The Palouse River is a tributary of the Snake River. At the Palouse Fall State Park, the falls consists of upper falls with a drop of 20 feet and a lower falls with a drop of 198 feet (Lewis, and Keegan, 12). The river has a high gradient characterized by a steep slope and rapid flow of water. The area has hanging coulees, cataracts, rock benches and pinnacles of scablands indicating a high gradient channel. The river has a continuous flow throughout the year. Wastewater is an important source of water for the river.
During winter, Washtucna Coulee is too small to carry large volumes of water flowing down the scabland tract (Foster). The floodwaters overtops the south rim of the coulee and strips away over 300 feet of lose soil eroding the Columbia River Basalt. There’s also formation of frost and ice plastered canyon walls. The plunge pools along the river are covered by ice. In the summer, the canyon at the falls is wide exposing a large cross-section of Colombia River Basalt. The flow peak is higher during the fall than in the winter season.
Palouse Falls State Park is characterized by steep slopes and v-shaped valleys which encourages subsequent erosion by glacial outburst floods. This results to rapid flow of water and thus formation of the Sentinel Bluffs flows of the Grand Ronde formation. The great heights of the falls results in the formation of plunge pool at the lower falls. The water enters the rocks through cracks and slowly increases the size of the fractures.
The groundwater in the area is weak in turbidity and is almost acidic (Sinclair, 13). It seeps through the walls of the valley. The aquifer is confined in that, the water seeps from a distance without an impermeable layer into the confined aquifers. The aquifer is composed of fractured basalt in some regions and sandstone in others. The interesting fact about groundwater in this area is some of the water is forced upwards due to the high pressure below.
Drinking water in this area is supplied by the local authorities who obtain it from the nearby dam. The water department treats the water and supplies it to the residents through a piping system. Some residents obtain drinking water from private wells which are fully inspected and are supplied by the local authorities only during water shortage periods. Water for irrigation in this area is obtained from the Palouse River Watershed Project that supplies water for wheat and other farmers in the area. Some farmers obtain water for irrigation from private wells.
The river water in this area is polluted and contaminated by chemicals and waste materials. This is caused by waste disposal into the water by industries which is further worsened by the area’s drainage system during heavy rainfall season. The supply of clean drinking water in the area is difficult during rainy season due to river pollution.
Glaciers, Shorelines and Climate Change
There’s no shoreline in this area as the river valley is steep sloppy and V-shaped. The river banks are highly eroded by the subsequent floods thus forming a canyon. There are no active glaciers; however, there has been glaciation in the past as shown by The Palouse River Canyon which is believed to have been created by catastrophic Ice Age Floods. The glaciers rejuvenated the river erosion and formed the canyon. The slope of the valley was significant in the glaciation in the area.
Climate and Global Climate Change
The rain per year of Palouse Falls State Park, Washington is 22 inches, which is very low compared to the US average of 39 inches every year (Ernst, 50). The snowfall in this area is 26 inches compared to average US city of 26 inches per year of snow. The highest average temperature in this area is 85 degrees and is experienced in the month of July. The lowest temperature is 24 degrees and is experienced during January. The average number sunny days experienced in this area is 174. The comfort index is 70/100.This is measured by the observation and recording of humidity during the hot months. Palouse’s comfort index is higher than US’ average which is 54/100.
Palouse Falls State Park has experienced rising temperatures due to the change in the global climate. There has been an increased evaporation of water in the nearby water bodies such as the rivers and the dams. The climatic pattern in Palouse has also shifted rapidly due to global climatic change. This climatic change has resulted to reductions in snowpack and supply of water in the area increasing agricultural and domestic water withdrawals in the area. This has caused reduction in the freshwater quality and quantity. The climatic changes have also resulted in food insecurity in the region as farmers try to keep up with the frequent changing weather conditions (Songstad, Jerry, and Tomes, 104). This area has also experienced warmer polluted air which has resulted to chemical reactions that has led to the formation of smog which is a major trigger of asthma.
- Songstad, David D, Jerry L. Hatfield, and D T. Tomes. Convergence of Food Security, Energy Security and Sustainable Agriculture. , 2014. Print.
- Lewis, Reed S, and Keegan L. Schmidt. Exploring the Geology of the Inland Northwest. , 2016. Print.
- Ernst, Chloë. Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to Unique Places. Guilford, CT: GPP Travel, 2013. Print.
- Foster, Tom. “Palouse Falls State Park In Winter”. Iceagefloods.blogspot.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
- Sinclair, Kirk. “Surface-Water/Groundwater Interactions And Near-Stream Groundwater Quality Along The Palouse River, South Fork Palouse River, And Paradise Creek”. Environmental Assessment Program 09.07 (2009): 1-75. Print.