According to the Palouse tribe, this state park had an interesting start. The Palouse River once flowed smoothly into the Snake River, but four giant brothers decided to pursue a mythic creature called Big Beaver. Each time Big Beaver was speared, he gouged the canyon walls and caused the river to bend and change. The fifth time he was speared he fought the brothers with all his might and tore out a huge canyon in the process.
The river tumbled over the cliff Big Beaver created and became Palouse Falls. The jagged canyon walls show the deep marks of Big Beaver’s claws. The falls were originally called Aputapat, but the name was changed later to honor the Palouse tribe.
The cliffs and canyons that make Palouse Falls so spectacular were actually carved out by the giant flood that happened between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago when the Missoula Ice Dam broke apart. That flood shaped the entire region, including the Columbia River.
Palouse Falls State Park has so much incredible scenery. Of course, its shining glory is the waterfall itself, which was named the official Washington State Waterfall in 2014. The proposal for the bill was started by a group of elementary school students from Washtucna who lobbed the state legislature.
The official name of the canyon that lies south of the falls is the Palouse River Canyon. It’s 1,000 feet deep in some places, and you can get a good view by hiking the two mile Palouse Falls Trail.
Palouse Falls State Park is open year round, and camping is available for $15 (the utility campsite is $21). Our “grand canyon” is definitely one of Washington’s most beautiful sites.