Summer Falls

Summer Flals State Park / Coulee City / Ephrata / Soap Lake, Washington, USA

About Summer Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2021-06-19
Date last visited: 2021-06-19

Waterfall Latitude: 47.50136
Waterfall Longitude: -119.29807

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Summer Falls surprised us with its gushing flow, afternoon rainbows, and that chilled out vibe with a large picnic area full of families taking it easy.

It had a drop of a reported 70-100ft over the Trail Lake Coulee, which is an outflow for the Banks Lake Reservoir by Coulee City.

Summer_Falls_040_06192021 - Summer Falls
Summer Falls

By the way, coulees are loosely referring to former water channels, but they seem to be used in the context of cliffs and valleys left in the wake of glacial floods that resulted in the the Scablands of Central and Eastern Washington as well as Southern Idaho.

Speaking of Scablands, while Dry Falls may get the attention and infrastructure despite not being a legitimate waterfall in the Scablands of Central Washington, it’s Summer Falls that actually yields more of a waterfalling experience.

Of course, as I say this, apparently this waterfall was considered to be manmade because the drainage of Banks Lake are actually man-made canals that get mostly diverted for hydroelectricity production at the Summer Falls Power Plant.

The remainder of its flow goes over the actual Summer Falls, which seemed to have a pretty healthy flow when we saw it in mid-June 2021.

Summer_Falls_052_06192021 - Context of Summer Falls and the pleasant picnic area between it and the unpaved parking lot
Context of Summer Falls and the pleasant picnic area between it and the unpaved parking lot

In fact, Summer Falls got its name from irrigation practices where the waters would be released in the Summer when the irrigated lands further upstream needed the water the most.

With the power plant taking over the canals, the waterfall’s flow is now at the mercy of the needs of that plant.

When I look at the photo in Gregory Plumb’s book about Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest, it showed Summer Falls with massive volume.

So even though we thought we saw the falls with healthy flow, its volume was actually severely reduced as a result of the Summer Falls Power Plant.

Summer_Falls_024_06192021 - As tempting as it is to get into the water around Summer Falls, a memorial of three teens who had drowned here served as a reminder of why it's not a good idea to do it
As tempting as it is to get into the water around Summer Falls, a memorial of three teens who had drowned here served as a reminder of why it’s not a good idea to do it

It went online in the mid 1980s, and so I have to presume that Plumb’s photo was taken prior to this taking place.

As far as experiencing Summer Falls, it was literally a short jaunt across a nice grassy picnic “hill” from the unpaved parking area (see directions below) to the barricade walls keeping us away from the Summer Falls’ turbulent waters.

I noticed a memorial here of three teenagers who drowned here, which also acted as a reminder of why it’s not a good idea to swim here thanks to the undertow and whirlpools resulting from the turbulence and currents of the falls.

Authorities

Summer Falls resides in the Summer Falls Day Use Area near Coulee City in Grant County, Washington. It is administered by the US Bureau of Reclamation (it’s no longer administered by the Washington State Parks). For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Drive_to_Summer_Falls_009_iPhone_06192021 - On the unpaved access road leading to the Summer Falls Day Use Area
Drive_to_Summer_Falls_011_iPhone_06192021 - Approaching the end of the road and the parking lot for the Summer Falls Day Use Area
Summer_Falls_005_06192021 - Our first look at Summer Falls, which was producing an afternoon rainbow in its mist
Summer_Falls_016_06192021 - Zoomed in look at Summer Falls and its rainbow
Summer_Falls_018_06192021 - Context of Julie and Tahia checking out Summer Falls from behind the wall keeping them away from the dangerous water
Summer_Falls_022_06192021 - Looking downstream along the barricade towards the peninsula fronted by a sign commemorating the three teens who drowned here
Summer_Falls_029_06192021 - Contextual view across the wide body of water fronting Summer Falls and the neighboring Summer Falls Power Plant
Summer_Falls_031_06192021 - Focused look at Summer Falls from the most direct angle that I was able to safely get
Summer_Falls_035_06192021 - Looking back towards the picnic area from the peninsula protruding onto part of the Summer Falls outflow
Summer_Falls_036_06192021 - Broad look along the barricade to show some of the extent of the picnic area for the Summer Falls Day Use Area
Summer_Falls_045_06192021 - It looked like there used to be a trail or scrambling path that might have enabled people to get closer to Summer Falls (perhaps towards its brink), but as you can see, these signs prohibit any such activity
Summer_Falls_047_06192021 - This is a profile look at Summer Falls from as far up the public day use area as I was able to go without trespassing
Summer_Falls_048_06192021 - Looking back at the picnic area from the barricade walls near the outflow of Summer Falls
Summer_Falls_053_06192021 - Last look back at Summer Falls before returning to our car to end our visit in mid-June 2021


Since we stayed in Ephrata when we visited Summer Falls, I’ll start by describing the driving directions from there.

From Ephrata, we’d drive for about 14.6 miles northeast on the WA-28 to the Pine Ridge Road.

Drive_to_Summer_Falls_006_iPhone_06192021 - This easy-to-miss sign is the indicator that we had found the correct turnoff and unpaved access road to the Summer Falls Day Use Area
This easy-to-miss sign is the indicator that we had found the correct turnoff and unpaved access road to the Summer Falls Day Use Area

Turning left onto the Pine Ridge Road, we’d then drive another 6 miles north to the easy-to-miss turnoff for the Summer Falls Day Use Area on the right.

This turnoff is easy to miss because there’s no signage that’s easily visible from Pine Ridge Road, but I did notice the sign for the Summer Falls Day Use Area once we got onto its unpaved access road.

Anyways, once we were on that dusty unpaved access road, we drove the remaining 1.3 miles to the large parking area in front of the Summer Falls Day Use Area.

Had we come from Coulee City, then we’d drive about 9.3 miles south on the Pine Ridge Road to the easy-to-miss turnoff on the left for the Summer Falls Day Use Area.

Summer_Falls_004_06192021 - Looking back at the dusty road and parking lot for the Summer Falls Day Use Area
Looking back at the dusty road and parking lot for the Summer Falls Day Use Area

Note that about 1.2 miles before that Summer Falls Day Use Area turnoff was the Summer Falls Power Plant turnoff, which is well-signposted.

Apparently, it’s normally open to the public for visitation, but it was closed during our June 2021 visit due to COVID-19.

In any case, that power plant access road has no connection to the day use area so that’s something to keep in mind if the desire is to experience the waterfall.

For some context, Ephrata was 29 miles (a little over 30 minutes drive) southwest of Coulee City, 94 miles (over 90 minutes drive) north of Kennewick, about 123 miles (under 2 hours drive) west of Spokane, and 171 miles (over 2.5 hours) east of Seattle.

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360 degree sweep from the grassy picnic area revealing Summer Falls and rainbow


360 degree sweep from a small peninsula downstream of Summer Falls while showing some of the hydroelectric infrastructure nearby


Long video starting from the profile view of Summer Falls before walking further along the lake edge towards the spot where rainbows were showing up

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Tagged with: state park, summer falls power plant, grant county, ephrata, soap lake, coulee city, summer falls day use, picnic



Visitor Comments:

Summer Falls May 16, 2021 11:03 am by Steve Gillett - Washington (state)'s artificial waterfall. And that requires some explanation. Obviously the water is real, and it's certainly falling! And it's occupying a natural watercourse. The stream now in that watercourse, however, is not natural. It's the distributary stream, the so-called Main Canal, for Banks Lake, the reservoir for the Columbia Basin (Irrigation) Project. Banks Lake… ...Read More

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Summer Falls May 16, 2021 11:03 am by Steve Gillett - Washington (state)'s artificial waterfall. And that requires some explanation. Obviously the water is real, and it's certainly falling! And it's occupying a natural watercourse. The stream now in that watercourse, however, is not natural. It's the distributary stream, the so-called Main Canal, for Banks Lake, the reservoir for the Columbia Basin (Irrigation) Project. Banks Lake… ...Read More

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