Garfield County, Washington
Located in southeastern Washington state, Garfield County is a rural community with a rich history, diverse economy, and stunning landscapes. From the rolling hills of the Palouse to the rugged canyon of the Snake River, Garfield County offers a wealth of natural beauty and recreational activities. In this blog post, we will explore the history, industry, communities, tourist attractions, parks, and recreational activities that make Garfield County a unique and exciting destination.
Garfield County was named after President James A. Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881. Established in 1881, with land taken from Columbia County, the County’s first seat was the community of Pataha. After a pitched electoral battle went all the way to the US Congress, an Act of Congress named Pomeroy as County Seat. Pomeroy is a charming town with a rich history, including being the site of the first county fair in 1883. In the early days, the county was primarily an agricultural area, with wheat and other grains being the main crops.
The Garfield County Courthouse, built in 1901, replaced an earlier building destroyed by fire. The stone for construction came from a quarry on Valentine Ridge near the Snake River. As recently as 2003, a statue of justice stood on the pedestal above the clock on the right side of the photo above. In that year, a particularly strong wind knocked off the scales of justice. I am not sure when the statue itself came down, but this photo was taken in 2007. A fascinating pictorial history of the building is online at HistoricPomeroy.com.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the County had 2,286 residents. This makes the County Washington’s least populated. And with a population density of roughly 3.2 per square mile, it also holds the state’s position as least densely populated.
Today, Garfield County has a diverse economy with a mix of agricultural, energy, and tourism industries. Wheat farming remains a significant part of the agricultural sector, accounting for almost 96,000 acres. But cattle ranches, poultry farms and orchards all have their place in the county. The energy industry is also growing, with several wind farms and natural gas wells operating in the area. Tourism is also a vital industry here, with visitors drawn to the area’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities.
The County has one incorporated city. Pomeroy, the county seat, had a 2020 population of 1,389 people, or 61% of the County’s total population. Several unincorporated communities dot the County’s landscape, the largest of which is Pataha, just four miles east of Pomeroy on U.S. Highway 12. For history buffs, Pomeroy is home to the Garfield County Museum, housed in a two-story building downtown. One Trip Advisor review called it “a wonderful example of a old fashion, small town, American museum.” Nearby Pataha is home to the Houser Flour Mill (now the Pataha Flour Mills). Founded by John Houser in 1878, the mill today stands as a museum and restaurant.
Parks and Recreational Activities
Garfield County is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with a variety of recreational activities to enjoy. The County’s website tempts visitors and residents alike, offering “Year-round recreation opportunities like camping, boating, hiking, fishing, tourism, sand dunes, picnicking/BBQ, hunting, winter sports, off-road vehicle trails, mushroom and huckleberry picking.” Fishing is a popular pastime, with the Snake River and many other streams and lakes in the area offering excellent fishing opportunities. Hunting is also a popular activity, with deer, elk, and turkey among the game species found in the area. Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are also popular activities, with miles of trails to explore. In the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are favorite activities in the county’s many parks.
Garfield County, Washington, is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique blend of history, industry, and natural beauty. Does exploring the county’s rich history, enjoying its many parks and recreational activities, or experiencing its agricultural and energy industries interest you? Garfield County has a lot to offer. So, if you’re looking for a rural escape, Garfield County is the perfect destination. With its small-town charm, friendly communities, and stunning landscapes, Garfield County is a place where you can relax, unwind, and connect with nature. So why not plan a trip to Garfield County and see for yourself all that this hidden gem has to offer? Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or just looking for a peaceful retreat, Garfield County is sure to impress. For more of my posts about Washington’s thirty-nine counties, check out my Evergreen page.