The Port of Umatilla was created in response to regional gold rushes in the early 1860s. The port then brought ranchers to the plentiful grasslands surrounding the Port of Umatilla. When the railroad arrived and dry-land wheat farming began in the early 1880s, the Port of Umatilla began to blossom. Water is critical to the regional economy, and irrigation is important to economic growth and diversification. Tourism is becoming a big contributor to the local economy as well. In 2012, the Port of Umatilla celebrated its 150th birthday with Landing Days. A one-day celebration takes place every year.
The Port of Umatilla has a cool-summer Mediterranean climate with warm dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures in the Port of Umatilla range from an average high of 23°C (74°F) in July and August to an average low of about 1.5°C (35°F) in December and January. Precipitation is low throughout the year in the Port of Umatilla, peaking at 2.5 centimeters (just over one inch) in November, December, and January. Humidity levels range from a high of about 80% from November through January to a low of about 55% in July and August. Snow comes to the Port of Umatilla from mid-October through early April, peaking in January at 17 centimeters (almost seven inches).
Hat Rock State Park is located nine miles east of the Port of Umatilla. Lewis and Clark noted this landmark as they traveled the Columbia River. The park is an oasis surrounded by basalt outcroppings and rolling sagebrush-covered hills. Visitors to the park enjoy the shade of cottonwood and black locust trees and play on the acres of grass. The park has a boat ramp to the lake which is a rich fishing ground. The park also has a pond stocked with rainbow trout that supports waterfowl throughout the year. There is no fee for the park aside from reservations for the picnic area. The Port of Umatilla's Hot Rock State Park offers restrooms, a hiking trail, interpretive signs, and opportunities for swimming.
The McNary Dam and Locks opened in 1954, creating the Lake Wallula Reservoir on the Columbia River. Self-guided tours are available throughout the year, and guided tours are conducted in season.
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