Palouse Falls

You are looking at one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Northwest and a staple of the region's geology. The Palouse is full of beautiful landscapes, but the most impressive by far is the grand, 198-foot high Palouse Falls. Situated five-miles upstream from the Snake River confluence on the Palouse River, the impressive cascading waterfall has been a staple of Palouse geology since it was first discovered long ago by local tribes. The beauty and awe-inspiring power of Palouse Falls has inspired and attracted visitors for generations.

Palouse Falls holds a special place in the creation story of the Palus Indians. The traditional fishing site of the Palus Tribe is located near the falls, where the Snake and Palouse Rivers meet. This is where the village of Palus, the tribe's largest and oldest village once stood. Also known as Naha'u'umpu'u, or "People of the River," they are especially fond of the falls because residing nearby is the massive, petrified heart of the legendary Beaver, Wishpushya.

During the time of the Animal People, Beaver lived peacefully at his lodge at Hole-in-the-Ground near Rock Lake in northern Whitman County. He was killed by the five Wolf Brothers armed with spears, but not before an epic battle ensued in which time the rocky and undulating geography of the Palouse was formed as a result of the struggle. Beaver was mortally wounded at Palouse Falls (known to the Palus as "Falling Water," or Aputaput). In the pain and agony of death, he thrashed and flailed, gauging-out the rocks with his mighty claws and teeth, forming the sheer cliffs that surround the falls. Beaver died from his wounds, falling at the confluence of the Snake River where his giant heart transformed to stone. According to legend, the remains of Beaver crated all of the region's various tribes. The Palus are said to have "sprung from his heart," which is the large rock on the west side of the Palouse River at the Snake River confluence and is still visible today.

Images

Fishing at the Falls, 1905

Fishing at the Falls, 1905

Unidentified couple on a fishing trip below the falls. The river was much lower at the time, allowing for such excursions to be made possible. Dam construction has made this a much more dangerous activity. Image courtesy of Whitman County Rural Heritage. http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/whitman/id/3348/rec/3 View File Details Page

Pierce Family Fishing Trip, 1908

Pierce Family Fishing Trip, 1908

The Pierce family showing off their catches of the day below the falls sometime around 1908. Charlie, Fay and Gilbert (left to right) often fished this spot long before the dams were built along the Snake River in the 1960s. Image courtesy of Whitman County Rural Heritage. http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/whitman/id/3349/rec/4 View File Details Page

Palouse Falls Postcard, 1908

Palouse Falls Postcard, 1908

Postcards like this one were at the height of their popularity around this time. This particular postcard was obviously used to demonstrate the natural beauty of the Palouse, as represented by the falls. Maybe these images even attracted other settlers to come out West and settle the region as well. Image courtesy of Whitman County Rural Heritage. http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/whitman/id/2737/rec/1 View File Details Page

Palouse Falls, 2014

Palouse Falls, 2014

A look down at the falls from the main viewing point. Palouse Falls State Park has provided for the best possible way to look at the picturesque cascade. Don't forget your Discover Pass. Image by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Palouse River Canyon, 2014

Palouse River Canyon, 2014

Looking south, away from the falls as the Palouse River works its way to meet the Snake River a few miles downstream. Not only is the falls itself impressive, but the entire area, such as the gorge surrounding the falls, is a spectacular sight to behold as well. Image by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Washington State's "Official" Waterfall, 2014

Washington State's "Official" Waterfall, 2014

In March, 2014, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee declared that Palouse Falls is now the "Official Waterfall of the State of Washington." After visiting the falls with a group of Washtucna elementary school students, Governor Inslee was awed by the place. The students effectively "lobbied" the governor to officiate the falls. Image by author, 2014. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Robert M. Lambeth, “Palouse Falls,” Spokane Historical, accessed April 27, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/428.
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