even see the northern lights at certain times of the year!
As a result of these brilliant night skies, star parties have become all the rage in the region, and some are even free. There’s a Tri-City Astronomy Club that regularly meets to stargaze and often posts upcoming events that are open to the public on their webpage for those interested in learning more about the planets that make up our solar system.
You’ll also find scientists hard at work at the Ligo Hanford Observatory Operations in Richland, where they research the sense of vibrations of gravitational waves from the depths of space with the aid of a laser interferometer. While their studies at this particular observatory may be passed the realm of knowledge for the casual observer, there are plenty of observing opportunities, just a hop, skip, and a jump away over in Pasco. Here, the biggest planetarium in Washington resides, known as the Bechtel Planetarium, which opened its doors to star-struck residents in 2012. Visitors to this particular planetarium can expect to enjoy life-like, high-definition images and sound using the most state-of-the-art projection system in the Pacific Northwest. A typical hour-long show consists of a live presentation and a full-dome movie with presentation topics ranging from the solar system to constellation tours, what’s visible in the current night sky, astronomy news, and anything else that may pass us by in the night overhead.
The Tri-Cities is also home to ten public golf courses and more than 200 wineries within a one-hour drive, and the Ice Harbor Dam is the second largest navigational lock in the world! All these fun facts and many more make up the diverse Tri-Cities community.
Do you have any fun facts about the Tri-Cities that we might have missed? Send your answers to email@example.com, and they could appear in our next fun facts article about the remarkable area.