Dry Falls once dwarfed Niagara
By Tim Clinton
There was a time when Dry Falls was the wettest and biggest falls around.
During the last ice age the Central Washington cliffs roared with a waterfall two and a half times higher and five times wider than Niagara Falls.
In fact, they rank as the mightiest waterfall of all time at a towering 400 feet high and three and a half miles wide.
The question is where did enough water to create a waterfall this big come from, since even the Columbia River in wetter times would not pack enough punch to power them and carve out the Grand Coulee above.
Scientists agree that it was all done in a matter of weeks and not eons of time, although whatever happened may have been repeated several times.
To find the answer, they point to glacial evidence at the site of the present day Grand Coulee Dam, which backs up the Columbia and diverts some of it to form Banks Lake inside the Grand Coulee. Banks Lake is stopped from flowing over Dry Falls by the Dry Falls Dam.
Then there are the lines on the hillsides above distant Missoula, Mont. that look like ancient shorelines.
Putting the facts together, it is theorized that a glacier blocked the river and formed a dam much bigger than Grand Coulee, backing up the water all the way to Missoula in a giant lake.
Water pressure eventually broke the ice dam, sending all of the water rushing down the Coulee.
It quickly carved out the walls of the Coulee and spilled over the site of Dry Falls into what is now lake basins below.
From there it flowed on down the Coulee, over the current Sun Lakes area out into the channeled scablands by Moses Lake and the Potholes Reservoir. It rejoined the Columbia on its way to the Pacific Ocean.
The Dry Falls Visitor Interpretive Center now stands off to the side of where the falls once thundered, offering a view of the cliffs and the lakes below.
Inside the center visitors can see a video presentation and an artist's interpretation of what the falls looked like at their peak.
The daily hours at the center vary throughout the year and information can be obtained by calling (509) 632-5214.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park lies below. You can go down and drive through the area and get out and walk over eight miles of trails.
The lakes boast fishing, with anglers snagging rainbow, brown and Tiger trout in Dry Falls Lake at the base of the cliffs.
Swimming, boating and golfing are available in the now fully open state park, which has 152 standard camp sites and 40 RV sites. It also has an amphitheater and climbing walls.
Dry Falls is located off Highway 2, which crosses the Dry Falls Dam above. Turn south onto Highway 17 west of the dam to get to the Visitors Center and head on down to the state park. The road goes past more of the Sun Lakes and on to join I-90 near Moses Lake.
You can also go north from I-90 either at Highway 17, or off Highway 283 near George. Turn right from Highway 283 onto Highway 28 and left on Highway 17.
Call (509) 632-5583 for more information on the 3,774-acre state park, which is located at 34875 Park Rd. NE, Coulee City, WA 99115.
Niagara not Niagra