Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is interesting for its spectacular geology. It was formed near the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, when Lake Missoula repeatedly flooded catastrophically, sweeping through western Montana, northern Idaho and much of eastern Washington, carving the coulees and Channeled Scablands from the basalt. The flow of this flood water is estimated to be 10 times the current flow of all rivers in the world combined! For more information about the Missoula Floods, see the Wikipedia article. Palouse Falls was also formed by these floods.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is located on State Highway 17 just south of Highway 2, a little east of the middle of Washington State. Google Maps shows it to be about 3-1/2 hours from Seattle and a little over 2 hours from Spokane. A visit to this area could be done as a day trip from Spokane, but would be long day from Seattle and back. If you like camping, spend the night a few miles down the road at Sun Lakes campground (more information below).
If you are making a scenic trip to see Dry Falls, Grand Coulee Dam is only about an hour further northeast up Highway 155.
I frequently drive from the Seattle area to the Spokane area, and almost always stop and look at Dry Falls. It never ceases to amaze me. I have shot hundreds of photos over the years, in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions.
This artist’s conception of what Dry Falls looked like during one of the great floods is on an interpretive sign at the overlook. Notice that the portion of the falls we see from the overlook is only about one quarter of it.
If you are not afraid of heights, step out onto the overlook to get the full experience of seeing what the great floods have done to the terrain here.
It is quite safe to view from the overlook. In fact, you are better protected by the fence around the overlook than you are by the low stonework and chain at the edge of the parking lot!
Here you see how the overlook is perched above the lakes below, and the small shelter adjacent to the overlook. At the right edge of the photo you can see the corner of the Visitor’s Center. It is well worth spending some time in the Visitor’s Center.
The campground at Sun Lakes is only a couple miles down the road from the Dry Falls overlook. Looking down on the campground from the road above, it looks like an oasis. For more information about this park and campground, visit Washington State’s website.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park Locator Map: Google Maps