The new popularity of Palouse Falls State Park is prompting Washington State Parks to make some longterm plans for the park, along with two others in southeast Washington.
Lyons Ferry State Park in Franklin County and Lewis and Clark Trail State Park near Dayton also will be studied.
Since Palouse Falls was named the state waterfall in 2014, more people have been drawn to the park on the Palouse River on the Franklin-Whitman county line, said Toni Droscher, State Parks and Recreation Commission spokesman.
Visitors increased to about 120,000 a year after the governor visited the falls to sign a state waterfall bill, up from about 46,000 a decade ago.
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Elementary school children in nearby Washtucna drafted a bill to name Palouse the state waterfall, then lobbied with letters and a visit to the state capitol to get their bill passed.
The Palouse River flows across the desert to make the dramatic 198-foot drop off basalt rock, thanks to geology carved by ice age floods.
State officials also have safety concerns.
Lyons Ferry State Park is named for the ferry boat operated by Dan Lyons and used for more than a century.
Visitors sometimes take off from the half-mile of state-maintained trails at the park on unofficial trails along ledges and steep cliffs, with some visitors hiking to the rapids of the Palouse River just upstream from the falls and others to above the crest of the falls or down to the falls base.
A year ago, the state warned that visitors who need to be rescued by Franklin Fire District 2 will be billed for costs. The district said then that it was responding to at least a dozen emergency calls a year to the park area.
Now the 105-acre park has 11 tent spaces and a 2-acre picnic area. Parking is limited and vehicles with trailers and RVs may have a difficult time turning around if the park is busy.
The long-term planning process for all three parks will start with a workshop from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 11 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Youth Building, 102 Fairgrounds Lane, Dayton.
Those unable to attend can provide comments by scrolling down to click on the large blue rectangle at bit.ly/PalousePlan or by mailing Randy Kline, Project Lead, P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504.
The long-term planning will determine the appropriate level of recreational use for each park and should result in park management plans. The planning also will consider park boundaries to identify land for shared management or that might be appropriate to transfer.
The explorers Lewis and Clark, for whom the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park is named, passed through the property in 1806 and commented on the unusual character of the vegetation.
Lyons Ferry Park, just five miles from Palouse Falls, was reopened by the state in 2015, after the state canceled its federal lease of the park about 2003 under budget pressure.
The park struggled in those years, with concessionaires trying to operate the park and then volunteers helping keep the park open limited hours for a time.
The park, at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake rivers, has 52,000 feet of shoreline, including a popular swimming beach. The park also is used for boating, fishing and hiking.
The park opened Saturday, with no drinking water. It is open only for day use.
Lewis and Clark Trail State Park, on the Touchet River just outside Dayton, is an oasis of old-growth forest amidst grassland on 37 acres. Lewis and Clark passed through the property in 1806.
It has 24 campsites that opened for the season April 1. Teepee sites are under construction, according to the park’s website.
More information on all three parks is posted at parks.state.wa.us/281/Parks.