Water Flows

Spokane River

The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River, approximately 111 miles (179 km) long, in northern Idaho and eastern Washington in the United States. It drains a low mountainous area east of the Columbia, passing through the city of Spokane, Washington. The Spokane River drains the northern part of Lake Coeur d'Alene in the Idaho Panhandle, emptying into the Columbia River at Lake Roosevelt, approximately 180km downstream. From Lake Coeur d'Alene, the Spokane River traverses the Rathdrum Prairie until reaching Post Falls, Idaho where it passes over a dam, and a natural 40-foot waterfall. Continuing westward, it later passes over 5 more dams, four of which are located in the city of Spokane. In Spokane, it flows over the Spokane Falls, which are located in the heart of Downtown Spokane, approximately one third of the way down the rivers length. About a mile later, the river receives Latah Creek from the southeast. Soon afterwards, it is met from the northeast by the Little Spokane River, on the western edge of the city of Spokane. It flows in a zigzag course along the southern edge of the Selkirk Mountains, forming the southern boundary of the Spokane Indian Reservation, where it is impounded by the Little Falls Dam to form Long Lake, a 15 mi (24 km) reservoir. It joins Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake on the Columbia from the east at Miles. The site of historic Fort Spokane is located at the mouth of the river on the Columbia.

The Spokane River's entire drainage basin is about 6,240 square miles (16,200 km2) large, of which 3,840 square miles (9,900 km2) are above Post Falls Dam at the outlet of Coeur d'Alene Lake. Its mean annual discharge is 7,946 cubic feet per second (225 m3/s).

After the Northern Pacific Railway lines arrived in Spokane in 1882, there was rapid growth in milling operations along the river. Many of these mills required dams to provide power for their machinery. As a result of the dams blocking the river, salmon populations in the Spokane plummeted, leading to complaints from many of the people living upstream. After the construction of Long Lake Dam in 1915 by Washington Water Power blocked upstream passage, the river's salmon populations disappeared completely. Steelhead were also abundant on the Spokane River, prior to pollution and the construction of the dams. Today, the Spokane River system is one of the two largest unoccupied stretches of steelhead habitat within their former range.

Today, the Spokane River supports populations of rainbow trout, northern pikeminnow, and Bridgelip Suckers (Catostomus columbianus), as well as several non-native species. Many of the remaining fish, however, are not suitable for human consumption due to the chemical pollution in the river, with signs alongside the river warning that the fish are contaminated with PCBs.

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