9 Ways to Explore the Spokane River Water Trail

The Spokane River is a trail, 111 miles long, offering something for everybody, in every season: soaking up nature along the Centennial Trail, the excitement of hooking a native trout, rafting the Bowl and Pitcher, swimming or soaking up some sun on the riverbank.

While finding the river is pretty straight forward, accessing the river for recreation can take a little looking into. Fortunately, the Spokane River Forum’s online interactive map and resource guide has made finding the growing list of river access locations and recreation facilities easier than ever.

Navigating the River Trail @ Spokanewatertrail.org

The Spokane River Water Trail online map identifies 24 access sites along the river. The website (www.spokanewatertrail.org) offers all the information you will need to explore the water trail and safely find more outdoor recreation fun on or along the river. Each access site is pinpointed, labeled and has pictures, directions and other information. The map features an easy-to-use filter with 15 different categories you can search for, like swimming, fishing, and RV camping, along with other searchable features such as restrooms.

You can also search for specific information covering what sections of the river might be best for whatever activity or information you’re looking for, like the appropriate flow or the experience levels necessary to navigate different sections of the river. For example, when you search for fishing information there are options for more information on fish species found at different sections of the river, ideal flow levels and links to fishing regulations. Because all rivers can be as dangerous as they are fun, river safety is also covered under the “Safety and River Flows” menu option, with information on dams, rafting, whitewater and flows. (Of course it is each individual’s own responsibility to read the rules, know their ability levels and use appropriate safety measures).

The river trail website is also the best place to go to search for information about the growing number of river recreation related clubs, organizations and outfitters that are getting out on the river with more frequency. Learn about and connect with groups like the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club and Northwest Whitewater Association; guided rafting, paddling, tubing and fishing adventures with outfitters like FLOW Adventures, ROW and Silver Bow Fly Shop; organizations offering classes and to learn various river recreation techniques and skills; and agencies like Spokane Parks and Recreation that offer a wide range of experiences on and along the river that you can sign up for. If your time on the river inspires you to help protect and restore the river, look under “Stewardship” to find out how to pitch in with others on a river-enhancing project.

Go with the flow on a tubing trip. Photo courtesy of FLOW Adventures
Go with the flow on a tubing trip. Photo courtesy of FLOW Adventures

The Making of a River Trail

Conceived in 2009 after a series of “Meet Me at the River” excursions, it became clear to a consortium of river advocates that public access to the Spokane River was limited and inadequate. The key to connecting people to the rich fishing, floating, boating, swimming, hiking and biking resource along the Spokane River corridor is developing access and the awareness of access. The Spokane River Forum, a non-profit clearinghouse of river-related resources and a catalyst of innovative initiatives that sustain a healthy river, has taken the lead in developing both.

Spokane River Forum Executive Director Andy Dunau notes that the organization has helped develop and restore six access sites so far, with four more in the works. SRF worked with the Spokane County Conservation District in 2014 to complete a access site at State Line, and they are supporting Spokane Parks and Recreation to create a river recreation take-out under the Division Street Bridge that could be ready by mid-summer. The SRF is also working with partners to create public river access at The Islands Trailhead and repair the stream bank.

“There’s so much to do on this amazing river, and it doesn’t get used to its potential,” says Travis Nichols, veteran Spokane River kayaker. There may be bumper to bumper inner tubes on the river between Barker Road and Mirabeau during the summer months, but, as Nichols notes, “It’s not over crowded when people act respectfully at put-ins and take-outs, don’t bring glass containers to the riverbank and clean up after themselves.” At the same time, Nichols points out that the river offers unexpected solitude. “There are miles and miles of fishing capacity where you can be completely alone.”

Urban fly fishing on the Spokane River. Photo courtesy of Michael Visintainer
Urban fly fishing on the Spokane River. Photo courtesy of Michael Visintainer

Your Spokane River Water Trail Bucket List — 9 Things to Do on the River This Summer

Most of us live near enough to the Spokane River to see it or bike or drive over it regularly, and all of us can find ways to enjoy this amazing recreational resource more often. Use the Spokane River Water Trail map to learn more about each of these activities and find the right information to get you out on the Spokane River this summer. Start exploring at Spokanewatertrail.org.

1. River Tubing: For family fun on the river come mid-summer, grab your own tubes and hit the stretch between Harvard Road and Mirabeau in Spokane Valley. Or rent tubes and get a shuttle from local outfitter FLOW Adventures and enjoy the scenery, wildlife and fun on the lower river between Peaceful Valley and T.J. Meenach Bridge.

2. Whitewater Rafting: Get your adrenaline fix rafting class III and IV rapids through Riverside State Park between the T.J. Meenach Bridge and Plese Flats. Use the Spokane River Water Trail map resources page to find guides that can take you through it all safely. There are many options to experience the unique view of the world from the river, from a thrilling whitewater ride through Devil’s Toenail to an urban happy hour float.

3. Boat Camping: Stay overnight at AVISTA’s new Lake Spokane (aka Long Lake) boat-in campground. Managed by Riverside State Park and located on Lake Spokane upstream of Long Lake Dam, enjoy a secluded, beautiful lake-side camping experience with your boat amazingly close to Spokane.

4. Roll or Stroll along the River: The Centennial Trail extends over 37 miles, urban or wild, along the Spokane River, from the Idaho/Washington Stateline to Nine Mile Falls Dam. Try hiking, biking, or longboarding through the especially scenic, wilder and woodsy stretches of the trail from the T.J. Meenach Bridge to Nine Mile Falls Dam.

5. Fish for Native Trout: Fly fish for redband trout on the upper and lower stretches of the river, although your best odds are floating or wading the miles of river below downtown Spokane. Take a class from a local fly shop to get started or hire a local guide to show you the best flies and holes.

6. Whitewater Kayaking or River Surfing: If you have the experience and equipment, flip, roll and surf your play boat at the Trailer Park wave just above Corbin Park and below the Post Falls Dam. A new access site recently purchased and developed by Avista, including parking and an improved trail, makes playing at Trailer Park so much easier.

7. Expand Your River Skills: Expand your horizons by taking a class. Learn to stand up paddleboard (SUP), roll a kayak, paddle whitewater or how to cast for trout with a fly rod. Find the clubs and outfitters that offer classes on the river trail website.

8. Stand Up and Paddle: For a scenic, mellow stand up paddleboarding tour, try the stretch from Plese Flats to the new Avista take-out above Nine Mile Dam.

9. Go Swimming: For a simple, total immersion experience, go swimming in the Spokane River this summer! Grab your towel and sunscreen and use the river trail map to find the best swimming spots with amenities like restrooms. Particular reaches of the Spokane River are recharged from the aquifer, so be prepared for a breathtaking shock of cold water. Some stretches of the river, including those highlighted for swimming on the water trail map, can be safer for swimming than other areas with faster moving water. Always use caution and wear a personal floatation device (PFD) when you’re out in the water. //


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