South Fork Palouse River


Why? Fine river walk close to home.

Season: Year-round

Ease: Moderate. It’s 3 miles one way of level trail.

If you only think Concrete River when you think of rivers in conjunction with Colfax, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Just outside of town to the west, there’s a fine bit of trail that parallels a lovely stretch of free-flowing stream. While there’s no way you’ll be confused into thinking you’re in the wilderness when walking it, once you’re past the first 1/2 mile or so, you’ll not be troubled much by the sounds of civilization.

While the trail is pretty much devoid of vistas, it provides a pleasant, close-at-hand environment. There are trees and bushes, sometimes even flowers, and toward the end, fine basalt cliffs. (Yes, I do have a thing for basalt. It’s a long story that involves where I grew up, my son’s interest in rocks and minerals, Mt. St. Helens, my first trip to this area, and landing at the Spokane Airport.) On the other side of the river, there are cultivated fields in whatever state of growth the wheat or legumes are in. They look particularly fine when the wheat is ripe, a soft golden carpet against a bright blue sky.

The trail never leaves the river, which based on several hiking’s, can vary from brown with spring runoff to clear or even icy. In one spot, it rushes over and around an exposed area of rock that looks like a great spot for a picnic if river levels are low. There’s a steep but short pitch off trail down to it.

The trail ends about 3 miles in, a tunnel through the hills on the other side of the river marking the spot. But based on the junk we found in a charred area there, it’s a good guess that there’s access to that end from a different road, and above. You also can continue your walk for another ½ mile or so to the left, on informal trails through the brush.

At the start, you might find cattle, as we did once. And you will find gates, three of them. Two in the first mile, the last near the end. Be sure to close them after you pass through.

Note: The concrete river through Colfax was constructed in the 1960s for an obvious reason: flood control. I’m told that before that, the town used to flood most every year.

Trail Notes: You can turn left at the trail’s end and walk another ½ mile or so along the river, till it turns away from you and there’s no flat land at its side anymore.

Directions: Head west on Highway 26 out of Colfax for 1.1 mile. Turn right and drive alongside the Palouse River Rock Company. Turn left in 1/10 mile and drive to the end of the road at a sign for no motorized vehicles. There’s a no trespassing sign a bit before there, but it applies to the land at each side of the road and trail.

Information: Whitman County Parks and Recreation, (509) 397-6238.

Map: As far as I know, there is no map of the trail. However, it would be difficult to get lost, so I don’t think a map is needed.