Palouse Falls State Park Things to Do

  • Close up of Falls
    Close up of Falls
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  • Canyon and Falls
    Canyon and Falls
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  • The Best View
    The Best View
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Most Recent Things to Do in Palouse Falls State Park

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    Palouse Falls at Flood Stage

    by GuthrieColin Updated Jan 21, 2009

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    Close up of Falls
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    So these photo's were taken after waters had receded a little but it is certainly the most water I've witnessed in my 5 visits to the park. The volume certainly makes the falls more interesting. It really makes one wonder what the area would have looked like during the Ice Age floods.
    The park has undergone some renovation since my last visit and new additions include several signs explaining the Geologic past of the area and the formation of the falls.

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    Rapids Above

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Rapids and Canyon
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    Just above the falls there are many series of rapids. I know that Further up stream are 2 more small waterfalls, (see my off the beaten path tips for this page.)
    The view of these rapids is a very easy one to get to. From the parking lot follow a well maintained gravel road until it turns left then follow any of several footpaths toward the cliff side.
    From there be careful as there is again an exposure of about 80 feet (24 m) straight down. One can also hike to the same level as the rapids by following that gravel path to the train tracks then making your way into the canyon. This same route can be followed further to the brink of the falls.

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    Upper Viewpoint

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    The Best View
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    This view is one of the best I have had the privilege of having seen of Palouse Falls. Looking down you can truly appreciate that grandeur of the falls.
    The unusual angle that the view takes on is very deceiving. The pool beneath seems close enough to touch even though it is far from.
    The only drawback is that if you are afraid of heights at all this is a deal breaker. I would also not suggest this point if it were windy, icy or wet. The reason for this caution is that there happens to be a great deal of exposure (close proximity to steep cliffs) at this point.
    I found myself at a point with a nearly 300 foot (91 m) drop-off on one side and about 100 feet strait down on the other. Any miscalculation or careless step would certainly ruin your weekend from that point.
    To reach this viewpoint follow any of several footpaths to the point just to the left side of the falls.

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    Fryxell Overlook

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Palouse Falls
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    Fryxell Overlook was named for Ronald Fryxell who was an anthropology professor at nearby Washington State University. His contribution to Palouse Falls State Park was in having found bones and artifacts downstream from the falls that were older than any human remains up to that point.
    The overlook built in his honor is one of the better views of the falls. The platform looks down at the falls from the crest of the canyon from about 100 feet (30 m) higher in elevation than the brink of the falls. From the Parking area it is a short walk of about 400 yards (.3 km).

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    Palouse River Canyon and History

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    Canyon Below
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    The Palouse River started as a small river that accommodated huge flows of water when Lake Missoula flooded (several times). Lake Missoula was a lake which was created during the last ice age about 12,000 years ago.
    The lake was created when the Cordilleran Ice Sheet blocked the flow of the Clark Fork River and it reached depths of 2,000 feet deep (609 m). The lake stretched from Idaho into western Montana. Its volume was as large as both Lake Erie and Ontario combined.
    Several times the dam was broken and then rebuilt. Each breaking of the dam resulted in a flood of mammoth proportions. The flow of the flood waters was said to be equal in force to 60 Amazon Rivers. It was these floods that created the large canyon and current path of the Palouse River.

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    Waterfall Facts

    by GuthrieColin Updated Apr 30, 2007

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    A Little Closer

    Palouse falls is the last remaining waterfall created by the ice age floods of Lake Missoula (See my tip including history). After the falls the river flows 6 miles before reaching the much larger Snake River. Palouse Falls is between 198 and 185 feet (56-60 m) tall depending on the source.
    It is a direct plunge into the pool beneathe and is framed by several layers of 100 foot (30 m) thick basalt deposited in past volcanic eruptions. The volume of the falls can be as small as a creek in the dry summer months or as large as having a 100 foot wide brink in times of extreme flooding. It was discovered by the Wilkes Expedition in 1841 and was called Aputapat by native Americans in the area.

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    Palouse Falls in Summer

    by GuthrieColin Written Aug 29, 2006

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    More of a Whispy Column
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    Palouse Falls takes on a thinner horse tail type of drop in the summer. The volume so diminished so greatly in the summer that is looks like a completely different waterfall.
    When viewing the falls in the summer keep in mind that it will likely be very warm and that the likelihood of seeing a rattle snake exists and is much greater than in the winter.
    There is a trail that leads from the overlook and winds its way to the brink of the falls and unusual basaltic castle on the top of the falls. I have not hiked the trail yet but it looks like there is a lot of exposure along its route.

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    Frozen pool

    by GuthrieColin Updated Mar 13, 2006

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    Ice covered pool
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    I do not imagine that many people see the falls in this way. In the winter months however, it is common to see a lot of ice and snow build up around the base of the canyon. I visited in February and the recent snowfall, added with the cold temperatures that accompany that kind of weather, left frozen debris in the pool directly beneath the falls.
    The park's web site warned that you would be wise to bring water with you to fend off dehydration from the heat. While that may be the case in the summer, I found that even with somewhat warm clothes in the winter it is downright cold. My ears and nose felt frozen to the point of almost being painful. So bundle up in the winter if you decide to visit then.

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