The Spokane River

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View of the Spokane River

The Spokane River flows from its origin at Lake Coeur D'Alene to meet the Columbia near the former site of Fort Spokane. Over the course of its human history, the approximately 110 miles of river have been used for trade, irrigation, drinking water, industry, power generation and recreation. The historical development of the Spokane-Coeur D'Alene region has been intimately tied to the river and its aquifer, as the clustering of urban and agricultural communities along its length testifies. A prominent feature is a series of waterfalls in the heart of the city of Spokane.

Spokane Falls in winter

This sampling of black and white images chronicles the evolution of the river from the early years of photography in the Inland Northwest until the middle of the twentieth century. Images centered on the Upper and Lower Falls show the growth of the city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and their variety of uses by humans. The changing human landscape contrasts with the size and grandeur of the waterfalls.

Additional photographs in this collection document notable natural locations along the river's length, especially the so-called “Bowl and Pitcher” basalt formation. Located several miles downstream from the falls, this feature has been a popular picnic and recreation destination since the 19th century.

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Photographs for this digital collection are drawn from the photo files of the Northwest Room.