Spokane, Washington, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||15 fpm|
|SPOKANE RIVER AT SPOKANE, WA|
|usgs-12422500||2000 - 30000 cfs||II-III+||00h21m||2520 cfs (running)|
Although it is in the city limits, the Spokane River has a feel of wilderness as the majority of the run goes through Riverside State Park, a 14,000 acre park along the shores of the river. The river cascades over the dramatic Upper and Lower Spokane Falls in the center of downtown Spokane.
The first access downstream of the falls in Peaceful Valley is the start of a four mile float
with a few riffles and swift current down to T.J. Menach Bridge. The area around the Sandifur
pedestrian bridge, has been considered as the site for a whitewater park. Use caution as you
approach the bridge abutments which have resulted in wrapped boats of inattentive paddlers.
From the stanard put-in for the T.J. Menach Bridge, which is the standard put-in for the whitewater run, it is a leisurely float for 1.5 miles. The first small set of waves occurs just around the first left turn. Depending on flows, there are an occasional catch-on-the run playwaves. At the bottom of this rapid there is a unique little playhole us locals call the "poop-hole." So named due to its proximity to the water treatment plant (no poop here!). This can be a fun little warm-up when the level is right (~11,000).
This is followed by more slow water past the treatment plant. There is a utility bridge overhead that has the sign "dangerous rapids ahead - take-out 300 yards." This marks the entry to the campground area of Riverside State park. The take out here is quite far from the first major rapid the "Bowl and Pitcher." There is an access trail on river right and can be used either to take out here or scout the B&P. You are much better off scouting the B&P on the shuttle by entering the campground and going to the suspension walk bridge which puts you right in the middle of the B&P. There are numerous viewpoints around the park to get a feel for this drop. Pay particular attention to river left below the bridge as there is a nasty "room of doom" here that can be lethal at certain flows.
From the overhead utility bridge, more slow moving water as you enter the B&P area. When the water picks up speed, you'll enter a 200 yard wavetrain that at around 6,000 - 9,500 cfs produces a great little surfwave we call the ledge wave. It is on river left about half way through this rapid. There is a small eddy just above a large basalt outcropping and can be used to enter the ledge. Beware that on entering this eddy that the basalt wall is slightly undercut and the currents difficult to judge. (firsthand knowledge)
After this you will flow around a slow right turn and be able to see the suspension bridge. There are numerous waves and occasional holes on entry, so plan ahead at higher flows to work middle to river right to avoid the previously mentioned hazard on river left. At flows above 7500, the bridge wave begins to appear and gets to be quite a large, super fast surf at higher flows. There is a recovery eddy below the bridge on river right. Below the viewpoint lookout above you, there is a nice playhole depending on flow.
The river then makes a sharp right turn and enters slower moving water for 1/4 mile. The next turn left you'll come to another wavetrain that is straight forward, yielding an occasional surf wave also caught on the run. Halfway through this rapid, there is another red warning sign. The current slows on its' approach to the next major rapid, the "Devil's Toenail." This can also be scouted on the shuttle by using the pullout 1 mile below the campground. The run is typically on the right, but can be run middle or left depending on skill, flows. Beware of the large hole that takes up the river left above 15000cfs!
There is a slight break then more waves and holes that again can be great fun depending on flows for the next 1/3 mile. At flows above 20,000 cfs, beware of what I like to call "CYCLOPS"! This nasty hole is barely discernable from above if you are leisurely floating the middle of the river. There is only a small deceptive pillow wave before it drops into this horrendo reversal. At normal flows (<10,000cfs), "Cyclops" is a large basalt island that sits 6-8 feet out of the water and provides a fun squirtin' spot in its' eddies. See the photo of "Cyclops". HOWEVER, at certain higher flows, this hole becomes one super large, relatively surfable wave/hole (see pics). Sadly, there is no eddy service for this feature, it may take 1/4 mile to find suitable exit and the hike/put-in requires some effort.
From here to the rifle club is slow water, then a set of small waves below the rifle club. From
here to the takeout, sit back and enjoy the wildlife. Eagles, osprey, blue heron, beaver and deer
can be seen if you're lucky. The takeout is on river right 2 miles below the
There are several access points for this run from sites in downtown Spokane all the way to Nine Mile Dam. The standard run is T.J. Menach Bridge to Plese Flats but here are the access points from upstream to downstream.
Peaceful Valley: In downtown Spokane the first access downstream of the dramatic Spokane Falls is Peaceful Valley Park under the Maple Street Bridge. Drive to the end of West Water Avenue where you will find good low beach access to the river. Don't block the gate.
T.J. Menach Bridge: A recently developed parking area with river access just downstream of the T.J.Menach bridge on river right. This is a gated lot that is opened by the Spokane Parks department and was a cooperative effort by the city and the boating community.
Disc Golf Course: This access point is used by kayakers as a put-in closer to the start of the best whitewater. Park at the pull-out at the start of the Aubrey L. White Parkway and walk down to the river.
Poop Plant Access: Access at the downstream end of the sewage treatment plant has a rough ramp. This access serves as a take-out for those who just want a class II float or a put-in for those who want a short run that includes the two class III rapids.
Bowl and Pitcher: River access is not available in Riverside State Park's Bowl and Pitcher Area but you can park in the day use area and hike across the suspension bridge to scout the rapids.
Plese Flats: The Plese Flats Day Use Area in Riverside State Park is the standard take-out where the slackwater of the reservoir begins. In addition to river access, it is a picnic area and there are restrooms. Be mindful of closing time when park staff shut the gate. To reach this site you drive along the north side of the river on the Aubrey L. White Parkway in Riverside State Park past the campground and rifle club.
Nine Mile Dam: A new access at Nine Mile Dam on the south side of the reservoir near the dam was recently constructed to provide an option for flatwater paddlers who want to boat from Plese Flats down to the dam.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-73.2||Peaceful Valley Access||N/A|
|-68.1||Disc Golf Course Access||N/A|
|-67.1||Poop Plant Access||N/A|
|-66.2||Bowl and Pitcher||III|
Dramatic waterfall in downtown Spokane harnessed for hydropower. No access at the base of the falls so you will need to use one of the access points downstream.
This is an alternate put-in and the furthest upstream in downtown Spokane under the Maple Street Bridge.
This is a good intermediate access used by kayakers that gives you a couple class II rapids before you approach the pool plant.
This access serves as a take-out for those who just want a class II float or a put-in for those who want a short run that includes the two class III rapids.
Stay to the right and avoid the stuff on far river left.
The conservative line is river right but watch out for holes. Additional slots between the boulders depending on flows and wood hazards. Some fun playboating can be found in this rapid.
Ninemile Dam, constrcuted in 1908, backs up a reservoir that extends upstream to Plese Flat which is the take-out for the whitewater run. Flatwater paddling is an option from the standard take-out down the reservoir to the dam.