Palouse Falls permanently closes areas of park to prevent more deaths

Mother of Noble Stoneman, young man who died at park in 2018, says park took action too late



Areas of Palouse Falls that are dangerous to the public have been closed after four young men died there, two by falling from cliffs and two by drowning at the base of the falls.


The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has permanently closed dangerous areas of Palouse Falls State Park because of previous accidents and to prevent future injuries.

“We have experienced extreme overuse issues that this part of the closure will help mitigate,” said Amanda McCarthy, interim communications director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. 

Palouse Falls State Park has seen an uptick in visitation in recent years because it was designated the official waterfall of Washington state and that piqued a lot of people’s interest, McCarthy said. 

WSU alum Noble Stoneman died in 2018 at the park, making him the fourth death since 2016, according to The Wenatchee World

Ruth Drollinger, Stoneman’s mother, said Palouse Falls does not use signs or railings to protect the public.

Drollinger said she felt the park was negligent for her son’s death because Palouse Falls is protected by recreational immunity in the state of Washington.

“As a result of recreational immunity, these parks felt that they could do anything that they pleased by opening up a death trap to let people just die,” Drollinger said. 

Areas of the park that were closed were never intended for people to visit because the areas are not maintained, McCarthy said. Visitors would make social trails, which are not managed by the park.

“I went not too long ago with my family and there were trails that anyone would assume are there for the public to walk on and go down closer to the cliffs,” sophomore communications major Lana Buck said.

Buck said she briefly heard about the deaths of the four young men at Palouse Falls, but she was surprised the state park waited this long to make some changes.

Everything came too late and the park should have done something right away after the first death occurred, Drollinger said.

McCarthy said the number of incidents puts a hard strain on the staff because Palouse Falls is in a remote area and it is challenging for first responders to get there.

“The overall number of incidents and unsafe activity resulted in the closure,” McCarthy said.

The park itself is still open to visitors, but there are certain areas of the park that have closed because they are unsafe for the public, McCarthy said.