• Adventure Seeker

PNW - Frenchman Coulee

I've driven I-90 from Spokane to Seattle literally hundreds of times. We've stopped a few times to take in the view of the Columbia River gorge from the viewpoint and hiked up to see the wild horses up on the hillside.

Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies
Photo Credit - Washington Trails Association wta.org

I had no idea that not far off that road was Frenchman Coulee. Apparently this is a well known area for rock climbers who come to camp and spend time scaling the landscape in the area. This is also known as Feathers rock climbing area.

I've been to Grand Coulee when I was younger - but was never aware what a coulee actually is:

"Geologically speaking, a coulee is a gully or a ravine that is usually dry and was cut by water action. The term coulee comes from the Canadian French word coulee, from French couler 'to flow.'" (Lasbo, N. 2022)


  • The coulees in the Columbia basin area were created by flood waters pouring over the top of lava flows on their way to the Columbia river. Frenchman Coulee was created by the waters receeding more than two miles backwards.

  • Frenchman was named for the French Canadian hunters that wandered through the area during these amazing coulee creating times.

  • Frenchman Coulee is approximately .5 miles wide

  • You can see hexagon shaped rocks in this coulee - this is what forms as the lava flowing through cooled at the base of the rocks creating cracks that surged upward.

  • Washington state is full of coulees - I think we should visit more!

Enough information overload - if you want to see this hidden gem - we kind of think it's our own little Grand Canyon. There's hiking, camping and exploring to be had - don't forget to check out the waterfall! Enjoy some photos from our adventure.

---> give credit where credit is due:

Lasbo, N., 2022. The Two-Minute Takeaway: What is a Coulee? — The Nature Conservancy in Washington. [online] The Nature Conservancy in Washington. Available at: <https://www.washingtonnature.org/fieldnotes/2017-science-two-minute-takeaway-what-is-a-coulee> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

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