By Debi Lander

The state of Washington lies opposite from Florida on the map, much too far to drive. So, I flew some 3,000 miles to land in Spokane. The city sits near the state’s eastern border with Idaho. I found a sparkling downtown: streets without trash, graffiti, and no homeless people. 

Riverfront Park, the site of the 1974 World’s Fair, sat directly across my hotel. The following day, I took to the meandering walkways within the 100-acre site. I couldn’t help but run into the largest Radio Flyer red wagon in the world. I felt like I’d been dropped into the movie set of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” Built in 1989 as part of the “Centennial Celebration of Children,” the vintage toy replica stands 12 feet tall. The mammoth wagon can fit 300 people, and the handle provides a fun way to slide down to the ground.

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The sound of thundering water pulled me along, and I soon found Spokane Falls. It’s the most significant urban waterfall in the country. The double-tiered falls rest next to a natural amphitheater that’s enveloped by a metal structure — rigging that looks like an oversized spider web. Behind it, a round glass-enclosed building featured a vintage carousel. And I spied a gondola overhead, but it wasn’t running that morning. 

The real reason behind my trip was to see a region called the Palouse, about 75 miles east. As I approached, I began to understand why the area attracts so many photographers. The landscape features large round and rolling hills, somewhat like Tuscany, but the hills are not as steep and with very few trees. According to a BBC article, my friend and Seattle resident Amanda Castleman wrote, “The Palouse was formed over a period of 2,500 years, when massive ice dams shattered in Montana, releasing 2,000 ft-high surges towards the Pacific. The 65 mph torrents gouged lakes and canyons and exposed ancient lava formations. These stark and stunning swathes — known as the Channeled Scablands — still pierce the agricultural idyll of the Palouse today. 

“The Ice Age floods also pooled fine, fertile dirt – sometimes 200ft deep – that the wind eventually swept into dunes.”

Wheat farms covered the hills, the crop bright green and low to the ground in mid-June. The Palouse produces up to 100 bushels per acre or 125 million bushels a year — twice the national average. Occasionally, vibrant, almost neon fields of golden canola blossoms intersect. The seeds are crushed to produce canola oil. 

Steptoe Butte, a state park, is the highest spot in the area at 3,612 feet. The butte affords an ideal location for taking sunrise and sunset photos, as you can easily walk around the 360-degree summit. The photographer’s problem, during summer, comes from the timing of those events. Sunrise occurs around 4:30 a.m., and sunset at about 8:30 p.m., making for long days. 

One evening I ventured to Palouse Falls, about a two-hour drive, on two-lane, curvy roads. In the middle of nowhere, the falls dramatically shoot out of a canyon wall and drop 180 feet. An underground river creates a dramatic setting. Unfortunately, the sunset looked blah, but the falls deserve a visit. 

In the Palouse, old and new barns, grain elevators, and tiny towns dot the countryside, providing more rural photo options. If you are into photography or geology, the Palouse is a must-see; otherwise, a drive through this unique landscape is all you’ll need. 

Visit to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.

Photo courtesy Debi Lander

Palouse Falls close up.

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