The Palouse: A Hidden Gem for Landscape Photography

Curators’ Corner

The Palouse: A Hidden Gem for Landscape Photography

If you enjoy landscape photography, we have an under-hyped place to add to your bucket list.

The Palouse is a vast agricultural region encompassing up to 6,000 square miles of southeastern Washington state, northern Idaho and, by some definitions, northeastern Oregon. With endless acres of fertile farmland cradling the Snake River, the Palouse is home to some of America’s richest crops of wheat, canola, barley, lentils and chickpeas. And for photographers, the rolling hills freckled with occasional patches of civilization are beyond picturesque; they are, in the words of one photographer, “immensely photogenic, with a new image appearing over the crest of every hill.”

What’s unique about the Palouse is that it takes a different form of beauty with each season. In spring, the region’s vistas offer a thousand shades of green with lightly tinted shadows and soft afternoon light. Up close, you’ll find bursting hues of violet and red.

 The Palouse field

Photo Credit:

In early summer, the fields come alive with pops of yellow canola and more pronounced greens.

 Palouse Green Field

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Later in the year when crops are harvested, the hills become golden, eventually giving way to earthy tones of brown and yellow.

Contrasting colors of the Palouse Harvest as seen from Steptoe Butte. 

Photo Credit: T. Mortensen

During the winter months, the Palouse is often covered in snow. The hills look like pillows, and the sunsets are spectacular.

The Palouse

Photo Credit: Kevin McNeal

And Palouse Falls State Park is not to be missed. During spring and summer, the falls rage from 198 feet high into a 377-foot-deep canyon 4 miles upstream from where the Palouse River flows into the Snake River.

The Palouse evening

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Amazing. Undoubtedly, the Palouse is a gold mine for landscape photography. Texture, color, natural light, patterns, swirls, lines, contrast, shadows and sweeping panoramic views – you’ll find it all here.

Another photographer describes its appeal from an adventurist’s standpoint: “The Palouse is a photographically exciting area to explore, in large measure because it is comparatively unknown. It is not a national park, and there is little in the way of guidance to this area.”

If you’re ready to take an unorthodox trip to the Great Northwest and roam the Palouse, the Palouse Scenic Byway is a great resource to start planning your trip.