by Jeff Goulden
The Palouse is a rich agricultural area encompassing much of southeastern Washington State and parts of Idaho. It is characterized by low rolling hills mostly devoid of trees. Although many crops including barley, lentils and chick peas are produced in the area, much of the winter wheat production in the United States comes from the Palouse. Wheat grown in the rich silty loess soil yields up to 100 bushels an acre, twice the national average. And much of this production is done without benefit of irrigation. Winter wheat is planted in the fall. It germinates after planting and then remains dormant through the winter. Growth resumes in the spring after the snow melts. Harvesting is usually done in the summer or early fall after the wheat turns a rich gold color.
Photographers are drawn to the Palouse for its wide open landscapes and ever changing colors. In the spring it is a visual mosaic of green. By late summer the green changes to "amber waves of grain" before and during the harvest. In the winter, deep snow carpets the landscape with a brilliant white. The area is mostly rural and sparsely populated, punctuated by quaint historic towns like Colfax, Walla Walla, Palouse and Pomeroy.
For an overview of the Palouse, the best place to visit is Steptoe Butte. This quartzite "island" at 3612 feet above sea level is one of the highest points in the area and provides a 360 degree ever-changing view of the Palouse Hills. Steptoe Butte is a Washington state park about 12 miles north of Colfax. There is a narrow paved but rough road leading to a parking area at the summit. A Washington State Discover Pass is required to park in the lot. Expect to see other sightseers and photographers except when the road closes during the winter snows.
Other great possibilities for photography include driving the backroads around Colfax, Palouse and Pullman. The mostly gravel roads are in amazingly good shape and take you through endless fields of rolling hills with very few farmhouses. You won't see very many other cars either. Just don't get lost. I found my way from Colfax to Palouse using the backroads and eventually turned on my GPS to get to Pullman. Even these remote backroads are on my GPS map.
Jeff's Photo Blog
In this Photo Blog I have combined my 50 year passion for photography and my love of the natural world, creating a portfolio that reveals nature in its pure and simple beauty. I am pleased to share my passion with you through this blog.