Thursday, February 23, 2017
Palouse Falls has been designated the official falls of Washington State. It is located in the southeastern part of the state between the towns of Washtucna and Starbuck. The falls drop 198 feet (60 meters) into a huge bowl carved into the basalt formations by what geologists call the Missoula Floods. The falls are on the Pallouse River and are part of a state park of the same name and though in a rather remote area can be very busy in the summer months. There was almost no one there, however, when we visited, and the dirt road into the park was a muddy mess.
We arrived before sunrise and after waiting for it get light visited the cliffs above the falls near the parking area which offer some of the best views of the falls. We had talked about climbing down to the base of the falls, but the trails still had considerable ice and snow on them and so we left that endeavor for another time.
Finished in the main area of the park we hiked along the cliffs to the area of the upper falls, an area that the state park service does not recommend for hiking, and it was indeed quite muddy and the footing very poor where the descent was steep. The upper falls are more a series of cascades than a real falls, but they were spectacular due to the amount of muddy water coming over them.
The area of the upper falls is known for the Mohawk, a huge flat-faced basalt formation in front of which and around which the river makes two nearly ninety degree turns before flowing to the much larger lower falls. After exploring the area we headed back up to the top of the cliffs and the parking area, taking photos along the way of the river and the top of the falls.
The cliffs are entirely unprotected and I do not like heights but did get close enough for some dramatic shots while my wife photographed me from further back. The mist from the falls made photography difficult at times, but we managed enough photos between the two of us for this post. So, after returning to the car we made coffee and breakfast before heading off.