Road Blog: Palouse


Columbia River at Wallula Gap, shot from Twin Sisters.

Tuesday, Randy and I started out in Kennewick, Washington, made our way to the Columbia River, then south to a landmark called Twin Sisters — a sort of double volcanic spire on the east bank of the river (and in native stories, what’s left of sisters who were thwarted in their salmon fishing then turned to stone by Coyote). Part of the attraction of the Twin Sisters is what you see from there: the Wallula Gap, where the Columbia flows through an opening eroded through the Horse Heaven Hills then enlarged by the Big Floods.

From there we made our way over to the Snake River country, the town of Kahlotus and Devil’s Canyon, yet another landscape wrought by the ice age floods. We stopped in the town of Washtucna for a hot dog and a double cappuccino, then headed to Palouse Falls.

The Palouse is an extensive area of steeply rolling hills, mostly treeless, much of it planted in wheat, made up mostly of ancient wind-blown soil (or loess, pronounced “less” in approximation of its German origin) that’s as much as 200 feet deep. (That’s a shot of a recently plowed field below, looking south toward the Snake River.)

Palouse Falls is another one of those places that recounts a chapter of the flood epoch. The Palouse River flows through gorges excavated by the ice age floods and falls into a “plunge pool” dug out by the gigantic volume of water that came rushing through 15,000 years ago or so.

From the falls, we cruised back through Clarkston, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho, to Randy’s house in the town of Orofino, population 3,000 and some, seat of Clearwater County. More geoimagery tomorrow.

Conclusion of the foregoing.

Road Blog: Palouse

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