Standing at the center of fertile wheat fields 10 miles east of the Columbia River, the compact farming town of Waterville (pop. 1,138) was laid out in 1885 around the stately whitewashed brick Douglas County Courthouse, which still stands at Birch and Rainier Streets. Most of downtown Waterville has been declared a national historic district, and the four franchise-free blocks of attractive brick buildings still house banks, cafés, and grocery stores—making it a nice place to stop on a journey across the state. There’s a photogenic sign-painted barn at the west end of town, and midway along US-2’s zigzag through town, the Douglas County Museum and Historical Society (124 W. Walnut St., 509/745-8435, Tues.-Sun. late May-early Oct., donation) has an intriguing display of objects tracing regional history, including Native American artifacts and a perfectly preserved pioneer post office.
Across US-2 from the museum, the attractive Waterville Historic Hotel (102 East Park St., 509/745-8695, $49-189) has been nicely restored and offers unexpectedly characterful and comfortable accommodations; it’s like stepping back a century or so, to a time when Teddy Roosevelt was president. For a bite to eat, head a block north from the museum to the welcoming Coyote Pass Café (104 W. Locust St., 509/888-4189), on US-2.