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Steptoe Butte

This is the highest point between Mica Peak, southeast of Spokane, and the Blue Mountains. This pyramid-shaped mass, topped by an almost solid expanse of granite and basaltic rock, is without trees or shrubs, except for a few wild cherry and serviceberry bushes on its northern slope. The lower slopes are grass-covered and sprinkled with flowers in spring and early summer. Near the summit the grass is stunted and only a few sunflowers find sufficient moisture to survive.

An old wagon road once wound up to the summit, this is now paved in asphalt. From here on clear days the entire Palouse country can be seen—fields of grain, corn, and peas; patches of yellow stubble and dark-brown summer fallow; farm buildings flanked by clumps of evergreens and small orchards; and the canyon of the Palouse River, easily traceable by the dark line of trees along its course. The summit was a lookout point for both sides during the Indian Wars. In 1888, James H. (Cashup) Davis conceived the idea of building a resort on the bit of level land at the summit of the butte. He erected a two-story hotel there, with an auditorium and an observatory on the roof equipped with a telescope. After the Davis’ death in 1895, the hotel fell into decay and finally burned to the ground. The whole butte was sold by the sheriff in 1902 for approximately $2,000.

The butte, is named in honor of Colonel Edward Steptoe, and a National Natural Landmark famous for its dramatic beauty and the panoramic view it provides of surrounding farmlands, the Blue Mountains, and neighboring ranges. On a clear day, visibility is up to 200 miles. Giant radio towers on the butte contrast with the natural beauty. The summit has interpretive signs about the history and geology of the butte and region.