Spokane Falls refers to the waterfalls and dams on the Spokane River in Spokane. The Falls encompass two waterfalls, the Upper and the Lower Falls, each with its own dam. The Upper Falls Dam is a diversion dam that was constructed in 1920 and directs water into the Upper Falls of the Spokane River. The power plant on the Upper Falls is capable of generating 10MW of hydroelectricity. The lower dam was completed in 1890, and it was the first dam in the Spokane River and stands as the longest running hydro-generating facility in the state of Washington. It has the capacity of generating 14.82 MW of hydroelectricity.
The Spokane Falls waterfall is located in the Riverfront Park in the heart of Spokane City, Washington. Spokane city owes its urbanization to the waterfall, which facilitated the boom of the lumber industry and turned what was a small settlement, into a town. Spokane has earned its place as an ecological space in the world, being the smallest town to host the World’s Fair in 1974 which was environmentally themed.
Settlement along the Spokane Falls waterfall started in 1871 after a sawmill powered by water was built on the Southern bank of the river. Before the settlement, the Spokane Falls had been a meeting for American Indians who fished for salmon. The Spokane Indians gave the falls its name which means "swift water." After the sawmill had been constructed, Spokane became home to a booming lumber industry. By the late 1940’s however, the waterfall had been subjected to severe industrial pollution. This situation resulted in an outcry from residents against the dumping of materials by the numerous lumber mills. The Riverfront Park was subsequently established, with environmental sustainability as the objective. Conservation efforts paid off as the waterfall is a major tourist destination in the city.
3. Habitat And Biodiversity
Previously home to abundant salmon, pollution in the Falls has rendered the fish almost non-existent in the water. The remaining fish species in the falls have been found unfit for human consumption, due to high levels of heavy metals detected in their tissue. Such fish species include the rainbow trout, brown trout, mountain fish and bridge lip sucker.
2. Tourism And Tourist Activities
The Spokane Falls waterfall attracts thousands of tourists annually, who significantly boost the city’s tourism sector. Tourists visiting the waterfall have a variety of vantage points to view the scenic natural phenomenon. There are several trails through the Riverfront Park that offer views of the water from different angles by foot. The more recently established park, Huntington Park offers a closer experience, with stairs that cut through the cascading water. Biking is also a popular tourism activity around the falls, with trails encompassing different parts of the parks. There is also the Spokane Falls SkyRide, renowned as one of the best global cable rides. The sky ride offers magnificent views, descending to 200 feet above the waterfall.
1. Threats And Conservation
The Spokane Falls waterfall is subjected to a marked decrease of water in the summer. This situation is caused by over pumping of water from the Spokane-Rathdrum Aquifer. The water is directed to the Avista’s Spokane power plant. More than 600 million gallons of water are pumped to the power plant on a daily basis The Spokane River, which feeds the falls, has been found to have high levels of heavy metals and poison such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and zinc. These metals are detrimental to people’s health and marine life as well. Government funds have been channeled to clean up mining wastes and to prevent sewage from flowing into the river.