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Washington State Waterfall

Palouse Falls   Adopted: March 18, 2014
Washington state waterfall
Washington State Waterfall: Palouse falls
Photographs for purchase

Originating in Idaho, in the forested mountains north of Moscow, and flowing generally southwestward 167 miles, mostly through Washington State, the Palouse River converges with the Snake River in the southeast corner of Washington State. The Palouse falls drop 198 feet (higher than the Niagara falls) four to five miles north of that junction with the Snake River. According to the website, World of Waterfalls, Palouse falls ranks sixth on "Johnny's" list of The Top 10 Best US Waterfalls.

The falls are located within the Palouse Falls State Park. According to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the falls were created about 15,000 years ago by ice-age flooding of Lake Missoula... or, maybe it was a scrap between the five Wolf Brothers and a giant beaver named Wishpushya?

The small town of Washtucna (2010 population: 208) lies about 7 miles, as the crow flies, northwest of Palouse falls.

Washtucna Elementary/High School, Grades K through 12, serves from 60 to 79 students.

Palouse falls' road to officialdom originated, in 2013, in the form of an undefined project that would be executed by Washtucna elementary school students as part of a social studies curriculum.

Washtucna fifth and sixth grade teacher Janet Camp said the project began as part of the Classroom Based Assessment required by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as part of the social studies course work.

(Davidson, Katelin "Washtucna Students Submit Palouse Falls Bill" 2014)

To expand the project, Janet Camp enlisted the aid of third and fourth grade teacher Amy Whipple and her students. Brainstorming began with thirty students and their teachers. Project ideas were offered. Eventually, a consensus was reached that 1) the focus should be on something local and 2) a new state designation might be in order.

An original idea centered on the promotion of an official state soil, but this was nixed when Janet Camp erroneously stated that Washington had already adopted a state soil.

A recent field trip to a local attraction came to mind; Palouse falls. The State of Washington had no "official state waterfall!" In fact, no other state had adopted an official state waterfall. The students decided that they were going to petition the legislature to designate Palouse falls, "which is tucked away in an arid and remote part of Eastern Washington, to help out the underappreciated natural wonder practically in their backyard," [3] as their official state waterfall. That was the ticket!

Washington state waterfall
Washington State Waterfall: Palouse falls
Photographs for purchase

Students and teachers went to work. Research commenced. Was Palouse falls the right choice to represent the State of Washington? If so, how exactly would the group go about accomplishing their mission?

Janet Camp contacted local state legislators for advice. Representative Joe Schmick agreed to assist the students with the project and traveled to Washtucna to meet with them for a discussion of the process, their responsibilities and what he could do for them.

Rep. Schmick impressed upon them the need to persuade legislators their proposal deserved their attention and that Palouse falls deserved the official state waterfall designation.

The students began to explore the history of the falls and the surrounding area looking for important aspects of the falls that would support their bid to name Palouse falls the official state waterfall.

House Bill No. 2119 was pre-filed, by Rep. Schmick, for legislative activity on December 11, 2013. It was introduced to the State House of Representatives on January 13, 2015 and referred to the House Committee on Government Operations & Elections. Reps. Fagan, Haler, Moscoso signed on as additional bill sponsors.

A committee hearing was scheduled for January 29, 2015. The Washtucna students sent letters in support of House Bill No. Rep. Schmick along with a photograph of Palouse falls for distribution to the committee members.

It was determined that the best way to impress the legislators was to stress the history of the falls and the points of interest that were represented by the Palouse falls landmark and relate them the economy of the state.

As part of the Palouse falls State Park, the falls averaged about 80,000 to 100,000 visitors a year.

Various talking points were prepared.

  • The falls, which drop 198 feet are the last remaining year-round waterfalls left by the Ice Age flood. They are especially impresses in the spring when snow melt swells the Palouse River.
  • The current world-record kayak jump was executed on Palouse falls in 2009 by Tyler Bradt.
  • The area is the home of Palouse Native American culture and the birthplace of the Appaloosa horse.
  • The falls were documented in the Journals of Lewis and Clark.
  • Palouse falls have been named on internet sites as the sixth best on "The Top 10 Best US Waterfalls" and tenth on a list of the "world's most amazing waterfalls."

It was determined that five student advocates would testify on behalf of Palouse falls before the House Committee on Government Operations & Elections. The selection of the five students would be left entirely up to a group of Washtucna high school students. The high schoolers would make their selection based on essays submitted by the elementary school students.

Selected and testifying before the committee were TJ Harder, Emma Hulett, John Riser, Grace Nelson and Lindsay Knudson

On January 29th, the students traveled to the state capitol in Olympia where they lunched with Rep. Schmick and toured the Capital Building before the scheduled hearing.

Rep. Schmick explained how the hearing would proceed and rules regarding testimony and presentation. He also let them know what they could expect from the hearing.

Janet Camp reminded the students that each would cover different talking points to be sure that all of the most important supportive aspects of the proposal were covered and understood by the committee.

For example:

Grace Nelson told the House Government Operations and Elections Committee of the Palouse tribal legend about the falls being formed by a beaver, but added “it was actually formed by the Missoula Flood.”

It’s the only year-round falls left from that great prehistoric flood, T.J. Harder said. The most beautiful waterfall in Washington, Lindsay Knudson said. “It’s my favorite waterfall,” Emma Hulett added.

(Camden "Palouse Falls pitched for state recognition" 2014)

The Washtucna elementary school students offered such compelling arguments tat the representative from the Parks Department, when called to testify by the committee only offered that the students had covered it all.

“You got in all the important facts,” Daniel Farber, the director of policy and governmental affairs for the Parks Department, told students later in the hallway. People come to Palouse falls State Park from all over the world, and its fees provide more money than it costs to operate, Farber told them.

(Camden "Palouse Falls pitched for state recognition" 2014)

House Bill No. 2119 breezed through the House committee process and was passed by a unanimous vote (98-0) by the full Washington House of Representatives on February 12, 2014 after which it was forwarded to the Washington Senate for consideration. The bill sponsor in the Senate was Senator Mark Schoesler.

Teacher Janet Camp promised that the students would return to the capital to testify before the Senate if necessary.

Indeed, the House Bill No. 2119 did pass in the Senate on March 4, 2014. The majority vote approved of the bill (46-3) and informed the House of Representatives of their approval.

The bill was then sent to the governor for his hoped for signature.

On March 18, 2014, Governor Jay Inslee travelled to Palouse falls to officially sign House Bill No. 2119 declaring Palouse falls the official waterfall of the State of Washington.

...Governor Jay Inslee arrived at Palouse Falls Park to officially sign the bill and declare it the state waterfall. This designation could mean more tourists to the area, adding to the approximately 100,000 visitors per year to the park.

The lobbying by the Washtucna kids gave Palouse Falls the edge over the state's other waterfalls, Inslee said.

"They made a decision and they convinced the Legislature, and they were passionate and persistent and articulate and eloquent -- all the things we want in our students," Inslee told the Herald after the ceremony.

"What happened here is a testament to these kids," he said. "It's also a testament to good teaching, because we had these teachers challenge these kids to think outside the box and be innovative. That's what we're wanting from our teachers and we're getting it across the state."

(Folsom, Geoff. "Governor Makes Palouse Falls Official State Waterfall" 2014)


Passed Legislature - 2014 Regular Session

State of Washington   63rd Legislature   2014 Regular Session

By Representatives Schmick, Fagan, Haler, and Moscoso

Prefiled 12/11/13. Read first time 01/13/14. Referred to Committee on Government Operations & Elections.

AN ACT Relating to designating Palouse falls as the state waterfall; adding a new section to chapter 1.20 RCW; and creating a new section.


NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. (1) The tourist industry is a vital part of the state's economy. Palouse falls has visitors numbering averaging over eighty thousand to one hundred thousand per year. The falls drop one hundred ninety-eight feet identifying them as the last remaining 9 year-round waterfalls left by the ice age floods.

(2) Palouse falls was named sixth on the top ten best United States waterfalls list, tenth on the list of the world's most amazing waterfalls, and the site of the world record breaking kayak drop.

(3) Palouse falls surrounding area is the location for the oldest documented remains found in the western hemisphere; home of the Palouse Native American culture; birthplace of the Appaloosa horse; and documented in Lewis and Clark's journals.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. A new section is added to chapter 1.20 RCW to read as follows:

Palouse falls is hereby designated as the official waterfall of the state of Washington.

--- END ---

All of the students from the Washtucna School District along with students from other schools including LaCrosse, Kahlotus, and Benje attending the ceremony.

The student participants from Washtucna participated in a special photo signing with Governor Inslee.


Benoit, Matt. "Updated:Washtucna students to see their bill become law." The Spokesman-Review. The Spokesman-Review. Web. 17 Mar 2014. 20 Mar 2014.

Camden, Jim. "Palouse Falls pitched for state recognition." The Spokesman-Review. The Spokesman-Review. Web. 30 Jan 2014. 31 Jan 2014.

[3] Davidson, Katelin. "Washtucna Students Submit Palouse Falls Bill." Ritzville Adams County Journal. Ritzville Adams County Journal. Web. 9 Mar 2015. Web. 25 Aug 2016.

Folsom, Geoff. "Governor Makes Palouse Falls Official State Waterfall." The Tri-State Herald. The Tri-State Herald. Web. 18 Mar 2014. Web. 21 Aug 2016.

"HB 2119 - 2013-14." Washington State Legislature. State of Washington, 18 Mar 2014. Web. 20 Mar 2014.

"Revised Code of Washington (RCW)." Washington State Legislature. State of Washington, 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.

Additional Information

Palouse Falls State Park: Washington State Parks.

Palouse Falls: The World of Waterfalls: Website developed and maintained by a fellow named Johnny.

Washington Trails Association
Washington Trails

Palouse Falls; Eastern Washington : Hike Description: Palouse Falls: Washington Trails Association - Includes 71 submitted trip reports.

Palouse Falls State Park: TripAdvisor: #1 of 2 things to do in Washtucna.

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Washington state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Hiking Waterfalls in Washington: A Guide to the State's Best Waterfall Hikes
Hiking Waterfalls
in Washington

Roddy Scheer
Adam Sawyer

Hiking Waterfalls in Washington: A Guide to the State's Best Waterfall Hikes, by Roddy Scheer, Adam Sawyer. 256 pages. Publisher: Falcon Guides (June 2, 2015)

Hiking Waterfalls in Washington includes detailed hike descriptions, maps, and color photos for the area’s most scenic waterfall hikes. Hike descriptions also include history, trivia, and GPS coordinates.

This book takes you through state and national parks, forests, monuments, and wilderness areas, and from city parks to the most secluded corners of the area to view the most spectacular waterfalls.

Hiking Washington: A Guide to the State's Greatest Hiking Adventures
Hiking Washington
Oliver Lazenby

Hiking Washington: A Guide to the State's Greatest Hiking Adventures, by Oliver Lazenby. 256 pages. Publisher: Falcon Guides; Revised edition (July 15, 2014)

This guide covers hikes all over the State of Washington. There are 52 featured hikes and 23 additional "honorable mention hikes." All of the featured hikes in this Falcon Guide offer trail head location, distance, hiking time, trail surface (dirt, rock, pavement, sand, etc), elevation gain, land status (county park, national park, state park, etc), nearest town, best season to hike, other trail users (mountain bikers, horses etc), canine compatibility (dogs are not allowed in national parks), fees and permits required, accompanying maps, trail contacts. All this is good to know when planning hikes and camp outs. At the end of each hike there are additional recommendations for lodging, restaurants and local information. Honorable mention listings offer short descriptions mentioning trail head location, distance and directions to the start.

The hikes are grouped by location: North and South Cascades, Olympic Peninsula, Northeast and Southeast Washington. The author also groups hikes by category; backpackers, short hikes, lake hikes, summits, winter hikes, wildflowers, waterfalls, geology.

Camping Washington
Camping Washington
Steve Giordano

Camping Washington, by Steve Giordano. 256 pages. Publisher: Falcon Guides; Second Edition edition (January 1, 2013)

This fully updated and revised guide to more than 400 public campgrounds in the state of Washington is perfect for tent and RV campers alike. Within each of the campground listings is vital information on location, road conditions, fees, reservations, available facilities, and recreational activities. The listings are organized by geographic area, and thorough site maps will help simplify the search for the perfect campground. In addition, Camping Washington provides useful tips on camping etiquette, camping with children, and enjoying--or avoiding--the state's diverse and abundant wildlife. Look inside for:

  • Campground locations
  • Facilities and hookups
  • Fees and reservations
  • GPS coordinates for each campground
  • Tips on wildlife, safety, and zero-impact camping
Washington Atlas & Gazetteer
Washington Atlas
& Gazetteer

Washington Atlas & Gazetteer, 104 pages. Publisher: DeLorme Publishing; 10th edition (March 1, 2010)

"For more details than you can ever use in one lifetime, the DeLorme series of Atlas & Gazetteer maps are absolutely the best thing going." --San Francisco Chronicle

Rely on a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer for the utmost in trip planning and backcountry access. Contains topographic maps with unbeatable detail, plus gazetteer information on great places to go and things to do. Each atlas is a quality paperback; size 11" x 15-1/2".

Map detail commonly includes:

  • Back roads, dirt roads and trails
  • Elevation contours
  • Remote lakes and streams
  • Boat Ramps
  • Public lands for recreation
  • Land use / land cover – forests, wetlands, agriculture
  • Trailheads
  • Campgrounds
  • Prime hunting and fishing spots

Each Gazetteer entry's location is cross-referenced to the corresponding map.

Washington Gazetteer categories:

  • Campgrounds
  • Family Outings
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Outdoor Adventures
  • Recreation Areas
  • Unique Natural Features