Southeast Washington’s rolling wheat fields, wild-channeled scablands and fertile hills and prairies surrounding the Snake River produce a setting that cannot be duplicated. In the southwest Washington’s small towns listed below, you’ll encounter all of the best scenery, plus colorful traditions, attractions and architecture.
Read the other articles in our series about Washington small towns, organized by region (in no particular order): Metro Seattle, North Cascades, The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast, The Gorge, The Volcanoes, North Central, Wine Country and Northeast.
Tucked at the base of a mountain of the same name, this town of 800 marks the end of the 300-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail that traces a former railway from the Cascades to the Idaho border. In the middle of town is the Empire Theatre, a restored 1940s art deco space that now hosts movies, music and the Small Town American Idol competition during the summer’s Slippery Gulch Celebration.
Named for the region and the river that runs through the middle of town, this is an artsy haven amid the agriculture. The Bank Left Gallery, housed in an old — you guessed it — bank, showcases regional artists in a sunny space adjacent to a Euro-style tearoom. Across the street, The Green Frog Cafe, a colorful joint with locally famous sandwiches on homemade bread, hosts monthly open mics.
The award for strangest attraction goes to the Codger Pole, a 65-foot-tall wooden pole with the faces of 51 golden-aged football players carved into it, which commemorates the 1988 rematch of a 1938 high-school rivalry game. On the other end of the spectrum: the Perkins House, a restored Victorian, has hosted an annual June ice cream social for more than 40 years.
Incorporated in 1879, wee Uniontown is especially winsome with its early 1900s buildings in downtown. The gorgeous St. Boniface Church, built in 1905, is not to be missed. Plus, the convent next door has been converted into a quaint B&B.
A Nez Perce word for the freshwater eels that used to run aplenty in a nearby creek, riverside hamlet Asotin still sports steelhead, sturgeon, bass and more in the Snake River. Don’t miss The Clucking Hen, where proudly kitschy antiques and local chit-chat run aplenty.
Old-time Dayton, with its 100-plus historic buildings, is a little slice of the Columbia County of yore. The town holds a beautifully restored depot (the oldest surviving one in the state), and the Boldman House Museum, an 1880 Victorian that’s being brought back to its former glory.
Seeing as this 1,200-person town is still operating under its territorial charter, circa 1886, it’s only right that every September Waitsburg holds a hopping Fall Festival. Relive the ole’ days with demos on churning butter, making candles and sewing sacks for wheat. If you miss the festivities, though, Preston Avenue has a lost-in-time look year-round with everything from a custom leather shop to an award-winning brewery.