In a most improbable feat of natural engineering, a beautiful nearly 200′ waterfall was plopped in the middle of nowhere. At least many would call the rolling grasslands and eroded lava formations of the Palouse “nowhere”, though not your humble narrator because I find this is a great region to explore in the springtime. It’s climate is milder than eastern Washington’s so the snow melts earlier and grass and wildflowers have a head start. And summer’s heat is a distant memory so spring is definitely the best time to visit — when the weather is cool and the water on the Palouse River fills its channel and pours over Palouse Falls, one of Washington State’s greatest waterfalls.
Palouse Falls State Park is located in southeastern Washington state, in the hilly wheatfields and grasslands that define the Palouse. It’s about a two hour drive from our home in Spokane to Palouse Falls and as one approaches the falls some of lava formations characteristic of the Channeled Scablands are seen; it is this basalt rock which dominates the area of Palouse Falls.
Palouse Falls State Park is fairly small, covering a little over one hundred acres, and contains a nice but limited camping area. Most people just stop by for an hour or so to view the falls and walk the trail beside the fenced off rim of the canyon within which the roar of the falls echoes. There are a few other activities one can participate in, including picnicking and limited hiking towards the Palouse River north of the falls. Brave souls kayak and canoe from the Snake River a few miles south up the Palouse River towards the falls, a shallow and rocky stretch of river requiring you to pull your boat along the side of the shore for some distance. But you will be rewarded with the opportunity to paddle in the splash pool of the falls and its mist and (on a sunny day) the rainbow at the base of the large waterfall.
In 2009 a brave (??dumb) young kayaker, Tyler Bradt, kayaked over the Palouse Falls and lived to tell of the experience. You can see this feat on his YouTube video. It was on this video I learned that the drop is actually taller than that of Niagara Falls. While a visit to this natural vista is a nice destination for an afternoon’s drive, kayaking over the precipice is not an activity I’d recommend.
Lyon’s Ferry State Park is just a few miles south of Palouse Falls State Park. It provides good access to the Palouse and Snake Rivers, offers fishing opportunities from shore and is a good place to take the dogs for a swim to help them cool off on a warm day.
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