Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Columbia Plateau Trail Cheney-Plaza Road

 This is one of the prettiest stretches of the Columbia Plateau Trail that you will find. Numerous ponds, abundant wildlife and areas that you pass through that have a sheer rock wall on either side. This section of the trail is in the northern most end of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. The trick on this stretch is figuring out where to park. You can access the trail off of Cheney-Plaza road just before the overpass bridge. There is an access road and a really wide turnout area that doesn't block the gate but I got a bad surprise in the mail after parking there one time. A overzealous park employee ticketed me even though I wasn't blocking anything. They threw the ticket out, but, it is a possibility. You can park on the Cheney-Spangle trailhead and walk the mile between to start or park on the other side of the bridge where there is a wide shoulder. If you park at the trailhead a Discover Pass is required. The trail is unpaved but mostly level with fine gravel, not the big rocks you find on other stretches. People run, walk and  ride horses and bike on this section. Coming down onto the trail you ae greeted by a large pond on either side. These are quite often filled with geese, ducks and a Blue Heron or two. I have seen owls, hawks and Cormorant here as well. I once came face to face with a coyote, we both hadn't been paying attention and were both surprised. We each went along our way. Elk, deer and moose play in these woods. On this trip the only 4 footers that I saw were a dog playing with his owner and a really interesting American Red squirrel that posed for a photo. Swans, Canadian geese and some ducks dotted the numerous ponds on this stretch. In the spring and early summer these ponds are jam packed with new life, so many really interesting not often seen water fowl choose them for nesting. 3 3/4 miles from the entrance at Cheney-Plaza there is a bathroom complete with hitching post to tie your horse to if you brought one. If you're wanting a little less mileage then the pond about 2 miles or so down the trail from the entrance is a good place to turn around and head back. It has a bench and information about the area on podium type signage.

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