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Dry Falls – Home of The World’s Largest Waterfall!

Imagine a waterfall with a precipice over three and a half miles (5.5 km) long and a drop of over 400 feet (120 m)!  By comparison, Niagara Falls is about 1/10th as wide.  Think of the millions of gallons of water pouring over it each second, draining the flooded plains of central Washington State.  When you gaze at the geologic skeleton of this event, try to envision what it was like here 10-15,000 years ago as massive amounts of snow and ice from the last great Ice Age began melting and shaping the landscape.



(Dry Falls State Park, Washington) 


I've always had a general interest in science and find the geology of Dry Falls State Park to be fascinating.  To understand what you now see in this park a brief bit of history.  During the last Ice Age, a dam of ice formed at a huge lake, Lake Missoula, over western Montana.  As the climate warmed the ice dam broke and released a huge amount of water which flooded the Idaho Panhandle and Eastern Washington (the Missoula Flood).  This event probably happened many times and with each breaking of the dam a powerful rapidly moving wall of water some 100 m high was released.  This massive flooding caused erosion of the basalt in the central part of Washington state and formed a series of canyons called “coulees” — largest being Grand Coulee in which Dry Falls is located.  Dry Falls is thought to have been progressively eroded and has retreated some 20 miles from its original position near Soap Lake in the south to its present skeletal location.  The landscape of central Washington is dotted with these coulees, eroded basalt and a string of small lakes collectively called the “Channeled Scablands".  For a good review of this geological history please click here.



(Dry Falls State Park, Washington) 


Your first stop here should be to the small Visitor Center located off Washington Route 17.  From its view point you will fully see and comprehend what Dry Falls was and enjoy the beauty of the cliffs and small lakes that dot the basin of the park.  Most of these lakes are the sequelae of  “plunge pools” at the base of the old waterfalls.  The park is a popular place for fishing (stocked with bass and rainbow trout), camping and swimming — and is especially popular in the spring and fall as it gets pretty hot in the summer.  Several short hikes are available in the basin area.  After taking in the view from the rim drive down to lake level and contrast this view of the landscape with that from the cliff’s edge (It’s not as impressive but still beautiful).



(Wild lupins in bloom, lake level, Dry Falls State Park, Washington)  


For further information please go the Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State park website.  The park is a nice day trip destination from either Seattle or Spokane


Images (14)
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: Site of the ancient waterfall. The cliff walls are over 120 m. tall
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: My dear wife in the right foreground helps provide size perspective to the enormity of the landscape
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: Dry Falls Lake is in the foreground and Red Alkali lake is present in the distant background
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: The rock cliffs are 120 m tall
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: View south from the visitor center
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: Basalt rocks
  • Dry Falls State Park, Washington: View from the bottom. The white flowers in the foreground are lupin.
  • Dry Falls State Park -- Park Lake: A popular place for camping and recreation
  • Dry Falls State Park -- Park Lake
  • Dry Falls State Park -- Park Lake
  • Dry Falls State Park -- Soap Lake: Basalt cliffs dominate this area
  • Dry Falls State Park - Lake Lenore region
  • Central Washington State - the Channeled Scablands: A beautiful stark landscape enhanced by the blooming flowers of Balsam Arrowroot.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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