Geography Facilities and Location


Dean Hall

The Department of Geography is located on the third floor of Dean Hall with most of our classrooms and laboratories on the first and second floors of the same building. Dean Hall has earned a national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), following the completion in 2008 of a $23.2 million renovation of the 40 year old building. Dean Hall is also home to the Center for Spatial Information, the Department of Anthropology, the Resource Management graduate program, and the Museum of Culture and Environment. The Department of Geography has one of the finest Geographic Information System (GIS) teaching and research laboratories in the Northwest. The University has an ESRI site license and is running the latest version of ArcGIS on the 30 computers in the lab. In addition to ESRI products, ERDAS Imagine is available for image processing research. Corel Draw is used for detailed cartographic/graphic work. Large format scanners, digitizers, a laser printer, and large format plotter are also available to students. Other laboratories in which students and faculty members conduct research include a biogeography lab, a soils lab, and a hydrology lab. We maintain an excellent collection of USGS topographic maps of Washington and adjacent states. These are available for you to use with the approval and supervision of a departmental faculty member. We also have a large archive of aerial photographs of Kittitas County and neighboring counties. This collection spans more than 50 years of records and is extremely useful in assessing historic environmental changes in the region.


Physical Geography

Stewart Pass Mountain Range

The main campus of Central Washington University is located in the city of Ellensburg, in the Kittitas Valley, situated between the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River. Ellensburg is surrounded by open space with wide views across irrigated agricultural land. From the valley, the granite summit of Mount Stuart (9,415 ft) can be seen rising above the Wenatchee Mountains. From east of town, glacier-clad Mount Rainier (14,410 ft) is visible above Manastash Ridge. The Yakima, Cle Elum, and Teanaway Rivers flow from glaciated terrain near the Cascade Crest, then merge and cross alluvial floodplains before exiting the valley through the Yakima Canyon to the south of Ellensburg. To the east of Ellensburg are the basalt cliffs of the Columbia River, gouged by the ice age Missoula floods.


Balsam Root

Ellensburg is located in a semi-arid region, and receives an average of 9 inches of precipitation per year. This is in stark contrast to the Cascade Crest, about 40 miles west, which receives an average of 100 inches per year. Spring in Ellensburg brings green hillsides, which are filled with native bunch grass and the colorful flowers of balsam root and lupine. Throughout summer, clear blue skies and dry conditions persist. In the fall, cottonwoods turn yellow and grasses on the hillsides take on a golden hue. When winter comes, Ellensburg receives variable snowfall and is usually covered in a blanket of snow through much of the season.


Fly Boat

There are plenty of opportunities for recreation in the region. Great places for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing are right outside of town. Just a little further away is the Wenatchee National Forest, which contains the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Mt. Rainier National Park and Glacier Peak Wilderness are close enough for day trips or weekend getaways.

The Town

Ellensburg was originally laid out on a traditional grid pattern. There are street fronts made for walking and alleys designed to handle urban infrastructure and services. The town has several sites listed on the National Historic Register of Places: Downtown Ellensburg Historic District, the First Railroad District, and the Rodeo and Fairgrounds. The Downtown Historic District is the heart of Ellensburg with restaurants, retail, services, and art galleries. Downtown also serves as a focal point for an eclectic set of yearly community festivals centered on jazz, cowboy poetry, craft beer tasting, and dachshunds! The First Railroad Historic District contains unique residential architecture and the Kittitas County Fair and Rodeo Grounds are the location of the annual Kittitas County Fair and Ellensburg Rodeo.


colockcum valley

The Kittitas Valley is facing many of the same resource management issues that are affecting other regions in the intermountain West. Increasing rates of in-migration and rapidly changing land use are putting pressure on water and land resources, as well as the region's traditional culture.