Palouse Falls sojourn

Another visit to the vista includes making sure Nora the Schnauzer doesn't take a trip over the 186-foot falls.

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The 186-foot Palouse Falls (top) highlights one of Washington's state parks.

Summer, fall, winter or spring, I enjoy a visit to Palouse Falls.


It changes with the seasons. It differs with each visit.


Last summer, I especially enjoyed the marmots that scooted off of the paths on the upstream side of the park.


And Nora the Schnauzer enjoyed them, although her leash kept her from catching one.


She did stuff her head down in some of the marmot holes. Well, I warned her that the chubby, big-toothed marmots would chew off her nose.


I’ve read that breeders developed the miniature schnauzer as a "ratter" by crossing small standard schnauzers with the affenpinscher and possibly the poodle.


Today they are used as hunters, trackers, ratters, watchdogs and companions.


Well, Nora fits the "companion" category to a "T".


Mainly, she sniffs out repulsive stuff to eat.


Anyway, with the 50-plus-degree temperature and a stiff wind in the mid-November Chinook mode, we arrived at the park at mid-day. We saw no people and no marmots.


I didn’t snap the leash on Nora as we walked along the fenced-off cliff with its impressive view of the 186-foot falls.


"Tsk, tsk," I said to myself as I recalled that a kayaker went over the falls and survived during the summer (Google "Palouse Falls Kayaker" for stories).


It’s an impressive site, with the steep, stark basalt cliffs.


So, I took photos.


Again.


We walked the paved path all the way up to the Roald Fryxell overlook.


Fryxell, who died in 1974, taught anthropology at Washington State University and made significant discoveries at the now-flooded Marmes Rockshelter, downstream from Palouse Falls. He found bones and artifacts dating back 10,000 to 12,000 years.


Then we cut across the park and padded along the dirt paths to a view directly above the falls.


Despite the warm winds, we saw no evidence of marmots. Yet, I snapped Nora on the leash to keep her away from the cliffs.


We passed above the falls and followed the path along the 80-foot cliff, heading upstream past occasional signs warning us to stay on the trail.


We slipped down a steep incline and followed the railroad for 100 yards to a rocky, well-worn path down to a flat and the river. Fifteen-foot-tall big sagebrush covered much of the flat.


I released Nora and she raced to the 40-foot-wide, 5-foot-high cascade at a bend in the river.


The path to the giant falls led between two sheer walls of basalt that squeezed the river into a 10-foot-wide torrent.


"Anyone falling in there could count on a ride over the falls," I mumbled to Nora.


Nora managed the first 30 feet of boulder-strewn trail to the falls with ease, and we walked beneath the mammoth graffiti-marked basalt columns.


When we reached a smooth trail above the river, I snapped Nora to the leash again. She didn’t need a ride over the falls.


We reached a wall of spires above the falls, and the path led steeply down to a view of the water plummeting to the pool below.


It was only another 10 feet down, and I had looked over the precipice before — not, however, with a small, nosy dog tugging at my waist.


"Come on, Nora," I said. "We’ve seen enough on this visit. Let’s go back."


And we did.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com or 526-8326.

If You Go
Palouse Falls is about 35 miles from Dayton. About 12 miles north of Dayton on U.S. Highway 12, turn left onto State Highway 261. Drive past Starbuck and Lyons Ferry Park.
About five miles up the hill from Lyons Ferry Park, turn right onto a dead-end dirt road and drive three miles to the park.
For more information about the state park, Google "Palouse Falls".

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