The Palouse & Snake Rivers

Smoky tendrils of fog curling up from the river’s cold surface made for a mystical scene at dawn. I wonder if Meriwether Lewis and William Clark shared this lovely vision on their westward journey along this same route. This week their river passage and ours are within a few days – and two hundred years-- of each other.

Our morning on the Palouse River was beautiful, as only clear blue skies in the desert can be. Dressed in layers against the chill of a fall morning, we explored the reaches and byways of this narrow and dramatic waterway in sturdy Zodiacs. A coyote took off across the talus slope, covering ground up the steep rocky incline at an astounding rate. Overhead a pair of golden eagles soared on the rising thermals, while a northern harrier searched for breakfast in the grassy patches lower down. Birdsong was all around as we looked at sculpted land forms carved by the catastrophic Missoula Floods. The group also traveled up the hill by school bus to Palouse Falls State Park to enjoy a look at the 185 foot waterfall as well as the enormous plunge pool created during the series of floods that ended 12,000 years ago at the close of the last ice age.

Following our deck barbecue lunch on this sunny afternoon, some of took to the Zodiacs again for a rare opportunity to ride in small boats down through Lower Monumental Lock. The rest of the day we cruised leisurely down the Snake River, listening to National Geographic historian Harry Fritz tell wonderful tales of the Corps of Discovery’s adventures. The last pink light of the day brought us through Ice Harbor lock and into the confluence with the Columbia River, this great river of the west.