An Overlook to Memorialize a Renowned Geologist

The Fryxell Overlook is a wonderful viewpoint to see Palouse Falls and the Palouse River. The gazebo is dedicated to R.H. Fryxell and located a short hike south of the parking lot at Palouse Falls State Park. While you are standing there gazing at the majestic falls in the over-sized basalt plunge-pool and noticing the zig-zag pattern of the river, take a moment to read the memorial plaque at the Fryxell Overlook.

Roald Hilding Fryxell (1934 to 1974) was a brilliant young geologist who was very well regarded by his friends and colleagues. Dr. Fryxwll was born in Illinois on February 18th, 1934, and tragically died in a car accident in 1974. Doc Fryxwell, or Fryx as many students and friends referred to him, was Professor of Anthropology at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Dr. Fryxell’s achievements are numerous and include some of the more noteworthy archeological and geologic sites in Eastern Washington and even include work with lunar samples collected by multiple Apollo missions.

The overlook dedication is focused on the stratigraphic and archaeological work that Dr. Fryxell completed at the now-submerged Marmes Rockshelter site (#45FR50). The archeological work was conducted in the 1960s in haste as the Lower Monumental Dam was being built on the Snake River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Marmes Rockshelter is located on the western side of the Palouse River, just north of the confluence with the Snake River. The Rockshelter was approximately 12 meters wide and 8 meters deep. Dr. Fryxell was the principal investigator in the 1968 and 1969 excavations. During excavations a number of animal bones, tools made from bones, and human bones were found below a Glacier Peak ash deposit from an eruption some 10,000 years before. In 1968 the “Marmes Man” was presented as the oldest human remains at the time. More recent work found ages of bird bones from the site were older, dating 10,000 to 12, 000 years ago. By February 1969, the rising water from the dammed Snake River flooded the site, though barriers were placed to preserve the site.