Spokane Washington, an easy six hour drive from Portland, provides the visitor with many attractions and recreational opportunities. One of the major attractions is the Spokane Falls, the second largest urban waterfall (only next to Niagara Falls).
You’ll find beautiful Spokane Falls in the middle of downtown Spokane, Washington. This easy to reach series of waterfalls and dams along the Spokane River constitutes a major attraction. In fact, the city of Spokane was originally named Spokane Falls. That was back in the days when Indians gathered with their families along the river banks. This area is part of the ancestral homeland of the Spokane Tribe of the Salish people. The river once was a rich salmon fishing grounds.
Today, the Spokane River provides hydroelectric power through a series of dams along the River from Idaho through downtown Spokane and beyond. The downtown Monroe Street Hydroelectric Development has been producing electricity since 1890, longer than any other hydroelectric facility in the state of Washington. The falls and the large brick power house have been a long-standing Spokane landmark. I traveled to Spokane by train during my childhood and I can recall pulling slowly into the city at night, across a railroad bridge, and seeing the falls and lighted powerhouse. It was a sign that we had reached our destination and was always thrilling to see.
But it wasn’t until I returned many years later that I found that I could walk the many bridges over the downtown portion of the Spokane River, enjoy the Centennial Trail and even stop in to shop at the huge River Park Square. What used to be purely functional has become a recreation area for bikers, walkers, runners and Spokane area visitors. Families gather to picnic on the green, children ride the beautiful carousel and the entire urban parkway comes alive, especially on weekends.
Today, Spokane Falls is very accessible to visitors and is part of the downtown Riverfront Park. The falls draw tens of thousands of spectators throughout the year. The best time of the year to view the falls is in early spring when the winter run-off rages. I walked along the trail and crossed pedestrian bridges in mid-May and the falls were amazing! I stayed at a downtown hotel and was drawn to the falls each morning during my walk.
Not a walker? Another great view of the falls comes from the purple gondola cars of the Spokane Falls SkyRide. This ride would be especially good to take if you are not able to walk to the various viewpoints to overlook the falls. Catch the SkyRide in the park in back of River Park Square.
While you are enjoying the beauty of the river and the falls, stop and read the historical markers that will tell you the hydroelectric history of Spokane and even describes the tragic fire of 1889 that destroyed the downtown commercial area.
Today, the entire downtown area combines Spokane history and architecture with an exciting urban vibe. The Spokane River adds a bit of natural beauty and Spokane Falls will impress the visitor with their sheer power as the river winds its way through downtown.