Rafting the Lower Spokane River

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Saturday, July 2, 2011

What's more fun than going whitewater rafting 15 minutes from your front door on a beautiful summer day?  Not much -- at least for me.  I'm lucky enough to live in Spokane, the heart of beautiful Inland Northwest, one of the great places in these United States.  Spokane is centered on it's river and while long stretches of the river are urbanized, there are still miles of wilderness especially in the downriver portion beyond Riverfront Park.   The Spokane River drains lovely Lake Couer d'Alene in the Idaho Panhandle into the Columbia River  (the flooded Lake Roosevelt part upriver from the Grand Coulee Dam).  The river's flow varies markedly from season to season, with roaring heavy runoff during the spring melt receding to a near trickle in late summer.  The Spokane River doesn't freeze over in the winter.

There are two main portions of the River that can be rafted, divided by the impressive Spokane Falls in downtown Spokane: one upriver of downtown Spokane (which is mostly a gentle float and good for families with small children) and one downriver which is where we were rafting.  We used Flow Adventures as the vendor for our trip on the Lower Spokane, although several other companies also offer this journey through the Spokane River Gorge and lovely Riverside State Park (the second largest state park in Washington).  The Lower Spokane River offers class II and III whitewater during spring runoff and early summer, so we got a nice combination of bucking rapids interspersed with rolling water and gentle floating.  The mix was nice and provided us with a fun two hour ride.  Jon, the owner of Flow Adventures, was a passenger on our raft and provided us with great background on the river.  There were, in addition to our guide, five clients (plus Jon): yours truly, wife Sylvia, friend Greg, and new friends Stephen and Jennifer. 

The area around the Lower Spokane River is largely undeveloped, although there are some homes and an alien appearing sewage treatment plant adjoining the river (which while disruptive to the scenery doesn't have a bad odor).  There are a number of unusual basalt rock formations, the best of these around the Bowl and Pitcher which you'll probably not have much time to study as this is where the roughest Class III water of the journey is and you'll need to concentrate on your paddling (head back later to study these rocks as they're quite unique).  There's lots of ponderosa pine forests and we saw several osprey nests (including some with chicks in them).  Other wildlife is often seen, including deer, moose and bald eagles.  The Centennial Trail winds along part of the river for those who'd rather walk or ride their bikes, instead of rafting.

All in all, a fun day!  We met some nice people, enjoyed the warm weather, water fights, and are grateful to Flow Adventures for a nice adventure in our backyard.  Will have to do it again sometime soon!

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Jon Wilmot on

Another fine day on the Spokane river

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