Thurston County is an incredible place to live, work and play. We have it all – from open prairie lands, to sweeping mountain views, to the sparkling Puget Sound. Within our gorgeous natural environment are thriving communities that offer something for everyone. Come enjoy a vibrant music and arts scene, prowl stores, or simply relax in beautiful rural settings. Thurston County truly showcases the best that Washington State has to offer. But don't take our word for it! We asked our local residents to nominate what they consider to be the wonders of Thurston County. Here's what they think you should know about the county we proudly call home.
#1 Capitol campus with Capitol Lake and view corridor to Puget Sound and the Olympics
The landscaped grounds and majestic buildings of the capitol campus in Olympia make it one of the most beautiful capitols in the nation. The campus itself is lovely, with grand buildings, cherry blossom trees, landscaped gardens, and poignant memorials. Add the sweeping views across Capitol Lake to Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and you have a postcard-perfect setting. While you're at it, don't forget to stroll around Capitol Lake downhill from the campus; most of the residents who voted for the capitol campus say the lake is a wonder in its own right.
Were they created from gophers, UFOs, or simply by glacial movement during the Ice Age? Folks love to speculate about the mysterious Mima Mounds in south Thurston County. These regularly spaced, six to eight-foot tall mounds cover the 600-plus-acre Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve. Stroll along a paved path in the spring and see beautiful wildflowers, butterflies and small creatures thriving on this endangered prairie land.
#3 Wolf Haven
Participate in a Saturday "Howl In" at Wolf Haven and you will surely feel tingles at the hauntingly beautiful sound of the wolves. Spread across about 80 wooded acres, Wolf Haven International provides a safe, natural setting for captive-born wolves. Wolf Haven draws thousands of visitors each year. Whether you choose to howl along or just admire the wolves silently, you will feel a rare connection.
The Deschutes River waterfall is the highlight of this gorgeous park tucked away in the City of Tumwater. Feel the spray of the waterfall as you cross bridges and connect to lush trails along the river. The clean scent of the air, the brilliant colors of the foliage, and the thunderous sound of the river are mesmerizing. In August and September you can see chinook salmon making their way back to a hatchery at the park.
The Tenino Quarry swimming pool is a must-see. This public outdoor pool was created by allowing groundwater to enter an abandoned sandstone quarry. It is a uniquely beautiful location, whether you choose to dive in or relax nearby.
#6 Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a refuge for wildlife and visitors alike. Located on the Nisqually River Delta in south Puget Sound, the refuge boasts 3,000 acres of salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands, and riparian and mixed-forest habitats. Walk along any of the five trails and you will see stunning views and a wide array of wildlife. The Nisqually Delta has been designated as a National Natural Landmark because of its national significance as one of the best examples of this kind of coastal salt marsh system remaining in the North Pacific.
The Olympia Farmers Market is a community gathering spot where local vendors sell fresh produce, flowers, specialty foods and arts and crafts. Locals flock to the market to shop, mingle, and have a bite to eat from a choice of seven restaurant stands. Live music often fills the air from a small stage near the eating area. While you're there, stroll on over to the waterfront and enjoy the views of Budd Inlet from the Port Plaza observation tower.
We couldn't resist listing all the other nominations from Thurston County residents. Click here to see more nominations.
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