Spokane River Restored Access Points
Aug 11, 2023
In April 2020, the Spokane Conservation District (SCD) visited Spokane River Access locations in order to photograph and visually assess the condition of access points during a heavy use period. Updates are presented from East to West, with any SCD work on particular locations called out.
Many of these accesses are either new or restored based on partnerships created by SCD and the Spokane River Forum (the Forum). SCD and the Forum are now working on regular assessments to determine when additional maintenance and improvements are needed. Annually, the Forum also sponsors and coordinates regular litter cleanup activities that SCD participates in.
In general, the Spokane River has seen a large uptick in river use. This can be attributed to a number of factors that include 1) increased presence and marketing strategies by the Spokane River Forum, 2) partnerships and fundraising with government and non-government organizations, and 3) participation and involvement by user groups. Foundational to development and restoration activities is the SCD’s ability to implement projects and access improvements utilizing WDFW mitigation and other funding sources, and working with the Forum to leverage these funds. As one measure of popularity, the Forum maintained Spokane River Water Trail website (www.spokanewatertrail.org) has received between 30 and 35 thousand page views annually since 2017.
The SCD restored 800 feet of Spokane River shoreline at the Stateline boat launch and access using WDFW mitigation funding in 2013. This access can support rafts, drift boats and smaller boats. At the time, the property was not being actively managed and was suffering from informal vehicle access and foot traffic trails. This resulted in significant shoreline vegetation damage and noxious weed problems. The informal boat ramp had significant ruts and damage from years of abuse and lack of maintenance. Additionally, the site was prone to significant illicit activities due to the lack of maintenance and improved facilities.
In 2013 the SCD worked with the Spokane River Forum, Washington State Department of Transportation, and Washington State Parks to develop a maintenance agreement for the long term improvement of the site. Once this was finalized, the SCD implemented the restoration. This included defining and improving the roadway and boat launch, defining a clear parking area, installing fencing, eradicating noxious weeds, installing native plants, and overseeding with native grasses. Plants were watered for three years to help with establishment. In addition, the parking area with easy access to the Centennial Trail has proven very popular.
Since installation, the SCD has observed numerous positive changes in the area. Recreational use has greatly increased, with many different types of river users, from families of tubers to skilled whitewater kayakers and fishermen with drift boats regularly using the space. The native plant life is now thriving on its own, with the upland grass stand doing even better than we could have hoped for. Of particular note, the streamside vegetation is coming back very well and filling in the areas previously damaged with vehicle and foot traffic. A large lesson learned here was that guiding people to positive access locations is the real secret to having a successful shoreline restoration.
The Harvard Road access was improved in 2008 by the Washington Department of Ecology as part of cleaning up nine beaches contaminated with heavy metals from historic mining practices in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Basin that washed downstream and settled in soil and sediment along these beaches.
In conjunction with parking, the access supports drift boats and rafts as well as smaller boats. The access point focuses on pedestrians’ put-in and takeout activity. By doing so, reduces the footprint of users to the site and decreases the impact on the shoreline habitat.
The Barker road access was improved in 2011 by the Spokane River Forum, SCD, and Washington Department of Ecology. After the City of Spokane Valley completion of the Barker Bridge replacement project, the access needed formalization by installing an improved gravel walkway, shoreline stabilization and riparian vegetation replacement. This also included Ecology installing a cap to address heavy metals contamination.
Since installation, the walkway and access point have proven very popular, and the riparian vegetation has done well. Unfortunately, the upland vegetation has been cut down since installation by unknown parties. Despite this vandalism, the access remains popular with kayaks, tubers, and catarafts frequenting this location. This access only needs light maintenance and is monitored by the Forum and various user groups.
Sullivan Park was restored in 2017 and 2018 in conjunction with the City of Spokane Valley Sullivan Bridge Replacement. The park has two access points, one near the bridge and another less formal access approximately 500 yards downstream, both on the north bank side. Both access points are for smaller boats and pedestrians only.
The SCD was responsible for restoring the shoreline on the North Bank as part of the mitigation efforts for the bridge replacement and habitat destruction. The north shore bank restoration utilized large boulders that were unearthed during bridge construction. Together with a post and rail fence, the boulders work in tandem to guide foot traffic to either of the river access points. After installation of the fence and removal of large litter, the SCD worked with students from the West Valley Learning Center to install plants in the now protected bank in the fall of 2018. These plants are being watered by the City of Spokane Valley’s contractors and is still being monitored yearly by the SCD for survivability. The area surrounding the access points, Sullivan Park, was restored and improved and has seen an increase in daily visitors and users to this scenic stretch of the river.
The Spokane River Forum restored the Mirabeau Park Access in 2014. This site is for small boat and pedestrian access only.
Improvements included restoration of a gravel pathway, noxious weed removal, seeding to restore native upland grasses, and fencing to protect upland vegetation. Runoff from the parking area that was creating continued pathway erosion was fixed by the Forum in 2016.
The SCD worked with the Spokane River Forum and Washington State Parks to restore 500 feet of shoreline and install a slide rail boat launch on a steep bank of the Spokane River. This included SCD receiving funding from the Recreation Conservation Office for the first time to support restoration activities.
The slide rail has created access that is suitable for drift boats, rafts, smaller boats, and pedestrians. The rail works in tandem with an individual’s personal winch system to help hoist heavy boats out of the river. This project combined restoration of the native habitat, and hardening of the access, which has helped improve the riparian function by reducing runoff and erosion of the degraded shoreline habitat. This property receives numerous visitors daily due to its centennial trail access proximity and the beautiful access to the Coyote Rocks area in the river. The restored plants at this site are still establishing, with help from the installed fence to discourage foot and vehicle traffic along the top of the bank. Weed management and vandalism continues to be an issue, but we are seeing improvements in the streambank erosion issue and the volume of river users continues to increase. This project opened up 6 miles of the Spokane River that was otherwise unfloatable by heavy drift boats and the fishing community has been particularly happy about its installation.
The Redband Park Boat Launch and River access is another slide access, and the most upstream point to access the lower part of the Spokane River from downtown. The access beautifully links the downtown core to the river and allows users to lower non-motorized boats of any size down into the water to drift away from the confines of urban life. The SCD had the slide rail designed for the park with input from the various user groups and the Forum. Similar in design to the Islands Trailhead Launch, this access allows larger boats to be winched down slowly into the river with the help of the smooth rails, decreasing bank erosion and minimizing the impact of the put-in. The design was then implemented by the City of Spokane with funding from the Forum and opened in the fall of 2018.
The Water street access is unimproved access located in Peaceful Valley. This access has limited parking, but has a very shallow grade to the water and can easily be enjoyed by users with mobility issues. Parking at this location is a bit of an issue, and users who are able are encouraged to access the river upstream at the newly improved Redband Park.
The TJ Meenach access is an unimproved access located east of the TJ Meenach Bridge. This land is owned the City of Spokane and managed by their Parks and Recreation Department. This access has limited parking and is not ADA accessible. It is suitable for rafts and smaller boats as well as pedestrians. The City has created a master plan for restoration of this area as part of their green bond and CSO tank replacement activities.
Aubrey White Parkway
The Aubrey White Parkway Boat Launch access is located on the City of Spokane Property adjacent to Riverside State Park. The launch was first improved in 2016 by the Spokane Conservation District and Spokane River Forum with funding from Innovia and the city utilities department. The site saw significant use over the next 2 years, enough to warrant an upgrade to the very steep bank and a more permanent paved approach to the takeout. The Forum returned and funded the upgrade to pave the launch as part of finalizing maintenance on the property.
This access is appropriate for non-motorized boats of all sizes. It serves as the last takeout for users who put in upstream but do not wish to participate in running the rapids of Bowl and Pitcher, as well as the most convenient put in for those adventure seekers who are looking to shred the gnar through the Spokane River’s only Class III rapids.
The Plese Flats river access is an excellent choice for flatwater river access in Riverside State Park. The access is maintained by Washington State Parks.
Nine Mile Dam
The Nine Mile Dam access is located in the slack water immediately upstream of the Nine-Mile Dam. Avista created this access as part of implementing the recreational component of their license to operate Spokane River hydroelectric projects. The launch is suitable for smaller boats and rafts.
Confluence with Little Spokane River
The boat launch at the confluence of the Little Spokane River and Spokane River continues to be a popular put-in and take-out point for flat water adventurers. This launch is managed by Washington State Parks and can accommodate trailers and larger boats.