A tour guide: The mighty Palouse Falls

Take a visit to Washington’s state waterfall on the palouse

PALOUSE FALLS — You like seeing pretty epic cascades of water and wild beauty? Of course you do! You live in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, the upper left, the gateway to the pacific, and all those waterfalls have got your wanderlust going crazy.

Palouse Falls as seen from the state park viewing area. The water flow is just above standard as of now, and flows year-round. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Palouse Falls as seen from the state park viewing area. The water flow is just above standard as of now, and flows year-round. Photo by Jacob Granneman

You’ve tapped out the Columbia River Gorge, Olympic national woods is in the memory bank, and there’s few cataracts past Portland you haven’t laid eyes on. So what do you do?

Fear not, fellow adventure nerd, there’s one more white water wonder for you. (Well actually there’s like thousands more, but this one is “the one.”)

Meet, Palouse Falls, the official state waterfall of Washington.

Located on the Palouse River between Franklin and Whitman counties inside a state park of the same name, Palouse Falls boasts an impressive 200-foot drop; spilling nearly 1,000 cubic feet of water per second over the edge.  

Carved by the famed Missoula Flood almost 13,000 years ago, Palouse Falls is one of the few waterfalls created by the flood to still be flowing. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Carved by the famed Missoula Flood almost 13,000 years ago, Palouse Falls is one of the few waterfalls created by the flood to still be flowing. Photo by Jacob Granneman

This reporter had the opportunity to take a quick look-around at the famous water feature, late last month, and gee willikers Batman, was it an adventure.

As some know, I gradumacated from the good ole’ Washington State University in Pullman, or should I say in the middle of a wheat field. GO COUGS! In my years at Wazzu, I never made it out to Palouse Falls, and always felt like a fraud waterfall fanatic as a result.

Last month, close to a year after I left Pullman, my wife and I had the opportunity to gaze on this beautiful spectacle of creation which had eluded us of late. And it was awesome.

The Palouse River canyon below the falls, looking south. Not many miles downstream from Palouse Falls, the river joins the Snake River, which later joins the Columbia. Photo by Jacob Granneman
The Palouse River canyon below the falls, looking south. Not many miles downstream from Palouse Falls, the river joins the Snake River, which later joins the Columbia. Photo by Jacob Granneman

The sheer cliffs, jetting down into a cauldron of churning water, ever rained on by the thunderous cascade above, made my wife and I think of Ireland and its Cliffs of Moher.

Winding around the crest of the bowl, as it is known, is a series of foot trails, complete with, “don’t be stupid, or you WILL die,” signs. They aren’t exaggerating. Four people have died in recent times at the falls, and it’s not a hike for the faint of heart.

A view of Palouse Falls in the winter time, taken during a fairly deep freeze. The showers of water and mist create elaborate ice sculptures that cling to the canyon walls. Photo courtesy of Kyle Harrington
A view of Palouse Falls in the winter time, taken during a fairly deep freeze. The showers of water and mist create elaborate ice sculptures that cling to the canyon walls. Photo courtesy of Kyle Harrington

Even so, if the dogs on a leash, (and maybe the kids too), all’s well.

As you start on the main path, it wraps around and beside the falls, giving the adventurer a top down view of the very moment the river bed falls away. Further down, you happen upon the “upper falls” which much resemble massive river rapids, and fall some 20 feet in height.

This is where my adventure ended, as my wife and I had a five-hour drive home the same day, and were trying to see this weird superhero film that just came out. Vengeful Ender’s Game? Avenge the End of Game? Something like that.

If you look closely, you can see the a small crowd of people standing next to the alien-looking spires at the very edge of the falls. This spot is accessed by walking the entire main falls trail. Photo by Jacob Granneman
If you look closely, you can see the a small crowd of people standing next to the alien-looking spires at the very edge of the falls. This spot is accessed by walking the entire main falls trail. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Anyways, we dared not venture on, for fear of being late. But you, fellow PNW quest-taker; you need not stop, for the path goes on.

Descending into the canyon, the trail wraps back on itself and follows the river to the very top of the falls. Beside the edge, rises into the air spires of basalt, looking almost other-worldly.

On the opposite side of the park, another access trail that takes hikers down into the “bowl” can be found. The thin walking path winds down into the canyon below the falls, and arrives at the constantly lapping shores of gravel, covered in mist.

Now, just a few helpful tidbits if you are, infact, intrigued:

  • Palouse Falls State Park REQUIRES a Discover Pass, or $10 for the day
  • They DO NOT take cards, cash and check only (so plan ahead, don’t be like me)
  • There is camping available at the location, for tents, RVs and more, but it’s limited so have a plan B
  • Restrooms, picnic areas, ADA access, and maybe, just maybe, some hawaiian shaved ice will be present
  • Wildlife and Bird watch is prominent, and no “tripod fee” is required for photographers
  • The entry road is not paved, but loose gravel and can be pretty dusty
  • The journey from our amazing Clark County takes just shy of four hours via I-84 and WA-395
  • Last but not least, it truly is as beautiful as everyone says it is, 100 percent

So that’s that! I truly hope you set off soon, and have many merry adventures of your own. Keep an eye or two out for our Day Trip Series that will be starting very soon., as we move into the coveted summer months of the PNW.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you at the falls!

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a recent graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College, where he studied media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and in Argentina. His passions range from loving people, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, WA.

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