Just outside the hustle and bustle of our larger communities lies the Thurston Bountiful Byway and loads of historical spots to visit. To get started, head south from Lacey to Yelm where you'll discover the historic Yelm Water Tower. Built in 1946 by the iconic Chicago Bridge and Iron (they also built the iconic Warner Brothers water tower in CA), the 125 foot tower is sometimes referred to as the "tin man" because of its shape and conical roof. Recently restored and the only such water tower on Washington's Historic Register, the tower is lit every Christmas and becomes a vibrant beacon for everyone in the community to enjoy. Set out on the Yelm-Rainier-Tenino Trail, a former rail line, which offers a scenic route for walking and biking. Along the trail you may come across interpretive signs or markers that share information about the region's history and its role in the railroad era.
Continue along the Byway to the tiny town of Rainier and visit the Rainier Veteran's Memorial Park, dedicated to the service of all veterans. The Rainier Historical Church was built in 1896 by brothers Albert, Theodore, and Paul Gehrke and was originally used as a second school as well as a church. In 2007, it became the first of Rainier's historic structures listed on the Washington State Heritage Register.
Tenino got its start when an entrepreneurial pioneer traveled across the country in search of open space and opportunity. It quickly grew into a boomtown in the late 19th century thanks to its supply of sandstone, a resource that was exported to Seattle and San Francisco following those cities’ devastating fires. The Tenino Quarry Pool was originally a working sandstone quarry in the late 1800's and is now a low-cost, family-friendly recreation spot for all to enjoy (currently under construction in the summer of 2023, please check the link for current hours). Connect with the past by taking a self guided tour of Tenino’s sandstone buildings, including the State Bank of Tenino, Tenino City Hall, the Tenino Depot Museum, and what’s left of the original quarry house. Pop in for a visit with the Tenino Stone Carvers and get a first-hand look into how they're keeping the tradition of stone carving alive.
Heading west along the Byway, you'll find Grand Mound and the site of Fort Henness, built and occupied by pioneers during the Indian War of 1855-56. Grand Mound is home to the Chehalis Tribe, Salish-speaking people who lived along the Chehalis River, receiving a bounty of salmon and other river-based sustenance. Today, the Tribe operates thriving enterprises such as the Lucky Eagle Casino and Talking Cedar Brewery and Distillery, the first of its kind in Washington to successfully lobby Congress in 2018 to repeal the Andrew Jackson-era statute that prohibited distilling on native tribal lands.
Small but mighty, Rochester packs in history and happenings. This little town has deep roots in its Native, pioneer and Scandinavian past. Gate City Schoolhouse, built in 1910, has been maintained and supported by The Gate Community Club since 1944, preserving the original slate blackboards, straight-grain fir flooring which was milled at the Bordeaux Lumber Mill and the original school bell still rings through the area. A maternal nesting bat colony lives in the belfry and can be seen at dusk as hundreds of bats fly out to forage. Swede Hall, built in 1939, is a thriving historical event center featuring Sunday dances and the annual Swede Day event.