Candy Mountain Interpretive Loop

Friends of Badger Mountain, in partnership with the local chapter of the Native Plant Society, Ice Age Floods Institute, and Benton County, established the Interpretive Loop Trail in the saddle of Candy Mountain. The loop is 1.2 miles long (round trip) starting from the parking lot and has very little elevation gain.

Trail Features

Thirty (30) native plant signs highlighting the Eastern Washington Sagebrush habitat and links below to the University of Washington, Burke Museum website provide lots more information and photos.

Preservation of our local sagebrush habitat is so important since 80% of the sagebrush ecosystem in Washington state has been lost to farming and development. The sagebrush habitat is home to more than 200 species of birds and at least 30 species of mammals as well as desert reptiles. Between Badger, Little Badger and Candy Mountains FOBM has preserved almost 1,000 acres of sagebrush habit.

The CH2M sponsorship of the Candy Mountain Preserve included design and construction of monuments to honor and commemorate the generations of Hanford workers that have helped make the Tri‐Cities the vital and thriving community it is today.

During the last ice age, the Tri-Cities experience some of the largest fresh water floods known to have happened anywhere on the plant. This is an incredible part of the geological history that shaped our area. Come and learn more on a gentle walk around the 1.2 mile Candy Mountain Interpretive loop.

Mickie Chamness, Karl Fecht and other have created a geological map of Candy Mountain that is now on display in the Candy Mountain Preserve parking lot kiosk. A new basalt geology interpretive sign has been added to the Interpretive Loop Trail to tells the story of the basalt rocks in the saddle of Candy Mountain. The sign was installed by FOBM Volunteers David Comstock and Jim Langdon on Saturday 8/15/20. The new sign shows the extent of the largest overland lava flows know to have happened anywhere on Earth, known as The Columbia River Basalt Group. Did you know that our native rock is reddish-brown basalt and that basalt rock is over 1 mile thick in our area from multiple over land lava flows?

The basalt outcrops visible in the saddle of Candy Mountain flowed over thirty miles from ancient fissures in the earth’s crust near the modern-day location of the Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. The over land lava flows were able to travel great distances due to the enormous volume of these eruptions and the cooling crust of these lava flows that insulated the very fluid molten core beneath. The Pomona flow traveled from fissures in west-central Idaho to the Pacific Ocean (over 350 miles), making it the longest known lava flow on Earth.

Geological Features of the Candy Mountain Preserve

Native Plants of the Candy Mountain Preserve

The metal native plant signs were a wonderful collaborative effort. The metal signs were made by Columbia Basin College students in their metal welding class. The text and photos were provided by local chapter members of the Native Plant Society. Benton County Commissioner’s office staff did the final layout and formatting. Benton County paid for all the materials and label printing. Friends of Badger Mountain provided project management throughout the process. FOBM volunteers also primed and painted the metal signs, adhered the plant labels and installed the metal plant signs around the interpretive loop.

See the plant signs along the Interpretive Loop: (For more information on each native plant click on the Common Name below THEN click MORE INFORMATION to access the University of Washington Burke Museum website for a detail description of that specific native plant with distribution maps, lots of photos and more)

Wyoming Big Sagebrush  |  Gray Rabbitbrush  |  Green Rabbitbrush |  Rock Buckwheat  |  Spiny Hospage |  Bigseed Biscuitroot  |  Bluebunch Wheatgrass  |  Indian Ricegrass  |  Sandberg’s Bluegrass  |  Needle & Thread Grass  |  Cheatgrass  |  Carey’s Balsamroot  |  Long-Leaf Phlox  |  Turpentine Spring Parsley  |  Jim Hill’s Tumblemustard  |  Yarrow  |  Fiddleneck  |  Low Pussytoes  |  Low Buckwheat Milkvetch  |  Woolly-Pod Milkvetch  |  Dusty Maiden  |  Slender Hawksbeard  |  Threadleaf Fleabane  |  Piper’s Daisy  |  Munro’s Globemallow  |  Showy Townsend-Daisy  |  Hoary Aster  |  Crouching Milkvetch  |  Basalt Rock

Wyoming Big Sagebrush

(Artemisia tridentata spp. wyomingenisis)

NATIVE – The signature species of the shrubsteppe landscape, its evergreen leaves and abundant seed production provide an essential winter food source for many mammals and birds.


Gray Rabbitbrush

(Ericameria nauseosa)

NATIVE – Narrow leaves covered in fine white hairs help tell this from green rabbitbrush. It’s covered in clusters of small yellow flowers in late summer. The pink mariposa lily just happened to grow here.

Green Rabbitbrush

(Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus)

NATIVE – Narrow leaves that are green and hairless distinguish this from gray rabbitbrush. Yellow flowers cover the plant in late summer.

Rock Buckwheat

(Eriogonum sphaerocephalum)

NATIVE – One of several buckwheat species in the region, rock buckwheat grows where the soil is very rocky. It has bright yellow flowers in spring.


Spiny Hopsage

(Grayia spinosa)

NATIVE – Hopsage has separate male and female plants.  The female has colorful bracts around the flowers in late spring. The leaves and seeds drop off in the heat of summer.

spiny hoopsage

Bigseed Biscuitroot

(Lomatium macrocarpum)

NATIVE – This low growing plant is an early spring bloomer in dry open spaces. It has a thick tuberous root.

bigseed biscuitroot

Bluebunch Wheatgrass

(Pseudoroegneria spicata)

NATIVE – The “State Grass” of Washington, it blankets much of the eastern half of the state with tall upright stems that provide shelter for ground-nesting birds.

bluebunch wheatgrass

Indian Ricegrass

(Achnatherum hymenoides)

NATIVE – Usually growing  1-2 feet tall in sandy soil, ricegrass has delicate stems topped by small round, hairy seeds in spring.

indian ricegrass

Sandberg’s Bluegrass

(Poa secunda)

NATIVE – Usually topping out at less than 1 foot, this bunchgrass is shorter than most in our region, but is found broadly throughout the shrubsteppe.

sandbergs bluegrass

Needle-&-Thread Grass

(Hesperostipa comata)

NATIVE – Long tails (awns) at the end of the very pointed and sharp seed give this bunchgrass it’s common name.  It grows up to 3 feet tall in dry sandy or gravelly soil, going dormant in summer.

needle and thread grass


(Bromus tectorum)

NON-NATIVE – Invasive annual grass that transforms landscapes, filling the open spaces between native plants. After it displaces other species, it dries-out and leaves a carpet of fuel for wildfires.


Carey’s Balsamroot

(Balsamorhiza careyana)

NATIVE – Bright yellow flowers and large shiny green leaves make this plant easy to spot in spring.

careys balsamroot

Long-Leaf phlox

(Phlox longifolia)

NATIVE – Preferring silty or sandy soil, phlox has abundant small pink flowers in spring.

long leaf phlox

Turpentine Spring Parsley

(Cymopteris terebithinus)

NATIVE – This perennial has flowers in early to mid-spring. It usually grows in sandy soil or other drought-stressed habitats.

turpentine spring parsley

Jim Hill’s Tumblemustard

(Sisymbrium altissimum)

NON-NATIVE – Originally from Europe, this annual weed grows up to 4 feet tall. When dry, the stem breaks off, tumbling to spread seeds.

jim hills tumblemustard


(Achillea millefolium)

NATIVE – Identifiable by its fern-like leaves and white flower clusters, yarrow is commonly found throughout Washington and from sea-level to the high mountains.



(Amsinckia lycopsoides)

NATIVE – An annual, fiddleneck grows up to 15 inches tall with distinctive yellow flowers that uncoil as bloom progresses. Its tiny, sliver-like hairs are an annoying memento for hikers and gardeners.


Low Pussytoes

(Antennaria dimorpha)

NATIVE – A small, compact plant only an inch or two tall, low pussytoes has male and female flowers on separate plants in spring.

low pussytoes

Low Buckwheat Milkvetch

(Astragalus caricinus)

NATIVE – Stems and leaves are covered with white wooly hairs, making it look gray-green.  Flowers are small, about ½  inch long.

low buckwheat milkvetch

Woolly-Pod Milkvetch

(Astragalus purshii)

NATIVE – A small plant with lavender pea-type flowers, followed by distinctive white fuzzy pods.

woolly pod milkvetch

Dusty Maiden

(Chaenactis douglasii)

NATIVE – Distinctive clusters of white to pink flowers extend above finely toothed gray-green wooly leaves in spring.

dusty maiden

Slender Hawksbeard

(Crepis atrabarba)

NATIVE – Deeply toothed leaves sit below multiple stems bearing bright yellow flowers.

slender hawksbeard

Threadleaf Fleabane

(Erigeron filifolius)

NATIVE – Very narrow leaves give this plant it’s name. Small white to pink daisy-type flowers in spring.

threadleaf fleabane

Piper’s Daisy

(Erigeron piperianus)

NATIVE – Small but obvious with its bright yellow inflorescence. We are fortunate to have healthy populations of this uncommon plant on Badger and Candy Mountains.

pipers daisy

Munro’s Globemallow

(Sphaeralcea munroana)

NATIVE – Common in the Mid-Columbia, its profuse orange flowers are unique in our area and can bloom late into the summer, creating striking scenes across dense populations.

munros globemallow

Showy Townsend-Daisy

(Townsendia florifer)

NATIVE – A low-growing plant in the shrub-steppe, it has light pink to white flowers that are a little bigger than similar white daisy-types.

showy townsend daisy

Hoary Aster

(Machaeranthera canescens)

NATIVE – Pale lavender to bright blueish purple flowers arrive in the fall. It usually lives 2 years, getting bigger the second year.

hoary aster

Crouching Milkvetch

(Astragalus succumbens)

NATIVE – One of the showiest milkvetches, crouching milkvetch has large clusters of purplishpink and white flowers in spring and curved pods in summer.

crouching milkvetch

Basalt Rock

The reddish-brown rock that we see all around us here in the Columbia Basin is a volcanic rock called basalt. It erupted from giant fissures in the Earth’s surface in a series of events between 6 and 17 million years ago, covering thousands of square miles of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to a depth of over 2 miles in some places. Collectively, these volcanic flood episodes and the rock they created are called the “Columbia River Basalt Group.”

Learn More

To learn more about the Ice Age Floods, as well as other parks you can visit, check out the Ice Age Floods section of the National Park Service website