There are so many things that are lost to time, people forget and they fade away. It was a hot dry summer night in the 1940s in the Coulee several miles past Steamboat Rock on the Coulee City side. The men all stood around the parked pick-up on the side of the Speedball Highway, drinking and talking. It was a beautiful night, full moon lighting up the coulee walls.. in the background coyotes sang, calling to each other and telling stories. The men, slightly intoxicated shined their searchlight around, not seeing anything the light came to rest on the cliff wall. A brown pillar with two longer points on top. From down in the Coulee under the artificial lighting it looked like a giant rabbit up there on the cliff wall. BLAM BLAM went the guns into the night air, silencing the songs and setting the night on alert. Blam Blam went the rifles again, and this time chunks of basalt went flying into the dark air out of sight.
In 2018 I was sitting around chatting with an old friend who had witnessed the whole story play out over the course of 9 decades. When the dam was really in full swing in the 1930s she was a child in school, living above the notorious B Street. I have seen pictures of her as a child on a hill, and down below you can see the steel framework of what will one day be the Grand Coulee Dam coming to life. We were chatting about the Million Dollar Mile section of 155, where the construction workers dynamited their way through solid basalt so when they flooded the Coulee floor with diverted water from the Columbia River cars would have a place to drive. She was talking about how somewhere at the top was a place used by the first people as a camp. Then she asked if I had ever seen Rabbit Rock. I hadn’t.
“They shot it’s ears off in the 40s” she said
“Who did?” I asked, about a rock I had never seen, but was starting to get curious.
“men” she replied
It just so happened I was doing research on the area myself, hours hiking looking for old trails or roads; a pathway from the bottom of the Coulee to the top. I was following stories I had heard in the 1970s from my grandparents. While searching for the hidden path I kept my eyes open for any rock that looked like a rabbit. No luck. Then one day I received an email from a friend showing me a picture of Rabbit Rock. He told me the rock was pointed out to him by an archaeologist. When I saw the picture I knew where it was located immediately, the opposite side of where I was searching for the lost trail, and a lot closer to the campsite than I first thought. It all seemed to somehow tie together, but without proof I had nothing. From the top of Rabbit Rock, you can see all the way to Steamboat Rock. It’s feet sit in water, not so easy to explore.
As you drive 155 the rabbit comes into view sitting up on its haunches; front feet hanging down. With the right light his eyes and face become visible as well. On his head sit two ears, broken and shattered. He is brown, and sits surrounded by splashes of yellow-green and orange lichen. At his feet are bushes of serviceberry and a lake of fish. From his perch he looks out over Banks Lake and onto Steamboat Rock.
Recently I heard the legend behind the rock, thanks to a good friend who got the story from the Colville Confederation Museum in Coulee Dam. It is a Coyote story about love and loss, and rebirth.
Coyote wished to marry the daughter of Eagle who lived on Steamboat Rock. A great ceremony was to be prepared, and a banquet. Eagle Princess was magnificent. On the chosen day she called off the wedding breaking Coyote’s heart. In the crowd of animals that had gathered it was Rabbit that laughed the loudest, or at least caught Coyote’s wrathful eye. Rabbit was pushed up against the wall of the Coulee where he was forever turned to stone. Coyote then threw the food against the Coulee wall and it became the orange and yellow stains seen today, while the Serviceberry landed at his feet becoming the bushes.
Rabbit Rock as it looked in the 1930s
Rabbit Rock and the old Coulee Highway 2018