By now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Alright, I’m a bit confused by all the references to Saddle Mountain.” We’ll try to explain it all.
The Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1971, long before the Monument. It was named for the east-west running line of hills a few miles to the north, the Saddle Mountains; it doesn’t encompass or even abut the Saddle Mountains. (There really is a dip that looks like a saddle.) Saddle Mountain NWR is actually located on the long slope leading up to the mountains, the Wahluke Slope. When the Monument was created, it encompassed Saddle Mountain NWR, the entire Wahluke Slope and part of the Saddle Mountains, including the saddle. For reasons lost to history, the Saddle Mountain NWR became the Saddle Mountain Unit and everything else became the Wahluke Unit, which included our portion of the Saddle Mountains.
When we sat down to write a management plan for the Monument, we took advantage of the opportunity to right some naming problems. We made everything north of State Route 24 the Saddle Mountain Unit because it, well, included the Saddle Mountains. Not exceptionally creative on our part, but much more accurate. We made almost everything north of the Columbia River and south of State Route 24 the Wahluke Unit, which encompasses most of the Wahluke Slope. See a pattern here? We say ‘almost everything,’ because there is a Columbia River Corridor Unit there that consists of the river and 1/4 mile on each side. There is also a Ringold Unit in the extreme southeast corner of the Monument that is separated out for reasons too numerous to go into here.
Saddle Mountain NWR is located in Wahluke West and is closed to the public at this time. At some point in the future, when the Department of Energy releases the area as a safety buffer for cleanup of the K Basins, we will open much of the area to public use. Wahluke East is open for many activities.
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Once a national wildlife refuge itself, Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge still exists, but as part of the much larger Hanford Reach National Monument.