Ekone land is part of a large geologic region known as the Columbia Plateau which was formed by flood basalt, a series of lava flows which subsided to form the Columbia Basin. Rock Creek, which flows through the southern part of this land and feeds into the Columbia River, is an important habitat in the region for many reasons.
Here’s some more information about Rock Creek, from the Columbia Rivers website. This hour long geology lecture from Nick Zentner at Central Washington University on the Ancient Rivers of the Northwest explains the surprising origins of the beautiful red “potato” stones we sometimes find on the land out by the canyon!
The Simcoe Mountains lie to the north of Ekone, and Fort Simcoe State Park on the Yakama reservation land tells the story of western colonization and military occupation in the mid-1800s. The fort subsequently became one of the boarding school efforts to colonize native children.
The Horse Heaven Hills extend East of Ekone toward the Tri-Cities and Wallula Gap. The Goodnoe Hills rise up from the south side of Rock Creek downriver from Ekone land, and the abandoned silica mining town of Goodnoe Hills speaks to the white settlers’ arrival in the area in the 1860s.
Near the mouth of Rock Creek is the longhouse for the Rock Creek Band, who are the traditional indigenous peoples here. This region was an important gathering place for fishing and gathering spring roots and native plants like camas. Here’s a link to a bit more information about the tribal peoples of this land.
The Ekone forest is comprised primarily of Oregon White Oak, also known as Garry Oak, and Ponderosa Pine trees. The East Cascades Oaks Partnership is a new consortium of land trust organizations, tribes, scientists, land owners, and stakeholders working to protect Oregon white oak habitats. White Oak trees can live to be 400 years old, and provide habitat for over 200 species, including the threatened western grey squirrel which has been on Washington State’s threatened species list since 1993, largely due to habitat loss. Oregon white oak has lost approximately 90% of its historical range since the 19th Century.
This land is host to so much wildlife – western grey squirrel, deer, wild turkeys, coyote, bobcat, rattlesnakes, and occasionally bear make their way through these forests and watersheds. Mid-Columbia River steelhead trout and, downriver, coho salmon, both threatened species found here, are traditionally very important to the area tribes. Rock Creek is listed as critical steelhead habitat, and the Rock Creek Fish and Habitat Assessment completed in 2013 found healthy native populations in the upper Rock Creek watershed. The USGS and Yakama Nation Fisheries Program tagged juvenile steelhead from where Rock Creek flows through Ekone land and other places in the Rock Creek and Columbia River watersheds to conduct migration studies and to determine the health of native species.