Walla Walla Yacht Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary on October 16, 1999. Read about it here.
Boating in Walla Walla? Where? How?
The image of sailboats, water skiers, powerboats, wind surfers, and jet skis in the midst of wheat fields doesn't seem compatible. Yet, 35 miles west of Walla Walla, and about 30 miles south of the Tri-Cities, is some of the best boating that southeastern Washington can offer. Our small yacht club is south of the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, and just a few miles below the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Local fishermen find excellent fishing holes near the club as depths range from less than 20 feet deep outside the breakwater to over 150 feet deep less than half a mile downriver by the Port Kelley grain elevators.
This part of the Columbia River is called Lake Wallula (McNary Dam reservoir) with an area 60 miles long and up to 2 miles wide. ere is Wallula Gap on which Lewis and Clark traveled on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. We are without challenge located at the best sailing area on the reservoir. Situated away from any commerce, only a road and railroad behind the club remind you that there is civilization nearby. There is little boating traffic except for tugs with barges and occasional tour boats.
In 1947 the future Walla Walla Yacht Club boaters gathered on only the open shores of the Columbia River in the Wallula Gap area. By 1949 dreams to build a yacht club began. A site up the Walla Walla River was located for dry land construction of pilings and docks; and approved by the Corps of Engineers. In February 1951, the club made a successful bid on an 80' x 72' two-story surplus barracks built on a barge, which was to become the first clubhouse. Tidewater Shaver Barge Company towed the barge thirty miles up the river from the McNary Dam site and anchored it 5 miles downstream from the proposed club site that August. When the pool level reached 330 feet the clubhouse would complete its journey and be set in place.
All members turned out one day in April 1952 to clean, paint, and remodel the new clubhouse. By January 1953, the lease was approved and problem solving began for ramps, parking facilities, pilings, and docks. The $7,000 job was completed with only $186 in cash and the rest by donated labor and equipment. It was finally time to move the clubhouse in October. It took two attempts to get the "clubhouse barge" afloat, as winds on the first day provided too much resistance for the 10 small boats that tried to guide it into place.
However, WWYC was not to stay in that first location. By 1964 the sedimentation at the mouth of the Walla Walla River made necessary a move downstream to statute mile 312 on the Columbia River. At that time an official request was made to the Corps of Engineers to move to the Port Kelley site, just slightly further down river. Again members joined together to relocate docks and boathouses, sink pilings, and prepare the grounds. Then a new one-story floating clubhouse was built for the members to use. That clubhouse remains in use today.