Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Toppenish WA: Where the West Still Lives

Right in South Central Washington is a quaint little town where the West Still Lives. 

It is on the Yakama Indian Reservation and is home to the Yakama Nation Cultural Center and Museum which is one of the largest collections Native American artifacts in the country and is home to a western theme town that has over 70 murals depicting early settlement and culture in the lower Yakima valley.  In addition there are several other museums including the Norther Pacific Railway Museum  , and the American Hop Museum for Beer lovers.  Along with the One Day Mural Paint there are many festivals, rodeos, and powwows in this little town.  Check on the Toppenish Website for a listing of activities and events during a visit to this fun little Western Town. 

We were fortunate to visit the day after a massive effort to create a one day paint on a new mural in the park near the Visitor Center.  We met the designers who were touching up the mural before it will be installed on it's new location.

We also collected a wonderful collection of Washington State Travel information at the Toppenish Visitor Center.  I find the staff and Volunteers at information centers to be a wealth of information.

One of my dearest friends lives in a little town nearby so we are always able to driveway camp enjoy the nearby area.  Her daughter joined us for these travels.  As is often the case, people who live nearby don't visit the attractions near their home.

This was her daughters first trip to see the murals.

Since my days as a foster parent for Native American Youth, Toppenish was on our radar as a place to buy authentic Native Made arts and supplies needed for making regalia.  Rose's is one of my favorite spots and we visited it and of course made some purchases here too.  We met years ago when I was making regalia for kiddo's in my care.  She was incredibly encouraging as we helped the children with their cultural activities.

Visit Rose and tell her Karen said Hi!

In Toppenish, the murals are the star of the show.


The mural of main street painted the day before our visit.

Hailey is talking with one of the artists while another is signing a book for us about the murals.

I know I shouldn't be buying more 'stuff' but I can't help supporting local artists and community beautification efforts and buy the book about the murals.  I certainly do enjoy learning about the local history and culture and love meeting such interesting people along our travels.

There is a horse-drawn wagon tour that views the murals found around town. The day of the One Day Mural Paint was a busy, busy day so the wagon tour wasn't running the day of our visit.  So with the mural book, and armed with a brochure we set out to see the murals.

Toppenish like many small times had fallen on bad times including declining population and business closures as larger city business lured customers away from the little town.   A group of local citizens had a vision to incorporate  mural paintings and a festival as a way to begin revitalization of their beloved town.  The first mural was painted on a wall in 1989 and by 1999 there were 56 murals.

Some of the murals are showing their age due to years of sun and weather with peeling and blistering paint.  The Toppenish Mural Society now works to fund new murals but also to fund the upkeep on previously painted murals.  They recently sealed with preserver, nearly half of the 70+ murals.  It is wonderful to see that the town understands what a wonderful asset the Western theme incorporating the mural, wood awnings, historic buildings and antique street lamps. 

Obviously, I am not going to post pictures of all the murals as that would make a long, long post and some of my favorite murals were not in their best light due to sun placement .  But I do want to record a flavor of the murals and the quaint little town.

"Western Hospitality" Painted by Betty Jean Billups, one of the artists we met during our visit.

One of my favorite murals, uses the painting to frame an entrance to the building.

The murals vary in size but many are the size of buildings and tell the story of the history and culture incredible detail.

 The lower valley is one of the worlds largest producer of Hops used in the production of beer.

In the heart of Toppenish is the pacific Railway Museum at the old Railroad Station that was also closed the day we were there.   It will definitely be on my radar for a future visit. 

Beside the train station museum is a fenced in rail-yard that will interest historical rail buffs for hours.

We walked and walked until I couldn't walk any more.  Then we drove and viewed more murals.  It is clear there are more murals than I could take in and remember for one visit.  That is OK with me as I intend to visit Toppenish again and again. 
Maybe next visit we will take the wagon ride to view the murals.

We stopped in near by Zillah, WA to view a tourist attraction that is advertized on

Road Side America Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions.   This is a fun way to find fun, offbeat attractions in an unfamiliar area.

The Teapot which is now a Zillah gift center was formally a gas station, built in the 1920's and now stands to welcome you to Zillah.

 I am always consumed with taking pictures at sunset.  Some are beautiful, others not so much.....

And on some nights there is an added bonus.
  Just before I head in for the night I turn around and this is what I see.

Ice Cream and sunsets and I call it a good night.....however, the girls gabbed late into the night.

~ Happy Trails~


  1. Great post about a darling town. What beautiful murals and I LOVE the teapot gas station. You take me to places I can't even imagine. So much fun going along with you. Thanks! What lucky girls to be there first hand.

  2. I worked in Richland WA for five years and was able to get to Toppenish several times for grand adventures. That whole state is full of neat places to visit.

  3. I love your photos, and the history!


  4. Some of my favorite things - murals and railroad stations.

  5. What a great town. Love the mural of the Tee Pee around the door. For some reason maybe a virus not all pictures are coming up on a few of the blogs. But the ones I could see are just beautiful. You do such a great job telling the story.

  6. Thanks for this post. It makes me want to take a road trip. Great photos!
    Hope you had a great 4th of July. Your blogging sister, Connie :)