Palouse Falls adds splashy contrast to E. Washington scablands
Spring is waterfall-viewing season, and Palouse Falls in Eastern Washington is a far-off-the-beaten track treasure.
Seattle Times travel staff
FRANKLIN COUNTY — My wife and I were the only living creatures in sight on an early-spring visit to Palouse Falls, but there was evidence of at least one other life form: The fluted-basalt gorge cradling the falls was an echo chamber for the honks of a goose, which could have easily passed for a flock.
The effect was a little like the cheers of an appreciative audience as the 180-plus-foot falls just kept roaring and splashing and sending up clouds of mist reminiscent of campfire smoke.
Spring and early summer are waterfall-viewing season, and this far-off-the-beaten track cataract in southeastern Washington will make you gush at how beautifully it gushes.
As much as anything, it's special because it provides such contrast to the rocky, dry sagebrush country around it.
Thank the ice ages for it. As part of a 105-acre state park around the falls, interpretive panels tell the story of ice-age floods that scoured this landscape to create the so-called Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington.
This is a stop on Audubon Washington's Great Washington State Birding Trail. This time of year, look for cliff-clinging nests of peregrine falcons, the world's fastest bird, which can swoop in a hunting dive at up to 180 mph. Their potential prey might include the yellow-bellied marmots who burrow into the canyon walls (listen for their whistle).
This is also the site of an unofficial 2009 world's record for kayaking over a waterfall. See an amazing YouTube documentary: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrveNdW_sj0.
Palouse Falls State Park, off Highway 261 southeast of Washtucna, Franklin County, has 10 tent sites for campers. More information: www.parks.wa.gov.