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Museum Tours Bring History to Life

Geology, history, and Native American traditions are prominent in our local culture. But how much do you know about these elements that make the valley so special?  The Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center is once again offering a series of tours designed to educate and entertain all who attend.

These bus tours all originate at the museum and include expert guides. Many of the tours are new this year. Several are returning. Here is a summary of the schedule:

June 3 – Native Heritage Tour, Moses Coulee:  This new tour lets participants explore significant cultural sites of the Sinkiuse people including paint gathering, projectile manufacturing and cave locations with guide Randy Lewis. Lewis grew up with a strong understanding and sense of place within Native American Columbia Plateau indigenous society. He traces his roots to the Wenatchi band. His life experiences include fishing at Celilo Falls before waters from the construction of The Dalles Dam inundated the Columbia River site. In addition to Wenatchee Heights and Celilo Falls, Lewis lived with extended family in Okanagan County and Ellensburg. All these experiences contribute to the wealth of knowledge he is eager to share. Lewis’ enthusiasm for the history of his people, the stories of his ancestors and their relation to the surrounding landscape comes from a hope for greater understanding and respect of ancient cultures. He hopes that deeper appreciation will transcend to how people approach the discovery of Native American artifacts.

The Moses Coulee is significant for several reasons. It is believed to be the birthplace of Chief Moses. In addition, significant cave locations throughout the coulee were places to gather. The Coulee is the site of standoffs between Chief Moses and the Cavalry. Tribes used the fishing sites near Rock Island at the mouth of Moses Coulee, they gathered roots, and they gathered minerals used in pictograph painting along the Coulee. There are also lithic sites where projectile points were manufactured. Using the mouth of the Moses Coulee as a backdrop, Lewis will explain the significance of the Colockum area to tribes.

June 10 – Ice Age Flood Trail Tour:  This tour includes stops at Three Devils Cataracts, Moses Coulee, and Dry Falls. Participants will get to see Brewster’s grand terrace, Boulder Park and Withrow Morraine. Explanations of the pillow basalts between Douglas and Waterville, as well as a possible stop at the Waterville Museum are included. At Corbaley Canyon, they will see a volcanic dike fissure.  Along the tour, expert guides will point out and discuss giant boulders, kettles, kames and eskers.

Wenatchee Valley Museum is fortunate to have two highly trained guides leading this tour: Brent Cunderla and Ken Lacy. Cunderla is a retired geologist from the Bureau of Land Management. He is current president of the Wenatchee Valley Erratics, a chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute. Lacy is a board member of the Ice Age Floods Institute. Both are passionate about sharing the story of North Central Washington geology.

July 8 – Malaga Tour:  This all-new geologic venture first visits two locations where gold has been mined within the vicinity of Wenatchee. Mining for gold started almost 150 years by Chinese miners around 1870 in an area that later became the location of the Gold King/Lovitt Mines. In 1985 the Cannon Mine opened and operated for about 10 years, producing more than one-million ounces of gold and in excess of two-million ounces of silver before closing in 1994 due to lack of mineable reserves. Several unique geologic features will be observed along the route. These include Saddle Rock, Owl Sisters, and Stemilt Pinnacles. All these features are known to have Native American significance.

Imagine a wall of water almost 1,000 feet deep encompassing the Wenatchee valley. The Ice Age Floods story will be highlighted at several stops along the field trip route. The enormous Pangborn Bar, thousands of bed-load boulders rolled from distant locations, and the Moses Coulee flood bar are a few of the specific features that will be observed. The last stop on the excursion will be at the Malaga Springs Winery. The site lies at the base of Jump-Off-Joe Ridge, high on the hillside south of Malaga. An overview of the unique geology and Ice Age Floods story will be explained at this stop best due to the great scenic vistas from this location. This will be our lunch stop and time will allow wine tasting. Cunderla and  Lacy lead this tour.

August 19 – Wellington Tour:  On March 1, 1910, the deadliest avalanche in North American history swept down the snowy Cascades, burying two trains and killing 96 people. This tour includes the Wellington avalanche site and four other sites between Leavenworth and Stevens Pass that played ortant roles in the history of the Great Northern Railway Company. Those who want to learn more about the disaster before the tour might want to read Gary Krist’s book The White Cascade, available in the museum gift shop.

Historian and museum Curator of Collections Melanie Wachholder of Wenatchee will lead the tour. Tour goers will hear an overview of GNR history, view photos and artifacts from the Wellington Disaster, and then board a tour bus. The bus will then travel west on U.S. Highway 2, stopping for discussion at several points of interest. The final stop will be the interpretive site at Wellington, where participants will have lunch and take a half-mile walk around the area of the disaster. Those who wish may take a longer hike along the Iron Goat Trail.

September 9 – The Great Escape Geology Tour:  Ice Age Floods, using the Grand Coulee and the Upper Crab Creek drainages, filled the Quincy Basin at a rate up to 16.5 million cubic meters of water per second. This tour will examine the incredible erosive consequences of the floodwaters escaping the Quincy Basin, via Lynch, Potholes and Frenchman Springs Coulees. In addition, it examines the eight mile wide Drumheller Channels, through which most of the Quincy Basin floodwaters drained largely down the Lower Crab Creek drainage, toward the Columbia River at Beverly, Washington. Cunderla and  Lacy lead this tour.

October  14 – Fire and Ice Geology Tour:  Head to the site of the largest landslide to have occurred in the country. Participants learn to read and understand the features of the basalt cliffs. At the Waterville Plateau, evidence of the continental ice sheet that once covered this area can be seen, including: Withrow Terminal Moraine, kames, eskars, drumlins and kettles. See the Grand Terrace at Brewster and the source of the glacial erratics that cover so much of the Waterville Plateau.  The tour’s final stop is the volcanic feeder dikes at Pine Canyon. Cunderla and  Lacy lead this tour.

Tickets and advance registration are required for all tours.  They vary in length and price. Details are available on the museum website at WenatcheeValleyMuseum.org.

The Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center occupies two former federal buildings constructed in 1917 and 1937. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Led by the efforts of the Columbia River Archeological Society, the museum was established in 1939 as a way to publicly display extensive private collections of local American Indian artifacts. The museum opened its doors in its current location in 1978 after outgrowing the Wenatchee Carnegie Building at Memorial Park. Today the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center operates as an independent nonprofit with generous support from the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee and a strong membership base.

The buildings house two floors of engaging exhibits and are home to a diverse set of educational programming offerings including school tours, living history presentations, theater organ concerts, lectures, STEM enrichment classes, lectures and films. The basements of the two buildings house an extensive collection of more than 60,000 artifacts related to preserving the rich heritage and diversity of North Central Washington. The museum is located at 127 S. Mission Street in Wenatchee. Regular hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit www.WenatcheeValleyMuseum.org or call (509) 888-6240.

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