Palouse Falls

If you’re not familiar with Palouse Falls here’s a quick rundown.

The Palouse Falls lies on the Palouse River, about 4 miles upstream of the confluence with the Snake River. The falls are 198 ft in height and drop into a beautiful bowl. Of course the terrain abound the falls is dry desert and the area is sparsely populated.

The canyon at the falls is 377 ft deep, exposing a large cross-section of the Columbia River Basalt Group. These falls and the canyon downstream are an important feature of the channeled scablands created by the great Missoula floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and across the Columbia River Plateau during the Pleistocene epoch.

Although only separated by a short drive, eastern and western Washington couldn’t be on more opposite sides of the spectrum; cool wet temperate rain forests vs. dry, hot desert. However, a visit to this desert has been on my to-do list for some time and I was anxious to explore and camp  over on this side of the mountains, plus there was the added bonus of a visit to the famous Palouse Falls.
All interesting information but what really makes the falls so well know, or at least in my circles, is the world record held by Tyler Bradt when he ran the falls in his kayak back in 2009. As far as I know, this record still holds. You can see a video here. We weren’t going to be trying anything nearly as, put your own adjective here. Just a visit and hopefully some photos were on our agenda. A word of caution. If you plan on visiting this fall use common sense and caution. Recently there have been a increase in deaths around the falls. The latest included a fall when a section of cliff edge gave way under a visitor and an over confident swimmer met with disaster under the falls themselves. This is wild country and EMS is a long ways off. Stay on the designated paths and you’ll be fine. Wander off into the back-country and you do so at your own peril.  

Potholes State Park

The plan was for Theresa and I to meet up with Matt and his wife at Potholes State Park for a long weekend. Potholes seem like a silly name for a park but it gets its name from the many small lakes in the area that were created by a combination of events. The first event was the creation of huge depressions, 30 to 70 yards wide and 10 to 60 feet deep, that were made in the earth during the Pleistocene flooding. Those depressions were filled with water, making pothole lakes, when the water table rose in the 1950s with the creation of O’Sullivan Dam. The dam was part of a project by the Bureau of Reclamation to provide irrigation water to farmers.  

The park reflects the same duality that the two halves of the state that mentioned earlier. The half designated for RV’s is lush and green. Much like camping on a golf course. It looked like there was even hookups for cable.

The deep canyon through which the Palouse River flows.
A windmill catching the sunset.

The tent camping side is more like camping in the projects; dirty, dry, dusty and neglected. And grossly overcrowded. Most sites had 5 or 7 tents crammed in each site and there was no enforcement of ‘quiet time’.

I enjoy and appreciate our states campsites and most are well worth a visit, but I can’t give this campground the same endorsement.

However, we did have a good time visiting with Matt and Shelly which of course is no surprise but I think we’ll keep our explorations confined to the west side; at least for the foreseeable future.

Steve Weileman

I've been lucky enough to have some of my work featured on CNN, Outside TV and, National Geographic. Join me as I continue to both learn the art of film-making and document the exciting new modern world of citizen-science. His work has been featured on CNN, National Geographic, and OutsideTV, as well as numerous local outlets.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Another great write-up, and that sunset photo is wonderful!

    We tried to visit Palouse Falls back in April of this year, on our way back from Fields Spring State Park. Unfortunately, due to search and rescue operations, the park was closed for a couple of days. We’ll get back out that way one day.

    Potholes State Park is another good one, although, we do agree with you on the issues in the tent camping section. We camped in the tent section for two nights and it wasn’t as nice as the lush green grass elsewhere in the park. On our next visit we opted to stay in one of the cabins, which was a step up. We may just have to get an RV and stay in that section next time 🙂


    1. I’d like to give the park another shot….maybe during one of the step seasons when it’s not as crowded or hot! 🙂

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