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US 395, Part 25: North Franklin, Adams and Lincoln Counties (US 395 Expwy to Ritzville; WA 260 in Connell; WA 21 in Lind; Sprague; Old US 395/Old US 10)

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North of Pasco, and all the way into Spokane, US 395 is the primary high-speed north-south arterial of the Palouse region which encompasses much of eastern Washington and western Idaho. The Palouse has been a rich source of grain and general agriculture since the middle of the 19th century due to its fertile silt soils and the advent of modernized harvesting technique. The exact derivation of the name is not clear, but either hails from the Palus tribe which inhabited the region, or possibly the French word pelouse for "lawn" which neatly sums up the landscape. Today its main cities include Spokane, its chief hub in Washington state, and Ritzville, with Pullman, Colfax and Palouse itself in the smaller southeastern centres; and in Idaho, Lewiston and Moscow. In this function US 395 serves the major centres in Washington state, with the remainder served by US 2 and US 195 today.

Between Pasco and Ritzville, US 395 is on an expressway alignment, almost freeway except for rare at-grade crossings. Rumours persist about it being renumbered as a spur, possibly of I-90, but it is doubtful that this proposed renumbering would obliterate US 395 given its pre-eminence as the through route. Most of the realignment process was done between the 1950s and the 1970s, starting with the bypass around Lind and Connell, then between Eltopia and Pasco, and finally Connell and Mesa. In this revised edition, although a lot of the old bypassed alignments are discontinuous, I will point out some easily accessible highlights even though it is not possible to drive the route straight through anymore. (There is a very nice article [Tri-City Herald via Wayback Machine] that gives a few other possibilities.)

Parts of the Eltopia-Mesa alignment of modern US 395 were actually WA 17, which was chopped off by around seven miles and this orphaned alignment added to US 395. US 395's upgrade to controlled access, however, was a late phenomenon starting in the late 1980s with the construction of divided highway between Pasco and Eltopia, using the old two-lane highway as the southbound lanes and constructing a new northbound alignment. This construction proceeded north in stages until the end of 1996, when the final link was completed between Lind and Ritzville. Most of the handful of at-grade crossings left will probably be eliminated in the next couple of decades.

On its modern routing between Ritzville and Spokane, US 395 is carried on Interstate 90, the modern replacement for US 10; the modern routing along I-90 will be the second of our two Diversions starting in Part 26. I-90, as we mentioned during our discussion of US 20 in Part 19, is the longest highway in the Interstate system, running between Seattle, WA and Boston, MA. During US 395's original signage in Washington state (both during its original 1926 signage between Canada and Spokane, and its subsequent 1934 extension), US 10 was actually considerably further north. Between the initial signage of US routes in 1928 and then to 1940, US 10 started in Seattle, then around the south end of Lake Washington, through the Snoqualmie Pass, and thence through Teanaway, Wenatchee, Coulee City, and Davenport into Spokane.

[US 10A, Eastern Washington, 1941] Alternate US 10 in Washington state, Idaho and Montana came into being in 1940, when the first floating bridge was constructed over Lake Washington and US 10 was routed along it; the original south lake bypass was re-signed as US 10 ALT (now WA 900). US 10 was then shifted some more further along its routing, south to serve Ritzville, Sprague and Cheney into Spokane along what was then already signed US 395, and the old alignment was also signed as ALT US 10. Alternate US 10 also served some places old US 10 did not; it was extended west along what was then WA 15 (PSH) through the Stevens Pass to US 99 in Everett and thence along US 99 into Seattle, and an additional portion of US 10 ALT was routed along what was then US 195 into Sandpoint, ID (US 195 will be discussed in Part 27), and then through Clark Fork, ID and Plains, MT to Ravalli, MT, where it met US 93, and then traveled south with US 93 to the outskirts of Missoula, MT in DeSmet, where it finally terminated. This stage in its routing in eastern Washington state is shown in the 1941 map inset at left.

In 1948, Alternate US 10 was gradually retired: between Seattle and Sandpoint, most of it was given as an extension to US 2 in 1948 except the Everett-Seattle stub, which was returned to US 99 (now I-5); the original US 10 ALT along Lake Washington was redesignated WA 2 in 1955 (becoming WA 900 during the Washington state Great Renumbering); and the easternmost Sandpoint-(almost) Missoula alignment became part of modern-day routes ID 200 and MT 200 in 1968. (MT 200 is still cosigned with US 93 between Ravalli and DeSmet, just like US 10 ALT was.) You can see the eastern parts of US 2 in the Bangor Loop exhibit.

With the construction of I-90, US 10 was truncated to Spokane in 1969, then Coeur d'Alene, ID in 1971, and ultimately Fargo, ND in 1986, where its present-day terminus lies. US 10 is one of the split US routes, divided in this case by the Great Lakes; a ferry connects the terminus in Wisconsin with the other, diminutive stub within Michigan.

[US 10/US 395 and proposed I-90, 1966.] US 395's modern routing was transferred to Interstate 90 when the freeway was finished but old US 395 still exists at parallel intervals and large portions of this earlier routing survive today, which we will travel as Diversion 1, along modern Danekas Rd, Max Harder Rd, and the Sprague Highway through Ritzville, Tokio and Sprague. Old US 395/old US 10 are then obliterated by the Interstate, appearing as the eastbound lanes between exits 254 and 257, up to modern-day WA 904 (which we will see, along with the modern Interstate alignment which is our Division 2, in Part 26). A comparison between old US 10/old US 395 and modern I-90/US 395 is well-demonstrated on the 1966 map inset at right, showing the extant US 10/US 395 highway and the proposed I-90 routing. Note how also this map shows Alternate US 10 near Spokane as already having become US 2.

In this Part, we will leave Franklin county and make our entry into Adams county (named for President John Adams) and Lincoln county (named, of course, for President Abraham Lincoln). Adams county's seat is the city of Ritzville, carrying only 1,736 [2000] of the county's 16,428 [2000] citizens.

Lincoln county split off from Spokane county to the east in 1883, originally to be named Sprague county after John W. Sprague, then the general superintendent and agent of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Dissension over naming it for a living person, however, prevailed and the county was named for the late President instead. A small county, its population numbers 10,184 [2000] with its county seat at Davenport, population 1,730 [2000]. For a time, however, outraged residents of the town of Sprague nearby (named for the same man), incensed that a town then consisting of a few dilapidated shacks would nab the honour of being the county centre, insisted that the county population was behind them becoming the seat instead. To be sure, an election in 1884 seemed to prove them right ... except that 1,023 votes were cast for Sprague, and only around 700 lived in the city. Some of these votes came from non-resident travelers on the railroad lines then being built, some were found to be from children and even a few came from names in the cemetery! Convinced skulduggery was afoot, an armed mob from Davenport seized the county records in protest and guarded them carefully; nevertheless, weeks of constant vigilance bred fatigue and when Sprague's sheriff and posse showed up to retrieve them, they met little resistance. Sprague remained the county seat until the summer of 1895, when it was ravaged by fire and, having had its railroad yards destroyed, the Northern Pacific Railroad delivered the final blow by deciding to rebuild south. Sprague evapourated. Jubilant, the Davenport municipal leadership showed up to collect the county records once again in 1896, and this time they were surrendered without incident. Davenport has remained the seat ever since.

Back to the US 395 expressway as we enter the Palouse from the Tri-Cities, leaving I-182 and WA 397.

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Distance signage (70 miles to Interstate 90).

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Mile 34.

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Turn-off for Eltopia. Eltopia West Rd splits to the west, and Blanton Rd to the east; Blanton Rd is the original alignment of US 395, and modern US 395 continues on the routing it purloined from WA 17. We will pick up the other end of this stretch of Blanton Rd in a moment.

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Advance signage for WA 17 to Mesa.

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Separation and southeastern Mesa city limits. US 395 between WA 260 in Connell and WA 17 is on a novel alignment.

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This other reassurance marker style is also seen (using Green Signage with shield and directional endorsement, almost "pull through signage" of a fashion).

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If you're not noticing many photographs now, you're right ... there's not a great deal to photograph on this alignment.

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Causeway over a series of rolling hills and small gorges near Connell. These silt dunes are typical topography for the Palouse.

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Junction WA 260 to Connell. We'll exit here look at a little piece of old US 395 through Connell.

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Detour: Old US 395 in Connell (WA 260)

On the other side of the freeway, Blanton Rd (slightly misspelled on the sign) emerges from the east to terminate at WA 260. This is actually a reconstructed junction that we'll talk about in a second. We turn left from it to cross back over US 395 into Connell proper.

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Crossing US 395.

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WB WA 260.

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Signage for Connell, just west of the freeway.

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Connell was originally established in 1883 as Palouse Junction, so named for its proximity to the Palouse and the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company lines that met in it. However, the town gradually adopted the name of the railroad official that gave it the original name, Jacob Cornelius Connell. Largely destroyed by fire in 1905, the town rebuilt and incorporated itself as the modern city in 1910. Like most of the Washington Palouse, its chief industry was and remains dryland wheat farming. Its population is 2,956 [2000].

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Old US 395 in Connell is Columbia Avenue. We turn right.

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Downtown Connell. Columbia Avenue continues north through town before splitting off east to cross US 395 again and again parallel the highway as Lind Rd and Foulkes Rd before trailing off south of Lind.

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The actual routing of old US 395 didn't originally include this piece of WA 260, of course. As you see here, Columbia Avenue continues south, shortly to dead-end at the freeway right-of-way, and on the other side is (you guessed it) Blanton Rd south back to Pasco; the freeway simply cut the old alignment in two. We'll see this again in Lind. Unlike Lind, however, WSDOT rebuilt Blanton up to WA 260 as part of the US 395 project, which allows the old route to still act in a semi-through capacity albeit no longer directly. For now, we get back on the modern US 395 freeway.

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End Detour

Entering Adams county. Night has started to fall, so headlights on.

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Junction WA 26. We'll see Colfax again when we get to Spokane and meet US 195.

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Mile 72.

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Junction WA 21. We'll take our second look at old US 395 here through Lind.

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Detour: Old US 395 in Lind (WA 21)

Unlike Connell, however, we are considerably further east of the old US 395 roadbed, which has already "crossed" over (more like crossed out, as it happens), so we must drive into Lind via WB WA 21 (which is signed NB).

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In Lind, US 395 approaches from the south as Wahl Rd. Between the unmarked termination of Foulkes Rd at the US 395 freeway R-o-W, old US 395 emerges as Neilson Rd on the other side (split by the highway) and then becoming Wahl Rd into Lind. Unlike Blanton Rd in Connell, however, there is no viable way to make the connection through, hence this large warning sign in south Lind (facing south). At the time the bypass was built, however, which was first in the late 1950s, it was still possible to do so as the highway was not controlled-access; after the upgrades the connection was lost.

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Looking north again, into downtown Lind. Lind was settled around 1888 by the Neilson brothers, who were scouting for a settlement along the NPRR; the exact derivation of the name is no longer known. Like most of the other southern Palouse towns, it grew little until the advent of the local wheat industry, meriting the extension of the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad) through it west to Seattle. The old Milwaukee RR tracks are here, which are no longer in use; virtually the whole of the Milwaukee Road in Washington is "railbanked" as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, including this section, used as a recreational trail with right of reversion granted by the state to the railroad if required. The modern town was incorporated in 1902 and today has 582 residents [2000].

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In Lind proper, old US 395 is signed as I Street. Strictly speaking, old US 395 and WA 21 only share one segment in common -- this block here. For some strange reason, WA 21 takes two 90-degree turns, with this small piece of I Street between them (here still facing north, but actually along what is signed SB WA 21). The Neilson brothers, in a fit of ego, platted Lind such that all the north-south streets would spell out their name, so I Street is the third street from the west side because I is the third letter. However, the town never grew larger than NEILS.

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NB WA 21 south at the tracks ...

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and SB WA 21 north at the end of the block we saw two pictures ago. Notice the promotional signage for the Combine Demolition Derby, which briefly made Lind famous when it was featured in Playboy. Uh, in an article in Playboy. Because that's, uh, what people subscribe to it for. The great writing. Yes.

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North of Lind [he says, changing the subject], old US 395 continued on I Street up to probably 5th Street, turned right and left the town once again as Wahl Rd. What happens then is unclear, but the old routing seems to be obliterated shortly after splitting into Longmeier Rd. In fact, aside from some small segments around Paha, the whole of old US 395 is pretty much MIA north of Lind until Ritzville. With that sobering thought, we get back on the modern freeway.

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End Detour

MUTCD-standard lonely reassurance marker. Not so common on US 395 in Washington state now.

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Distance signage.

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OU812, DNU?

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Finally, Interstate 90 junction just south of Ritzville; this was part of the 1990s US 395 upgrades and was completed in 1996. At this point, we will once again split into two big forks, the old routing along which US 10 piggybacked, and the modern routing along Interstate 90. The 'Ritzville' exit to the right goes up to old US 10/US 395 in town, where our first fork starts. We'll just get a piece of the modern alignment along EB I-90, which bypasses Ritzville, so I can get some rest.

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The first I-90 shield still says just I-90, here at the WA 261 exit ...

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... but finally we're reassured we're doing okay. The Interstate shield is somewhat bulbous (probably the wrong font size for the I-90 digits).

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My first night in this area was spent in 2005 at Spokane's Budget Inn on Division Street. Not a fancy establishment but the room was clean. Spokane's HotZone municipal Wi-Fi was not working well that night, so the iBook was reduced to surfing over AOL.

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More recently when going through the area I've started staying local, and in 2008 I stayed at the very nice La Quinta Inn at the WA 261 junction. There are a few restaurants there, the room is nice, and it was easy off and on I-90.

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The first time I stayed in Ritzville, though, I stayed (in 2007) at the Colwell Motor Inn. The room was a bit old, but clean, and I always like high speed Internet. The only problem is you have to drive a bit if you want to find any restaurants (in this case backtracking to WA 261). That makes it a good transition into ...

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Fork 1: Old US 10/US 395 via Sprague

Let's rewind back to the Ritzville exit. As you come off the US 395 freeway, the highway degrades down to one-lane-per-direction on the stub entering Ritzville. This particular segment is also designated Business Route 90.

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Looking back is the US 395 exit to the freeway, south back to Pasco.

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Junction I-90.

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This portion is signed "SR 395," harking back to when this actually was US 395, and is not part of modern First St through Ritzville; that comes up in a little bit. Freese Rd to the left connects to what may have been partially an old stub of US 395, paralleling the freeway down to around Paha, but is otherwise discontinuous and we will not follow it back.

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Crossing the Interstate. This particular interchange was built in 1958, according to the bridge date stamp.

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Entering Ritzville, where we become 1st St as we cross the city limit.

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Old US 10 joins us here as E Gun Club Rd, a similarly discontinuous stub that ends abruptly at the Interstate to the west. We continue as BR 90/old US 395/old US 10.

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Hey, I respect talent in all its forms. Good on ya, Ritzville young persons.

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Faded Business route marker. Ritzville was officially incorporated in 1890, named for its founder, Philip Ritz. Its major claim to fame today is the largest annual rodeo in the eastern Washington region.

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Downtown Ritzville. The hotel I stayed at is on the right. However, we do not like the Seahawks in San Diego.

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Division St and as much of a traffic light as there is in Ritzville. Turning right takes you back to Interstate 90 and the northern terminus of WA 261, where said fast food, gas and other such is located. We continue straight ahead.

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Eastern Ritzville.

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BR 90 marker as we leave town.

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Leaving Ritzville city limits, we change names again from 1st St to E Danekas Rd. The back of another BR 90 shield is visible, which is the last one on this alignment.

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Looking back at the town.

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The railroad starts to parallel us more closely through the plains towards Tokio.

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EB BR 90/NB old US 395/EB old US 10 (although we are travelling parallel with I-90, thus roughly NE).

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Turn-off for Schoessler Rd, which connects with I-90 nearly due east.

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Passing through old Tokio, which today is really not much more than railroad tracks and some grain elevators.

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Curving around on our approach back to the Interstate.

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Turn-off for Harrington via the old Harrington-Tokio Rd, which runs due north to WA 23 and WA 28 in Harrington. We will see WA 23 in a little bit.

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Curving east now.

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Junction I-90. We cross over to continue Fork 1. This is exit 231 and the end of BR 90.

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Best to fill up here, as there isn't a whole lot else until we get towards Cheney (Part 26).

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This is what the modern traveler thinks Tokio is, rather than the true Tokio more to the north.

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Crossing the Interstate, we pick up Danekas Rd on the other side and turn left ("east").

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Initially Danekas closely parallels the Interstate ...

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... before turning off into the arid grasslands once again.

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NB old US 395/EB old US 10.

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In the distance, old Lake Sprague.

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Detour: Lake Sprague

Danekas Rd fronts a local preserve (see the red triangular sign on the fence) and Lake Sprague, hailing from the same name as the town. We'll drive over to take a look.

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Lake Sprague is eastern Washington's largest natural lake, at 1,840 acres. It is maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and is routinely restocked for year-round fishing; its 636 acres of surrounding wetlands, plus nearby shrub-steppe habitats, are maintained both by the WDFW and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (thus the game preserve signage). There are several local resorts and a boat launch.

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The major island on the lake is this one, Harper Island, as seen from the boat launch peninsula. The lake itself straddles both Lincoln and Adams counties. Interstate 90 is faintly visible in the background (we will see the reverse view in Fork 2 [Part 26]).

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End Detour

Back on the road.

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A mile or two past the turnoff for Lake Sprague, we reach the Lincoln county line.

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At the county line we change names from Danekas Rd to Max Harder Rd. The Harder name probably refers to the Harders of the modern local Hercules Ranch, who originally ran cattle between Sprague and Ritzville; the Harders had the largest spread in Washington state, with some 8,000 head at their largest. Rex Harder, one of their descendants, remains at the Hercules Ranch today and engineered the sale of the ranch's wetlands around Lake Sprague along with its various easements to the WDFW and USDA. Max appears to have been their first son.

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Here the terrain becomes a little more varied and old US 10/US 395 takes some twists and rolls.

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One of the local lake resorts and our last view of Lake Sprague.

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Approaching Sprague.

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Sprague proper, and as mentioned above, ever so briefly the county seat instead of Davenport. Entering town, we change names to First Street and continue into town as 1st St/old US 10/old US 395.

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Time has not been kind to Sprague. No state highway, let alone an interstate, directly connects to it anymore; even WA 23 to the north has no direct routing through town in the present day and in an almost insulting manner simply goes over it on an elevated alignment with a turnoff on the eastern side. The downtown here is a faint shadow of its former self.

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WA 23 on its overhead crossing. There is no signage for it from the old highway. Part of the marker for the culvert here survives to the left. Where WA 23 originally met US 10/US 395 can be seen patched over on the asphalt; WA 23's access is along B St and 4th St today.

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Leaving Sprague, we change names again to the Sprague Highway, which NAVTEQ helpfully marks as Old State Hwy.

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Sprague Hwy signage.

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This portion of the road is particularly ill-maintained and sometimes doesn't even have centre striping. It closely hugs the railroad to the northwest.

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Curving around on the old Sprague Highway, at this turn-off to one of the local state parks.

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Mileposts of an older convention are occasionally seen (proven to be mileposts by the few that are not only consecutive but also still legible).

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Turn-off to Fishtrap Lake. Not to be confused with the Kentucky lake of the same name, this picturesque small lake of around 196 acres is popular with local fishing enthusiasts for its extremely high catch rate. It is regularly stocked with rainbow trout by WDFW.

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Crossing under the tracks using this dilapidated old overhead.

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Turning back on our final leg to I-90.

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Junction Interstate 90.

Continue to Part 26

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