Located in southeast Washington, Palouse Falls State Park protects a small but scenic and geologically interesting location. Here the Palouse River has gradually carved its way through hard, thick beds of volcanic basalt. The slow but steady action of river downcutting has lead to the formation of a beautiful canyon as well as a spectacular waterfall.
The massive layers of basalt that cover this area were deposited from about 14 to 6 million years ago during the late Miocene epoch. During this time the region experienced intense volcanic activity. Vast quantities of lava periodically gushed from the earth over millions of years, resulting in thick deposits of flood basalt.
Over the last few tens of thousands of years extensive glaciation slowly ground away at this basalt. As the glaciers melted and ice dams broke, enormous quantities of water flooded across the landscape for extended periods, scouring the land and creating new river channels. Sustained river flow over thousands of years has gradually worn away the rock, and as a result this particular location now features a wide canyon and massive waterfall. At 198 feet (60 m) in height, Palouse Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the country, higher than even Niagara Falls.
The grandeur of Palouse Falls attracts a lot of attention. In 2009 Tyler Bradt set the world record for highest waterfall drop in a kayak here, and in 2014 Washington’s legislature named Palouse Falls as the official state waterfall. If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth a detour to see this impressive natural feature.