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Hudson Biological Reserve History

Dr. George Hudson

The Hudson Biological Reserve is dedicated to Dr. George Hudson, a zoologist, ornithologist, conservationist and more who studied at Washington State University. His Obituary, written by James R. King, begins as follows:

“George Elford Hudson, a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union, died on 4 August 1974 at his home on Rose Creek, near Pullman, Washington. He was an eminent avian anatomist, a general zoologist of the old school, a demanding mentor, a farsighted conservationist, and a unique personage…”

To read more about Dr. George Hudson’s life and achievements, visit the Dr. George Elford Hudson Page.

Dr. George Hudson, 1962

From the WSU Digital Collection

Mollisol soil profile characteristic of the Palouse Prairie (National Resources Conservation Service, WA USDA)

Geologic History

The Palouse Prairie Bioregion spans across Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho and covers approximately 40,000 m^2 around the Palouse River basin.

Extent of the Palouse Bioregion (Black et al. 1998)

Bordered by the Snake and Columbia rivers to the South, and by Idaho’s Bitterroot and Clearwater mountains to the East, the fertile Loess soils characteristic of the region were formed by the layers of volcanic basalt bedrock, nearly 10,000 feet thick from deposits dating back 6-17 million years ago, that are covered by rich yet vulnerable wind-deposited (aeolian) topsoil.

Map of basalt flows from volcanic eruptions in the Columbia basin

The gentle rolling hills of the Palouse span in elevation from 1,200ft to 2,800ft. These dark nutrient-rich soils make the Palouse Bioregion highly arable and able to foster vast biodiverse communities of flora and fauna.

View of Kamiak Butte from Smoot Hill. Yellow fields of garbanzo flowers surround the Palouse Prairie remnants.

Pre-Colonial History

The area that is now the Hudson Biological Reserve was originally managed by the Palouis (Palouse) and Nimiipu (Nez Perce) tribes. The tribes relied mostly on fishing and gathering native plants for food as well as medicine. The diverse plant communities native to the Palouse Prairie were actively managed by local tribes. For more information about the cultural and ethnobotanical value of the Palouse Prairie, see Dr. Cleve Davis’s publication “The Palouse Prairie: A Vanishing Indigenous People’s Garden” (Download pdf). Also, see the Tribal Ceded Areas Map (USFWS) map.

Washington is home to 29 federally recognized tribes, each with their own governments. Approximately 140,714 citizens of Washington alone are Native. For more information, visit the Washington Tribes Website. Below is a approximate map of historic Indigenous territories at one time pre-colonization, while this map shows the current extent of reservations throughout Washington State.

Approximate map of historic tribal territories in Washington pre-colonization.

European settlers encroached on native territories in Washington and throughout North America with violence and bloodshed in a struggle to remove Native people from their homelands. In the Columbia plateau, the Palouis (Palouse) tribe native to the Palouse Prairie joined the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation following the Treaty of 1855. The Yakama Nation includes the tribes and bands Yakama Palouis, Pisquouse, Wenatchsahpam, Klikatat, Klingquit, Kow-was-say-ee, Li-was, Skin-pha, Wish-ham, Shyiks, Ocehchotes, Ka-milt-pha, and Se-ap-Cat. In surrounding areas of Washington, European colonizers also forced surviving Native peoples onto the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce), Spokane, and Coeur d’Alene reservations. For more information about current tribal activities and governments, please visit the First Peoples’ History page.


Current extent of tribal reservation lands within Washington (

Post-Colonial History

In 1775, Spanish explorer Captain Bruno Heceta arrived at the coast of WA. In the following years, the area was explored by Europeans until 1846 when the U.S. gained control of Washington through the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain. Washington became the 42nd state in 1889. Smoot Hill and the surrounding parcel has been owned by multiple farming families who attempted to cultivate the land with little success. The steep and rocky slopes characteristic of Palouse Prairie grasslands are not ideal for farming, so the last family sold the land now known as the Hudson Biological Reserve to WSU in 1968. For more information, visit the Past Research and Current Research pages.





Topographic map of the Hudson Biological Reserve at Smoot Hill.

The Palouse Prairie bioregion has been intensely developed for agriculture, housing development, and grazing since European colonization. Wheat, garbanzo, and lentil are the main crops cultivated in the area. Less than 1% of the land within the historic Palouse Prairie range hosts remnant native plant communities (Erik Peterson, MSc. dissertation, Brown Ecology Lab EWU).





Vegetation cover in 1998 compared to pre-colonial vegetation (Black et al. 1998)

Climate change and invasions by non-native species, especially exotic annual grasses like Ventenata dubia (North Africa grass), Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski (Medusahead), and Bromus tectorum L. (Cheatgrass or Downy Brome), threaten what little remains of native Palouse Prairie habitat. Restoration ecologists with WSU, other universities, and community stakeholders are actively working to improve the success of native plant restoration and conservation efforts to preserve these fragile ecosystems.


Graduate student collecting vegetation community data on Smoot Hill

Current Research

Past Research

Events and Outreach


(From R. Daubenmire, 1970. Steppe vegetation of Washington. Technical Bulletin 62. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, College of Agriculture, Washington Agricultural Experiment Station.)