The Snake River & Settlement:
Views from Wawawai Landing
History and Context
The Wawawai Landing is located along the rugged bottom of the Snake River Canyon, on the southwest edge of the Palouse. The name Wawawai (rhymes with Hawaii) originates from the term Wawawa, which means “council grounds” for the Nez Perce and Palouse tribes. White settlers colonized the lands in the 1870’s, planting apple trees and grazing cattle on the grasslands in the proceeding decades.
The settlers continued to cultivate the land throughout the 19th and 20th century, developing large, highly productive fruit orchards. A small community existed throughout the first half of the 20th century and included a post office, school, and boat landing. In the 1960’s, work began on vacating the lands for the Lower Granite Dam, which was eventually completed on February 15, 1975. The dam consequently created the Lower Granite Lake, flooding the original Wawawai area lands under 80 plus feet of water.
Wawawai County Park was open in 1979 at the junction of Wawawai Creek and the Lower Granite Dam. The 49-acre park is managed by the Whitman County Parks and Recreation and currently maintains hiking and interpretative trails, camping, public beaches, and bird watching among other recreating. - Dennis DeHart