Harriman State Park is a public recreation area in the U.S. state of Idaho, located on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge near Interstate 84 at Rock Island, about 60 miles (97km) east of Vancouver. The park’s main feature is the 1,400-foot-high (430m) face of Chinook Point across the river from Crown Point State Recreation Area and Chinook Pass National Historical Park.
The state park was established in 1971 to protect an important archaeological site known as the “House Site,” which contains artifacts dating back to prehistoric times. In 1970, archeologists discovered what appeared to be a village site with over 100 buildings, indicating that it was occupied during several different periods between 6000 BC and 1000 AD. At least 20 structures were identified, including houses, storage pits, workshops, and post holes. Excavations turned up arrowheads, pottery fragments, animal bones, and other artifacts. The House Site has been designated an Important Cultural Property by the Smithsonian Institution.
The park offers hiking trails, camping facilities, boat launches, scenic views, and access to the historic sites within the park. A visitor center open daily May through September features interpretive displays and audio presentations about the history and prehistory of the site. The park also includes two nature trails: Indian Trail Nature Trail and Scenic Rim Nature Trail. The park receives many visitors for its proximity to I-84, particularly motorized traffic, but there are also numerous pedestrians, cyclists, horseback riders, and skiers who visit the park because of its ease of accessibility. There is parking for less than half the vehicles allowed per day in the nearby Crown Point State Recreation Area, so most people use the Harriman facility only when they need a campground or have limited time before their vehicle needs to be moved.
On quiet summer nights, especially those warm enough for sleeping bags, you can hear the highway traffic nearly all the way out to the Coast Mountains. However, this does not bother local residents or tourists, since the volume of traffic is much lower than during the weekday peak hours. During the week, virtually no one uses the road except for the occasional delivery truck, tourist bus, or police car.
Visitors may see some of these species year round, while others appear seasonally. Occasionally, bald eagles nest in the trees along the waterway, though none currently do so within the park itself. Lake Billy Chinook, created when the North Fork White River is impounded by Cooper Creek Dam, is well known among fishermen, having produced multiple world record catches of large Chinook salmon. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout each winter, and fishing opportunities exist throughout the year. Ice fishing takes place on the frozen lake during the winter months. Access to the park via automobile is via either I-84 or Highway 95, which intersect just outside the park limits. To the north, the more remote and undeveloped Chinook Pass National Historic Park can be accessed via a narrow paved county road that parallels I-84.
This park contains three separate historical areas, which together cover approximately 3,000 acres (1,200ha). These are the House Site, Fort Owen, and Mission Bottom, which contain various types of archaeological evidence documenting prehistoric technology, subsistence practices, social organization, and spirituality over the course of hundreds of years, ranging from the Paleo-Indian period to the Late Modern era. Because of the extensive excavation conducted in the area, documentation of findings begins with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, whose members made careful note of everything they saw and experienced, documented in their diaries, letters, and journals. Members of subsequent expeditions repeated the process, further excavating and document ing whatever remained.
By the twentieth century, few traces remained above ground, but archaeologists continued to find artifacts below ground level. Since 1946, every resident of the area has been asked to contribute something to the ongoing archaeology, resulting in a collection of some 17,000 objects today housed in the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. While primarily a research institution, the museum maintains a small display of items from the collections, including arrowheads, basketry, bone tools, clothing, fire rings, food remains, and stone utensils. Items on loan from the Burke Museum include a ceremonial pipe, a saddle blanket, and a section of wall tenting.
Facilities include restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities, playgrounds, picnic tables, and cabins. Harriman State Park hosts a variety of events, including weddings, company picnics, barbecues, holiday events, fairs, sports competitions, and music festivals. The annual Harriman Fall Festival celebrates the end of fall harvest activities and marks the opening of hunting and fishing seasons. Events include pumpkin chunking, pumpkin carving competitions, games, arts and crafts, door prizes, and treats. Each October, the park plays host to Fantasy Fest, a popular event attended by thousands of young adults. Music concerts take place in the park throughout the warmer months. The park also serves as the location for high school graduations and community events, such as apple festivals.
Even fewer cars are seen using the route, and the sound of the wind rushing past the cliffs drowns out almost any noise besides our own voices. As a result, locals often refer to the park as “Harrimean.” Although the word is unprintable here, it is commonly said that the name originated with a settler named Harry Martin who used the land as both a ranch and private resort, where he would entertain clients in tents. When his wife died, she left the property to her son, who later sold it to the city of Coeur d’Alene.
Later still, another family member sold it to the state of Idaho. It became a state park in 1971, under the direction of the late Senator Bob Palmer, a Republican from the southern part of the state. He originally suggested naming it after himself, but when told that the already existing Palmer Memorial State Park had that honor, he settled for Harriman instead. Another factor in the choice was that the new park was to include a group camping facility, which was lacking at the time in northern Idaho. The facility opened in 1974, along with additional campsites and trailhead shelters.The park received a major upgrade to its infrastructure, with construction beginning in 2008 and completed in 2011.
Activities available at the park include:
- cross country skiing
- disc golf
- miniature golf
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- black bears
- mountain lions
- golden silk spiders
- rock squirrels
- pygmy rabbits
- kit foxes
The park provides excellent habitat for birds such as:
- peregrine falcons
- owls such as ospreys and screech owls
- red-tailed hawks
- snowy egrets
- trumpeter swans
- wading birds like blue-winged teal
- common loons
- double-crested cormorants
- red-shouldered hawks
The park’s marina is home to a variety of fish, notably :
- coho salmon
- steelhead trout
- chum salmon
- kokanee salmon
- rainbow smelt
- Chinook winds