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A Closer Look at the Spokane River

As many of you know, Fun Unlimited has two locations on the Spokane River – one in Downtown Spokane and one in Post Falls.  It is, to put it simply, the lifeblood of our business, the backbone of our region, and a source of never-ending fun.  That’s why we’d like to stop and take a closer look at the Spokane River and why we all need to step up our game when it comes to preserving this amazing resource.

woman on stand up paddleboard in spokane, WA

Basics

First, some facts.  The Spokane River is roughly 111 miles long and stretches from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to Lake Roosevelt in Washington.  Lake Roosevelt is formed behind the Grand Coulee Dam which impounds the Columbia River.  The Spokane River Basin is roughly 2,400 square miles and includes three main tributaries to the Spokane River – the Little Spokane River, Hangman (Latah) Creek, and the Chamokane (Tshimikain).  This basin covers five Washington counties and three Idaho counties.

There are seven dams on the Spokane River starting with the Post Falls Dam at the outlet of Lake Coeur d’Alene to the Little Falls Dam at river mile 29.  All of these dams are hydroelectric and none of them have working fish-passage facilities (which we will touch on again later).

History

The Spokane River and Spokane Falls were the center of the ancestral homelands for the Spokane Tribe of Indians.  Tribal members used the river for travel, a source of food, medicinal and spiritual purposes.  In the winter months, they relied on salmon caught in the river during the spring and summer season and often caught fish that weighed over 80 pounds.  Unfortunately, they were unable to participate in negotiations with the federal government in 1855 in the Walla Walla Valley because they coincided with the fishing season.  Because of this, they were unable to maintain their fishing rights on the river outside of the reservation.

Soon after, dam construction with no fish-passage measures meant that the salmon runs couldn’t extend up the Spokane River as they had in the past.  Eventually, with the construction of the Grand Coulee dam, all migrating fish were cut off from spawning areas in the river basin.

For more information on the Spokane Tribe of Indians and their connection to the river please check out these websites:

Northwest Power and Conservation Council

Spokane Tribe of Indians

Footnote below.

spokane riverfront

Health

Whether we drive on roads cut into the mountainside, visit city/state/or national parks, swim in the rivers and lakes, or just sit outside and enjoy the view, we are engaged with our environment at every moment of every day.  During the forest fire season, this is perhaps most evident as even the best air filters can struggle to keep smoke out of a home.  Let’s face it, we can’t escape our environment.  But why would you want to?  We have an amazing playground just waiting in our backyards including mountain peaks, raging rivers, and miles of open water on the many lakes in the region.

But no one has fun on a beach that is littered with garbage.  And how fun is it to swim in water covered by an chemical spill?  Or to hike through a forest that burned in a wildfire … one started by carelessness?

We’re not trying to go on a tirade here, but merely point out that the health of our environment is important.  It allows us to continue to enjoy doing all the things we love for generations to come.  It allows us to take from the environment in the form of fishing, hunting, and foraging in sustainable ways.  Even if those reasons aren’t good enough, consider this – our environment has a major impact on our health.  You wouldn’t want to live in a toxic waste dump, right?  And yet we are doing exactly that by allowing unsafe and unhealthy business practices to continue and by not doing our part to clean up the mistakes of the past.

For more information on the history of harmful practices, ways you can help, and how to notify the proper authorities about a polluted site, please visit these websites:

Spokane River Keeper

Spokane River Forum

On to the Fun

Okay, enough doom and gloom.  Thanks to the efforts of countless people and organizations, our river systems are getting healthier every day.  That means that the fun doesn’t have to end with us.  So … what can you do on the Spokane River?  Besides the obvious (stop in to visit us, of course), there are plenty of opportunities for adventurers of every size, age, and experience level.  Though we can’t go through all of them here, we will touch on the highlights.

Fishing

For the anglers out there, the Spokane River provides plenty of opportunities for fishing.  The river varies a far degree from area to area, both in terms of the type of fishing feasible as well as the type of fish caught.  Most anglers catch large and smallmouth bass, walleye, various trout species, and whitefish.  There are occasional pike that escape from Lake Coeur d’Alene in the upper portion of the river and sturgeon can be caught below the Little Falls Dam in the lower portion the river.  Keep in mind that when fishing on Reservation land, you must comply with their regulations and rules.

For an excellent source of fishing information, please visit:

Spokane River Forum: Water Trail, Fishing

Camping

Let’s face it, there are far too many camping areas in this region to list them all.  Whether you like the idea of boat-in camping, “off-grid” camping, or prefer the comforts of a full-service campground, we’re sure that you kind find the perfect fit here.  With over 260 days of sun, the Spokane region if a perfect place to play.  Riverside State Park and Nine Mile Recreation Area offer 10,000 acres in which to play.  For those looking for a better view, check out Mount Spokane State Park with over 13,000 acres, a 100 miles of trails, and all at nearly 6,000 feet.  Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area offers 22 boat launches, 10 beaches, and 27 campgrounds stretched out along the 130 miles of lake.

For a detailed map of outdoor activities along the Spokane River, please visit:

Spokane River Forum: Water Trail

For more information on Riverside State Park, please visit:

Riverside State Park

couple on boat

Water Sports

The Spokane River is such a diverse waterway that it provides perfect stretches to enjoy no matter which water sport you prefer.  From calm, deep waters ideal for SUPing, to those looking for an adrenaline rush provided by whitewater, or those looking to cruise on their boat, there is something for everyone.  Although we definitely have our favorite ways of having fun, here at Fun Unlimited, we really want to help you find yours.  Never tried SUPing?  Come down to our Divison location in Downtown Spokane to enjoy calm waters with no boat traffic (which means no wakes and few waves for those who are just starting out with the sport).  Have a need for speed?  We can help with that too and offer boats and personal watercraft that can be ridden up the Spokane River and into Lake Coeur d’Alene.

For more information on water fun, check out these websites:

Spokane River Forum: Water Trail

Visit Spokane

Let’s do our best to take care of the amazing Spokane River Basin so that we can continue to have fun on its waterways for generations to come!

Information in the “History” section:
“Spokane River.” Northwest Power and Conservation Council. www.nwcouncil.org/reports/columbia-river-history/spokaneriver.  Accessed 17 February 2019.