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The Palouse: A place like no other

The Palouse (KOMO News)

There is no place in the world quite like the Palouse. Not a single place. Anywhere.

If you were to venture to the top of Steptoe Butte, a 3,612 foot tall island in the heart of Whitman County, and look out in all directions, south toward Pullman and north toward Spokane, a stunning and wondrous panorama would be laid out at your feet.

Endless, gently rolling dunes of golden and honey-yellow wheat would blow in the warm breeze of Eastern Washington, and a boundless desert of swaying grain would take hold of your heart and grip your imagination.

Acre for acre, it is the richest wheatland on the planet, and off in the distance there would be white puffs of dust where combines would be cutting down the wheat so it can be made into bread to feed the world.

And perhaps as you looked out in wonder and imagined the passage of time there, and the generations of farmers working the land with their hands, and their livestock and ultimately their machines... perhaps you would ask yourself a single question: "How did this happen?"

The landscape, the very physical shape of it, is a miracle of nature. During the last several ice ages, massive, churning glaciers advanced south from Canada, grinding away at bedrock until it pulverized into something called "glacial flour."

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The flour was washed out from the glaciers and it gathered in something that was called Glacial Lake Missoula, which was created by ice dams on the Clark Fork River. Then, at the end of the last ice age, came a series of massive, cataclysmic floods.

The floods caused huge but temporary lakes. The lakes drained, and monumental quantities of silt were left behind.

And then the winds from the southwest came blowing through and lifted the silt and the dust and carried it and dropped it where it sits today, in the form of the gently rolling windswept dunes that we see now.

It is a calming place. A serene place. A place where a person looks out and considers not just nature, but humanity too, and the place where the two intersect.

Recently, as part of a project for KOMO TV, we sent two photographers to the Palouse, armed with keen eyes and a drone. They were Eric Jensen and Craig Newcomb. They waited until the wheat was at its most dazzling, and they shot their video from the sky.

The results were stunning. And we present them for you now.

Perhaps their beautiful camera work will put you onto the top of Steptoe Butte where you can look out in all directions and see a stunning and wondrous panorama laid out at your feet.

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