Did You Know? Palouse Falls

Washington's official state waterfall is a geological wonder with a rich history. Learn more and pick up some travel tips.
Regina Robinson Regina Robinson
Olympia Branch Communications Volunteer
October 15, 2017
Author Regina Robinson explores a new topic each month in her "Did You Know?" series, which comes out in the Olympia Branch Newsletter. 

Formerly known as Aput Aput, meaning "Falling Water," so named by the Palouse Native Americans, you can find this incredible waterfall in the aptly named Palouse Falls State Park. It's definitely worth a visit! Here's some history and travel tips on this natural wonder:


At the end of the last ice age, repeated glacial floods, known as the Missoula Floods, swept across eastern Washington carving out the unique scablands landscape we see today. Among the coulees, potholes, buttes, and plateaus, Palouse Falls is one of most magnificent and lasting remnants of the glacial flood path, which is thousands of years old. It is the only major waterfall left. On February 12, 2014 it became Washington's official state waterfall. Standing at a height of 198 feet and surrounded by striking basalt cliffs, the powerful waterfall lies on the Palouse River upstream of the confluence with the Snake River. The park was dedicated June 3, 1951.

According to a story of the Palouse tribe, the Palouse River once flowed smoothly into the Snake. But four giant brothers, in pursuit of a mythic creature called Big Beaver, speared the great creature five times. Each time Big Beaver was wounded, he gouged the canyon walls, causing the river to bend and change. The fifth time he was speared, he fought the brothers valiantly and tore out a huge canyon. The river tumbled over a cliff at this point to become Palouse Falls. The jagged canyon walls show the deep marks of Big Beaver's claws.

Travel Tips

  • You'll need a Palouse Falls State Park/Discover Pass
  • Make sure to stay on approved trails, it's hike at your own risk.
  • The waterfall is really raging in spring, so don't delay!

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