Spring is here, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is again hosting spring wildflower tours on the Hanford Reach National Monument. Last year’s tours were so popular that the USFWS is doubling the number of tours from four to eight. It took 21 seconds for the 2013 wildflower tours to fill. This year’s tours are April 25th and 27th and May 8th and 10th.
Unlike 2013, though, the tours won’t be on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, the agency will conduct an online lottery. Last year the demand was so great that the servers couldn’t keep up, and a lot of people were frustrated that they couldn’t get into the registration page. We’ve fixed this by going to a lottery.
A highlight of the tours is a trip up Rattlesnake Mountain, weather permitting, to see the unusual and fragile flowers on the mountain top. Other stops will include sites in the Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Area.
Weather will also play a decisive role in the quality and quantity of the wildflower show. We’re a bit concerned that the wildflowers may not be as spectacular as usual due to the very dry spring we’re having. However, there are always things to see and learn about on the Monument, and we’re sure people will enjoy a chance to visit the ALE. Even on an off year, the Monument’s plants are worth seeing, and the guides are experts on a lot of topics related to the Monument.
Registration for the lottery opens Tuesday morning, April 1, and runs through 3:00 p.m. on April 14th. Winners will be notified by email by April 16th. There will be a $3 entry fee to offset some of the costs of conducting the tours and to make the tours affordable to everyone.
The tour registration site is www.fws.gov/hanfordreach/wildflowers/.
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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.