The second day of our Epic Road Trip had finished with a stay in Billings, Montana. We woke on day 3, refreshed and ready to continue our push to the coast. While we wish to explore more sections of Montana, we would have to put that idea on the backburner for now. Today’s schedule included a little over 9 hours of drive time with only one attraction stop in sight. Being early risers, we were on the road with the rising sun. We made great time with only a lunch break and a short stop in Wallace, Idaho. After stretching our legs with a walk around this mining town, we shot down the highway on our way to our first visit to Washington.
1) Riverfront Park
By the time we crossed over the state line, we were already feeling like we were in the city. I-90 runs along the south side of the Spokane River and we would be teased with distant views of the rolling waters. We exited the interstate and headed into the heart of the city. Just a few blocks in, we came to Riverfront Park. This home of the 1974 World’s Fair is a huge playground for visitors of all ages. The Rotary Fountain welcomed us into the green space that surrounds Spokane Falls. As we strolled the various pathways, we discovered a variety of sculptures and even a carousel. No wonder so many people were finding reasons to see Spokane Falls.
2) Salmon Runs
For centuries, Native Indians would gather at the falls in June. This would mark the annual migration of Chinook salmon. Standing on platforms assembled over the falls, they would spear the fish that could run as big as 80 lbs. The harvest involved a variety of tribes, who worked together in harmony. Each season a Salmon Chief was chosen, who would oversee the harvest and distribution of the catch. While the men were busy with the harvest, the women would have the vital task of preserving the catch. All of this would cease with the construction of dams downstream. It was only a hint of days gone by that allowed us to imagine these giant creatures navigating the path upstream.
3) The History of Spokane Falls
The Native Indians would enjoy the use of this area well into the late 1800s. In 1873, the first settlement was created near Spokane Falls. The fertile lands of eastern Washington attracted settlers and the village grew. The life giving waters were the heart of the new city. Lumber became an important product and a sawmill built along the falls was the central feature to its success. A devastating fire struck the burgeoning town in 1889. Like a phoenix, the city rose from the ashes, as the structures were replaced with brick buildings. In 1908, the first dams were built along the Spokane River, which signaled the end of the Salmon Run here.
4) Changing Views
Like so many American cities, urban sprawl created a vacuum in the inner city, during the early 1970s. By this point, the area around Spokane Falls was an unsightly assemblage of warehouses, parking lots, and railroad crossings. It would be the 1974 World’s fair that opened the opportunity to revitalize this section of the downtown. Agreements were made with the railroads, and soon the land was razed for new development. The positives provided by the revitalization were short-term gains, and interest waned in the area during the 1980s. A renewed approach was begun in the late 1990s, and continues today. It includes an open-air arena that hosts various events throughout the year.
More Reasons to See Spokane Falls
With our evening lodging just an hour down the road, we had time to explore Riverfront Park and the falls. The more we wandered, we realized there are lots of reasons to see Spokane Falls. A nearby SkyRide provides aerial views of the waterworks. We chose to stay grounded, as we made our way upstream. Beyond the falls, we came upon the portion that has still water. While it appears unmoving, we could see a powerful current below the surface. All around us were landscaped parks that beckoned visitors to slow down and enjoy the views. This is certainly a place we would love to visit again.