The falls is the most dramatic section of the Palouse River before it flows into the Snake.

Washtucna, 4 hours from Seattle | Campsites, Viewing Platforms

It’s easy to understand the impulse to get close to Palouse Falls, a 200-foot monster cascade carving a chasm into the eastern Washington prairie. In summer it roars with power, and in winter it half-freezes into a cliffside icicle. Lookout spots face the waterfall’s basin like balcony seats in a theater.

At night the park goes quiet, but the Palouse River still roars over its drop. Photographers set up camp on the tiny lawn to catch the sight in time lapse, lit by the moon, with the Milky Way appearing to rush past. The nights are cold but crisp over the Palouse, the state’s south-central landscape—its rolling hills—blown into shape like sand dunes in prehistoric times.

In the midst of beauty are signs of the falls’ reputation as a fatal attraction; occasional rulebreakers climb across a small, tilted shelf on the basalt cliffs or try to swim in the pool churned by falling water. Both features have claimed lives this year, and signs urge visitors to stay within the chain-link fences, where the best views are anyway.

Done right, a falls visit isn’t about much more than gazing at the thundering water below; somehow that’s more than enough.

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