In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the shimmering Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on the bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.
Small evergreens were transplanted from the nearby Cascade Mountains, native stone was hauled to form paths and borders, desert sage gave way to low-growing ground cover, and pools took shape adjacent to massive natural rock formations. It was hard work, done mostly by hand, and truly a labor of love. In the beginning, sustaining the Gardens meant hauling water in five gallon buckets from the river valley below, but eventually the Ohmes constructed an elaborate irrigation system that pumped water to the site.
Initially intended as a private family retreat, the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the Gardens to the public. The Ohmes continued to perfect the Gardens for 42 years, until 1971 when Herman died at the age of 80. The couple’s son Gordon and his family then assumed responsibility for the Gardens, and in 1991 Washington State Parks and Recreation purchased the Gardens and surrounding property. The Gardens are currently owned and managed by Chelan County.