Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park
As you enter Sun Lakes-Dry Falls, you may feel like you’re on another planet. The park is surrounded by one of Washington’s most striking and historically significant landscapes.
Dry Falls is a geological wonder of North America. Carved by Ice Age floods more than 13,000 years ago, the former waterfall was once four times the size of Niagara Falls. Today, the 400-foot-high, 3.5-mile-wide cliff overlooks a big sky and a landscape of deep gorges and dark, reflective lakes. The park is a notable site along the National Ice Age Floods Geologic Trail.
Visitors will appreciate the Dry Falls Visitor Center, where interpretive displays tell the story of the floods and their effects on Washington’s landscape. Call (509) 632-5214 for seasonal hours and to arrange a tour.
The park also offers great recreation. Nothing beats the boat launch and social atmosphere of Park Lake, and Deep Lake presents a remote paddling and kayaking experience. The lure of Dry Falls Lake entices anglers to cast out for trout. Hiking trails wind through the scented, sage-dotted hills to table-top cliffs with panoramic views. The park even offers nine-hole and miniature golf for visitors who equate a desert vacation with a good game on the green.
Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is a 3,774-acre camping park with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline at the foot of Dry Falls between Soap Lake and Coulee City.
Discover Pass: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web site.
Automated pay station: This park is equipped with an automated pay station for visitors to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass and boat launch permit.
PICNIC & DAY-USE FACILITIES
There are 90 unsheltered picnic tables, available first come, first served.
WATER ACTIVITIES & FEATURES
- Watercraft launches (2)
OTHER ACTIVITIES & FEATURES
Stacey's Top Chef Concession is located next to the Dry Falls Interpretive Center and offers a great variety of food and snack choices including made to order burgers, sausages, fish-n-chips, salads, and chicken & waffles. They also serve hard scoop ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes and a variety of beverages. Stacey's Top Chef is open daily from 10:00 - 6:00, April through October. For more information, visit their Facebook page.
The visitor center at Dry Falls tells the story of this amazing geological phenomenon. From lava flows to the Ice Age floods, and from the Native American legacy to the modern discovery of how Dry Falls was created, the Dry Falls story is revealed to thousands of visitors each year. A gift shop in the visitor center has a wide selection of books, maps, guides, videos, postcards, film, and other merchandise about Dry Falls and the surrounding area. At the end of your visit you will want to spend time looking through the wall of windows over the precipice, as it is magnificent. Please note that a donation helps support the operation of the center.
Throughout the park, roads and trails will take you to other fantastic views of geologic features and bring you closer to the desert plants and animals. Take time to make your own discoveries and create your own explanations for what you see. If you had been J Harlen Bretz, would you have come up with such an "outlandish" theory as huge Ice Age floods? The Grand Coulee, of which Dry Falls is a central feature, has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service. As you drive or hike through the Grand Coulee, please do your part to help preserve this national treasure. Admission is by donation.
The park provides two watercraft launches, 42 reservable moorage slips and 680 feet of dock. Waterskiing activities are restricted during certain times of the year. Contact the Grant County Sheriff's Marine Patrol division by calling (509) 754-2011, ext. 468, for information regarding Grant County boating ordinances.
Moorage slip reservations are available April 15 to Sept. 15 and are advised for the summer months. Reservations can be made online or by calling (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688).
Launching a boat at a state park requires one of the following:
- An annual launch permit (Natural Investment Permit); or
- An annual Discover Pass and a daily launch permit; or
- A one-day Discover Pass and a daily launch permit.
A daily permit is available for watercraft launching at the park for $7. Annual permits also may be purchased at Washington State Parks Headquarters in Olympia, at region offices, online, and at parks when staff is available.
Latitude: 47° 35' 46.67" N (47.5963)
Longitude: 119° 21' 35.29" W (-119.3598)
SEASONAL WATERSKIING RESTRICTION
Waterskiing, including wake boarding, surfing and tubing, is prohibited on Park Lake from the opening day of fishing season to May 20.
From May 20 to July 1, waterskiing is not permitted before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
The park has 150 standard campsites, 41 full-hookup sites, one dump station, six restrooms and 12 showers. Maximum site length is 65 feet (may have limited availability). Park campsites do not have tent pads. All campsites have fire pits.
- Check-in time is 2:30 p.m.
- Check-out time is 1 p.m.
Be prepared for the possibility of heavy winds. Individual campsites are reservable from April 15 to Sept. 15 and are advised for the summer months. Anytime after Oct. 1, the water at sites 58-88 may be turned off due to weather. Winter water supply is available at the Contact Station. These sites close on Nov. 1.
The park provides a group camp for tents only. The camp accommodates up to 75 people. Fees vary with size of the group.
RESERVATIONS & FEES
SERVICES & SUPPLIES
There is a park store, laundromat, boat rentals, propane, firewood, a commissary, and a payphone at the park. Boat rentals also are available at the park.
With the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch, about one million years ago, a cooling climate provided conditions favorable to the creation of great sheets of moving ice, called glaciers. Thus began the most recent Ice Age.
FORMATION OF GLACIAL ICE
During the centuries, as snowfall exceeded melting and evaporation, a great accumulation of snow covered part of the continent. As the snow depth and pressure increased, glacial ice was formed. This vast ice sheet moved south into Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Near the Canadian border, the ice sheet was up to one mile thick. At its leading edge, the ice dammed rivers and created lakes. At times, the Columbia River was forced to flow through what is now the Grand Coulee.
One especially large lake, covering a portion of northwest Montana, played an important role in the formation of Dry Falls. As this lake grew in size, it eventually broke through the ice dam, unleashing a tremendous volume of water to rush across northern Idaho and into Eastern Washington. Catastrophic floods raced across the southward-dipping plateau a number of times, etching the coulees or ravines that characterize this region, now known as the Channeled Scablands.
As the floods in this vicinity raced southward, two major waterfalls formed along their course. The larger was that of the upper coulee, where the river roared over an 800-foot cliff. The eroding power of the water plucked pieces of basalt from the precipice, causing the falls to retreat 20 miles and self-destruct by cutting through to the Columbia River valley near what is now the Grand Coulee Dam. The other major waterfall started near Soap Lake, where the less-resistant basalt layers gave way before the great erosive power of this tremendous torrent. As in the upper coulee, the raging river yanked chunks of rock from the face of the falls, and the falls eventually retreated to their present location.
Dry Falls is the skeleton of the greatest waterfalls in geologic history. It is 3.5 miles wide, with a drop of more than 400 feet. By comparison, Niagara, one mile wide with a drop of only 165 feet, would be dwarfed by Dry Falls.