The Channeled Scablands Part 4 of 4
AN OLIVER TRAVEL TRAILERS' JOURNEY TO THE CHANNELED SCABLANDS
By: Frank McMichael, Hull No.101
Dry Falls State Park
The Dry Falls State Park and RV campground is in the coulee downstream from the Dry Falls that is a remnant of the Ice Age Flood.
Mid-morning on Sunday, May 13, 2018 I pulled into the Park and enquired if they had an available RV camp site. The woman working at the entry booth wanted to know if I had a reservation. I replied that I did not but was hoping that there may be an available spot. She said there is or will be once the Sunday leaving folks had departed. Additionally, she indicated that some Sunday campers had already left but she did not know which ones, as she had not had time to check which sites were vacant.
I volunteered that I would be willing to do that and if I found an open campsite, I would park my Oliver and then come back and tell her which site I had chosen. She thought that was fine idea and that is how I got an excellent spot in a very popular and busy campground.
Dry Falls is hard to explain. Dry Falls is a three and half mile wide, 400 foot high precipice that was actually just a cataract within the Ice Age Flood. It is the leftover remnants of the massive Ice Age Flood that caused the channeled scablands.
One just has to see it to fully understand it. These three photos will help some to understand why it is called Dry Falls. Try to visualize the massive amount of water that came over that ridge that created these precipices and the coulee. The lakes are remnants of the plunge pools that were created by the flood.
Dry Falls has been called the greatest waterfall that ever existed. Estimations are that during the Ice Age Flood the falls were five times the width of Niagara Falls with ten times the water flow of all the current rivers in the world combined. Also, estimations are that this water was moving at 65-80 miles per hour and the water overtopped this ridge above the Dry Falls by hundreds of feet. That is why I called it a cataract within the Flood.
Dry Falls is the only location within the Channeled Scablands that has a visitor center that is if one does not count the Grand Coulee Dam visitor center which is more about the Dam than the Grand Coulee which was the main channel of the Ice Age Flood into eastern Washington.
At the cliff’s edge by the Visitor Center is a masonry wall. This wall is as close as one can get for peering into the coulee below or taking photos, with one exception. There is a walkway that projects out over the basalt cliffs that allows a further view of below. I have not normally been afraid of heights but when I got out to the end, I felt a bit squirrely. It is a “gulp” experience.
If you look at the bottom of the third photo above you will see a corner of the chain link fence guard that is at the end of the walkout that I inadvertently caught in my photo. At the time that I took the first three photos above, I didn’t think to take a picture of the walkway, so I used photos from explore-wa.com.
After I returned, I sat in the shade of a covered pavilion and watched others go out. Many attempted to walk out to the end but not all got to the end. Quite a few, hastily returned back after getting about half way along the walkway. I understood because I had the same impulse myself.
Down in the Coulee
From the RV park area, there is a rutted gravel road that is open to the public that will take one to the lakes seen in the pictures above. Local people go out there to fish the Lakes. I went out to get different perspective and a better sense of scale.
If you look closely in the above photo, you will see a white spot on top of the cliffs that is about the mid-point of the photo. That is the Visitor Center.
My truck is behind where I stood to take this picture. If you look closely in the second photo above you will see a whitish spot by a point that juts toward the first lake. That is where I parked.
It was hot but I walked down the road to the lakes, around on some of the small paths off the road and in a few cases blazed my own trail through the marsh grass and bushes just to continue to get a sense of scale of the place. The place is so vast that I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that it is a really big place and I still couldn’t visualize the amount of water that would have been needed to cut this coulee through the hard basalt bedrock.
After walking around for an hour or so, I returned to my truck and drove back to my camp spot in the RV Park which is located further down the coulee. The camp site that I choose in the RV Park was a pull-through just across the way from the showers building. As it had been a hot and dusty day, once I returned to my beloved Oliver and quaffed a bottle of nectar (Water - what else did you think I meant?), I eagerly went into one of the shower rooms. There was a sign on the wall admonishing users to close the door upon leaving and not prop it open so as to keep the rattlesnakes and other critters from entering.
Initially, I thought maybe this was a bit of a joke about the rattlesnakes so as to encourage people to close the door and keep the mice or rats out but later when I spoke to one of the maintenance people he said it was no joke as the coulee was full of rattlesnakes and one had to be quite observant and cautious. The maintenance man further indicated that at the upper end of the Coulee, near the lakes where I had just been, there were extremely large numbers and he wouldn’t go there because of it.
When I was there, I didn’t see a single snake, don’t know if any saw me, maybe it was too hot for them to be out. In any case, a “howdy’ from a rattlesnake is not to be invited. (Since then I have bought some rattlesnake gaiters for wearing in such places.)
If I had seen that I had walked into a bunch of rattlesnakes and I got away from them and lived to tell someone, it would have been an adventure. Not having seen any, it was just a walk in the park.
This was the day that was.