Sunset at Palouse Falls near the Snake River in Eastern Washington.
Palouse Falls is special to me for a few reasons, not the least of which is its proximity to my hometown of Spokane. It’s the natural treasure in my backyard.
Of course, they are beautiful. That makes them special to me as well.
But what really makes them special to me is how the story of Palouse Falls points up how fragile these beautiful things really are, and how they must be protected.
In 1984, a dam was proposed upstream from the falls on the Palouse River. It would have risen to 98 feet and provided hydroelectric power to most of Franklin County. It would have also more-or-less destroyed the Falls as we know them. Thankfully, the voters and utility customers of Franklin County roundly rejected the proposal. Destroying a thing of natural beauty wasn’t worth saving a few bucks on their utility bills.
Reason ruled in Franklin County that day in 1984.
Today, Palouse Falls remains a magical place in the otherwise arid and desolate lands of Eastern Washington in the rain-shadow behind the Cascades. The falls tower 198 feet over the pool below. Native ferns and moss cover the surrounding rocks. Being there to enjoy the sights, sounds, and sensations gives an overwhelming sense of the transcendent. Tyler Brandt had an up-close experience with that transcendence in 2009 when he kayaked over them, setting a world record.
The state government in Olympia — finally — agreed. In 2014, the state legislature declared Palouse the “Official Falls” of Washington, thus likely ensuring they won’t face the threat of short-term gain over long-term wonder ever again.
Access to the falls is easy along paved roads. Easily-hiked trails circle the rim above the pond. Because the viewpoint along the trail faces East, sunset is a great time for photography.