Washtucna School & Palouse Falls

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     Student Group photo


    Washtucna Students Submit Palouse Falls Bill

    What could have been a simple school project has evolved into a large, and impressive, undertaking for students at Washtucna Schools during the past few months. The students have officially submitted House Bill 2119, a bill to officially designate Palouse Falls as the state waterfall. 

    Five students stood in front of state legislators on Jan. 29 and testified at a hearing for the bill. The students were provided with two minutes to discuss why Palouse Falls should become the official state waterfall. 

    Washtucna fifth and sixth grade teacher Janet Camp said the project began as part of the Classroom Based Assessment required by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as part of the social studies course work. Camp joined with third and fourth grade teacher Amy Whipple to create a project for the 30 students to complete together. 

    The class began researching potential projects and decided to focus on something local, and began researching the official classifications in the state. Camp explained originally the group had focused on designating an official soil, but upon determining there already was one, they turned their focus elsewhere. 

    With Palouse Falls being only a short jaunt from the Washtucna community, the group of students began researching if Washington had an official waterfall. Upon discovering there currently is not one, the wheels began turning and set the project in motion.

    Whipple and Camp reached out to state representatives from the district and Representative Joe Schmick offered to assist the students. Schmick agreed to sponsor the bill, who is also joined by Representative Susan Fagan, and two other representatives. 

    Schmick traveled to Washtucna in October to discuss the project and help guide the students on the right path to drafting a bill.

    “He spent over an hour with the 30 kids. He was fabulous with the kids that day,” Camp said of Schmick. 

    With Schmick’s guidance, the students delved deeper into the project and began historical research to learn more about Palouse Falls and the area that surrounds it. The students also drafted letters, which were sent to Schmick with a photo of Palouse Falls, and distributed to the state committee. 

    After completing all of the necessary requirements of submitting a bill, Schmick assisted the process and set up a hearing for Jan. 29. It was then determined a small group of students would be selected to testify at the hearing on Wednesday. 

    Camp explained the process to select the students required each of the students to write a paper and present the essay to a group of high school students. The decision of who the top students were was left completely up to the high school students, Camp explained.

    The students testifying were TJ Harder, Emma Hulett, John Riser, Grace Nelson and Lindsay Knudson. The students and staff members traveled to Olympia on Wednesday morning and met with Rep. Schmick prior to the hearing. 

    Camp said the schedule included lunch with Schmick, where the students would learn how the hearing works, and the etiquette and expectations at the hearing. The students then toured the Capitol Building before attending the hearing and testifying to have Palouse Falls become the official state waterfall. 

    Camp explained each of the students had a different talking point to focus on when presenting to legislators. The most important aspects the group hoped to convey during the hearing were the rich history surrounding Palouse Falls and the quality of the spectacular waterfall. 

    The points of interest listed on the bill include the vital importance of tourism to the state’s economy, and visitors to Palouse Falls averages between 80,000 and 100,000 a year. The falls drop 198-feet, which identifies them as the last remaining year-round waterfalls left by the Ice Age Floods. 

    During their research, Camp said the students also discovered the falls have been named as the sixth best U.S. waterfall, was listed 10th on the list of the world’s most amazing waterfalls and currently holds the record as the site of the world record kayak drop. 

    The students’ research also included historical facts about the area surrounding the falls, where the oldest documented remains in the western hemisphere were found. It is also the home of the Palouse Native American culture and simultaneously the birthplace of the Appaloosa horse, as well as being a location documented in Lewis and Clark’s journals. 

    Camp explained if the bill passes in the Legislature and makes it to the Senate, all of the students who have participated in the creation of the bill would attend the hearing. 

    After months of hard work, Camp is excited to see the success of the project, and said the opportunity is unique for the students and staff members alike. It has been encouraging for the two teachers to watch a project that started as a requirement, exceed all expectations and be supported by school staff, state representatives and the small town community. 

    “It’s really just a team effort,” Camp said. “We’re just as excited too. The kids are learning they have a voice in legislature … and they can make a difference.”  — Ritzville Journal


    Washtucna students lobby for Palouse Falls to be state waterfall

    By Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

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     Tags:2014 Washington LegislaturePalouse Fallsstate waterfallWashtucna

    OLYMPIA – Washington has a state bird, a state flower, a state tree, a state fossil and state song, and a host of other official state items.

    Why not a state waterfall?

    That’s what students from Washtucna Elementary School are wondering. They would like the Legislature to designate Palouse Falls, which is tucked away in an arid and remote part of Eastern Washington, to help out the underappreciated natural wonder practically in their backyard.

    What started as a lesson in civics for third- through sixth-grade social studies classes generated bills in the House and the Senate this year and brought five novice lobbyists to Olympia this week to make their pitch.

    As far as they know, it would be the first official state waterfall in the country.

    Grace Nelson told the House Government Operations and Elections Committee of the Palouse tribal legend about the falls being formed by a beaver, but added “it was actually formed by the Missoula Flood.”

    It’s the only year-round falls left from that great prehistoric flood, T.J. Harder said. The most beautiful waterfall in Washington, Lindsay Knudson said. “It’s my favorite waterfall,” Emma Hulett added.

    With Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax and the bill’s sponsor, looking on, the students did such a thorough job of describing the size, location and attributes of the falls that the state Parks Department, who had staff in the room, passed on testifying.

    “You got in all the important facts,” Daniel Farber, the director of policy and governmental affairs for the Parks Department, told students later in the hallway. People come to Palouse Falls State Park from all over the world, and its fees provide more money than it costs to operate, Farber told them. The state was going to make improvements to Lyons Ferry State Park, which is downstream from the falls, and open it to summer swimming.

    After a few questions from the committee, the panel took the unusual step of sending the bill to the full House immediately after the hearing. It did the same thing for a proposal to name the Ostrea lucida, or Olympia oyster, the state oyster.

    Washtucna students said they knew the hearing was only the first step toward their goal. The full House will have to pass the bill and an identical one must make it through the Senate.

    The sponsor there is Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, who is “just down the road,” teacher Janet Camp said. The students will return to testify before a Senate committee if they have to, she added.


    Local Students Work To Make Palouse Falls The State Waterfall

    Posted: Feb 19, 2014 4:56 PM PST <em class="wnDate">Wednesday, February 19, 2014 7:56 PM EST</em>Updated: Feb 20, 2014 9:37 AM PST <em class="wnDate">Thursday, February 20, 2014 12:37 PM EST</em>



    Third through sixth grade students in the Washtucna school district are working hard to push a bill through the Washington legislature that would make Palouse Falls the state waterfall.Third through sixth grade students in the Washtucna school district are working hard to push a bill through the Washington legislature that would make Palouse Falls the state waterfall.

    WASHTUCNA, Wash. -

    Third through sixth grade students in the Washtucna School District are working hard to push a bill through the Washington legislature that would make Palouse Falls the state waterfall. Since late October the students in Janet Camp and Amy Whipple’s class have been working to make their bill become law. Recently, their bill passed the Washington House of Representatives.

    The students learned about the history of Palouse Falls and five of them actually made the trip to the state capitol to testify in front of a house committee.

    If the bill is to become law they will still need a little help. The bill needs to get through a Senate committee and passed on the Senate floor. The last step is get the Governor's signature.


    Palouse Falls Designated Official State Waterfall

    Palouse Falls

    Posted by Errin Nelson on March 31, 2014

    After six months of hard work and determination, third through sixth grade students in the Washtucna School District, pushed through a bill that made Palouse Falls the state waterfall. Last fall, the students made a field trip to the falls, and inspiration struck. Soon after, joined by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, they started lobbying to get the bill passed. Five students travelled to Olympia to testify in front of a house committee.

    On Tuesday, March 18th, Governor Jay Inslee arrived at Palouse Falls to officially sign the bill and declare it the state waterfall. This designation could mean more tourists to the area, adding to the approximately 100,000 visitors per year to the park.

    Third grader, Cooper Jessop (son of Stephanie Jessop, of our Safety Department) received a special honor. Because Cooper was the youngest in his class, Governor Inslee named him Washingtonian of the Day” and presented him with a pin. “It was really exciting for me, one of the biggest things to happen.” Cooper said of the day.


    Alex McGregor submitted a letter to the legislature in support of House Bill 2119 Designating Palouse Falls as Washington's State Waterfall. In it he provides the historical significance of what has been deemed "the crown jewel of the Palouse River canyon." An excerpt from that letter is below...

    Palouse Falls was created by floodwaters from glacial Lake Missoula, a massive onslaught of water equal in volume to more than ten times the volume of all the rivers in the world today. The lake, impounded by a giant ice dam, was two thousand feet deep in places and contained a volume of water equal to that of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie today. When the dam failed, a flood that lasted little more than a week carved the Channeled Scablands across wide swaths of eastern Washington, created a new channel for the Palouse River, and gouged out the falls. More floods followed—a remarkable story of a spectacular process that occurred just yesterday—12,000 to 15,000 years ago—in geological terms. When NASA scientists studied a huge flood that once occurred on Mars, they came to Washtucna, for here was the place on this planet that came closest to matching the scale of the massive Martian event.

    Though the story had long been known to geologists and local residents and a few others, in the past decade people from around the state, nation, and world have come to realize the remarkable evidence of this spectacular geologic series of events. The Ice Age Floods Institute today generates much interest in that geologic past and Washtucna resident Lloyd Stoess takes many of its members on walking tours of the rugged river canyon of the scenic lower Palouse. The Washington State Parks agency has in its custody a 130-mile long rail bed trail that crosses much of the rugged scabland country created by the Lake Missoula floodwaters. Many who visit that park trail learn about Palouse Falls, several miles further east, and go there to see the dramatic active waterfall that vividly illustrates the scenic canyons created by the cataclysmic floods of our recent geologic past.

    We do not know for certain yet if Native Americans were here to witness the cataclysms that created Palouse Falls and the Scablands. The number of legends about giant floods told by tribes across eastern Washington and along the Columbia is striking. Three generations of my family heard the story of the ‘Big Falls’ from Sam Fisher, a Palouse Indian friend and neighbor, and my cousin committed it to paper in 1936. Four giant brothers and their giant sister, Sam told them, took great pride in keeping their hair shiny and decided to get more oil to keep their locks fashionable by attacking the huge big Beaver that lived nearby to get oil from his tail. They battled for miles and miles, Sam’s rendition of the battle explaining every feature of the river, the three upper waterfalls representing places where he slapped his tail and the 198 foot Palouse Falls, where Beaver fought valiantly and tore out a huge canyon, the place where his claw marks (geologists consider them vertical cracks in the basalt formations) are visible today. He’d have escaped had not Coyote spied him and sung his Power Song and convinced him to go back upriver to the Big Falls where the giant brothers and their sister killed him. A big rock at the confluence of the rivers was his heart and was named Palus, after which their village and ultimately the region were named.

    Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited Palus, the nearby village downriver, in 1805, where as many as fifty mat covered lodges were occupied seasonally when the Palouse came to fish for salmon. There they presented a Jefferson Peace Medallion to one of the Palouse chiefs, a medal that was found by archaeologists in 1964. Archaeologists from Washington State University found, at that village site, what were then described as the oldest human remains on the continent. Many an explorer followed Lewis and Clark and took note of the country. Artist Paul Kane, who sketched Palouse Falls in 1847, described the area as “a curious and strange region….that assumed a new aspect of increased wildness and magnificence at every turn.” John Mix Stanley also visited the falls that year—his sketch of Palouse Falls (from the book Eye of the Explorer by Paul McDermott, Ronald Grim, and Phillip Mobley) is attached. Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens told another version of the origin of the falls after his Pacific Railroad Survey in 1855—the Palouse Indians had told him the falls were created by the Great Spirit to keep salmon from ascending the river further upstream as a punishment for wicked Indians who lived there. Whatever its origin, the big falls has attracted visitors to the remote lands for generations. I’ve attached a photo of a couple of visitors to Palouse Falls, circa 1920, from the Anne Pierce Aslin collection of the Whitman County Library.

    Palouse Falls and its canyon today remain unchanged and pristine. The wagon ruts of the Mullan Road, built in 1861 to connect Fort Walla Walla and the Columbia River with Fort Benton and the Missouri in Montana, along which thousands of miners and mule packers traveled from gold fields to the town built to serve them, the largest city in the territory—Walla Walla—are visible nearby. The ruts of wagons brought by Colonel George Wright and his troops in their punitive mission to punish the Indians after Lieut. Col. Steptoe’s defeat are visible in a nearby canyon and across the prairies adjacent are several Indian trails visible to a discerning viewer. The faded sign indicating the route to Palouse Falls dating back to the early twenties still stands, its AAA designation slowly fading, in my family’s livestock range nearby.

    In his biography of the geologist who spent his career convincing colleagues of the great flood (Bretz’s Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World’s Greatest Flood), John Soennichsen says “the canyon that leads from the falls to the Snake River is so deep and impressive as to render the first-time visitor speechless.” Geologist Bruce Bjornstad (On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods) references “spectacular Palouse Falls,” “the crown jewel of the Palouse River canyon.”



    TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014, 3:14 P.M.

    Senate passes Palouse Falls designation

    OLYMPIA -- A plan to name Palouse Falls the official state waterfall passed the Senate and was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee this afternoon.

    On a 46-3 vote, a plan devised by students at Washtucna Elementary School cleared its last legislative hurdle and seems likely to become law.

    The falls is one of the nation's tallest, and the park around it is one of the few state parks that operates in the black, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said. Nearby Lyons Ferry State Park, among those close because of budget constraints, will be one of the first to reopen and a hiking trail will link the two parks, he said.

    "Let's show the kids in the Palouse area the process does work if it's a good idea," Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said.

    Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he grew up near the falls and has many fond memories of it. Next year he said he might introduce a bill to rename the state Flaming Geyser State Park for Roach.

    Share this

    Posted March 4, 2014, 3:14 p.m.  in: 2014 Washington Legislature , Palouse Falls , Washtucna


    Governor Makes Palouse Falls Official State Waterfall

    Geoff Folsom, Tri-City Herald March 18, 2014 



    Governor Inslee bill signing with students

    Washtucna Elementary School fifth-graders John Riser, left, and Rhianna Conn, right, react Tuesday to Gov. Jay Inslee signing the bill the students drafted declaring Palouse Falls the state’s official waterfall. SARAH GORDON — Tri-City Herald 

    • Students at Ceremony
    • http://media.tri-cityherald.com/smedia/2014/03/18/17/47/hnLC1.AuHi.13.jpeg
    • http://media.tri-cityherald.com/smedia/2014/03/18/18/02/cEAl3.AuHi.13.jpeg

    Tuesday marked the end of six months of work for 29 Washtucna School District students when Gov. Jay Inslee declared Palouse Falls Washington's official state waterfall.

    "They put so much of their heart and soul into it, and actually getting to a moment where they can see it put into a law is just great," said Amy Whipple, third- and fourth-grade teacher at Washtucna.

    The lobbying by the Washtucna kids gave Palouse Falls the edge over the state's other waterfalls, Inslee said.

    "They made a decision and they convinced the Legislature, and they were passionate and persistent and articulate and eloquent -- all the things we want in our students," Inslee told the Herald after the ceremony.

    "What happened here is a testament to these kids," he said. "It's also a testament to good teaching, because we had these teachers challenge these kids to think outside the box and be innovative. That's what we're wanting from our teachers and we're getting it across the state."

    Inslee popped out of the back seat of a maroon sport utility vehicle as he arrived at Palouse Falls State Park. He briefly read an interpretive sign telling of the Ice Age floods that created the falls and surrounding canyon, then bolted down a hill to an overlook to see the northeast Franklin County site for himself.

    Like many of the 100,000 or so annual visitors to the falls, the governor pulled out a cellphone camera to create a memento of his visit. He was then joined for the ceremony by all 65 students from the nearby school.

    The process started last fall with a visit to the school by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, who agreed to sponsor the bill honoring the waterfall.

    One student, Cooper Jessop, 8, received a special honor Tuesday. Inslee named him "Washingtonian of the Day" for organizing a group of students to represent the school in Olympia.

    Cooper enjoyed meeting the governor, he said. He also got the chance to spot a yellow-bellied marmot.

    "It was really exciting for me, one of the biggest things to happen," Cooper said of the day.

    Washtucna natives Eleanor Brodahl of Othello and Karen Kinch of Cheney came back for the event.

    "This is absolutely special for our children in Washtucna," Brodahl said. "It will be fantastic for them to know the process of government."

    The occasion brought back memories for the women of exploring the falls in their childhood.

    "It's a winding road of sagebrush, and you're like, 'What falls?'" Kinch said of the drive into the park. "Then, all of a sudden, there it is."

    The designation as state waterfall will, hopefully, mean more tourists for the area, Inslee said. He told the audience that Tuesday was among his finest days as governor after eating goat cheese at the Little Dipper Dairy in Dayton and the best cheeseburger he's ever had at Rawhide restaurant in Starbuck.

    He joked that Palouse Falls might someday replace Niagara Falls as a top honeymoon destination.

    "I really have a warm spot in my heart for this Coulee country; it's so dramatic," Inslee said. "It speaks to really powerful forces that created this country, and it's pretty exciting for me."

    Nearby Lyons Ferry State Park is scheduled to reopen in 2015. State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the state got money to reopen the park, which it pulled funding for in 2002, by closing the Pasco Fish Lake Trail.

    The two parks can share staff and draw visitors for each other, Schoesler said.

    "It will be great for the region," he said. "I think we'll sell more Discover Passes in one weekend at Lyons Ferry than we did in a year at the trail

    Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2014/03/18/2883276_governor-makes-palouse-falls-official.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


    Palouse Falls and students posing

    The students celebrate the new state waterfall.









Last Modified on May 20, 2021