The new Downtown Spokane River Access Point opens this week. Located directly under the Division Street Bridge off of the Centennial Trail on the south side of the Spokane River, the launch provides canoers, kayakers, and paddleboarders convenient water access in downtown Spokane. I launched the Riverkeeper canoe there this week for my weekly litter pickup and thought I would give you a quick guide to the Division Street Boat Launch.
The launch provides walk up access to the water on a six foot wide gently sloping gravel path making it easy to launch canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. However, vessels without paddles such as inner tubes and small rafts should not be launched here because the upper falls dam is directly downstream of the launch (in fact it is illegal to float west of the Division Street Bridge). Large rafts and boats cannot be launched here as well.
Parking: I unloaded my canoe at the Courtyard by Marriott, which is the closest parking lot to the access point. I checked with the front desk and they are happy to let river users load and unload gear in their parking lot, but do not allow parking for non hotel users. After unloading, I parked at the metered all day on street parking on Spokane Falls Blvd. and Pine ($1 per 2.5 hours, bring change). If you are just out for a quick paddle, one hour free parking is located on E. Olive Way, in front of the Marriott. Alternately, the Convention Center has covered pay parking in its parking garage or you could park in one of the many lots operated by Diamond parking near the River Access.
Using the River Access Point: I quickly navigated the stairs and ramps down to the River Access lugging our 80 pound canoe. After that it is an easy walk down to the Spokane River on the graveled ramp. This year water levels in the Spokane River are very low, creating a perfect low current environment to launch our canoe. I simply placed the canoe in the water, donned my PFD, and paddled away. I didn't want to set my canoe down on the rocks at the bottom of the ramp and risk dinging it. During higher flows or high winds an anchor or rope would be handy to prevent your vessel from drifting away.
On the Water Experience: From the River Access Point, you must paddle upstream (east) to avoid the Upper Falls dam. However, there are plenty of warning signs so don't worry about getting confused. Traveling east along the river is a serene, flat water experience, with little current and incredibly clear water. No rapids exist in this stretch of water, making it an ideal place to paddle. I saw numerous trout rise and plenty of large sucker fish on the rocky river bottom. The riverbank along this stretch of the Spokane River is tree lined and somewhat steep, with the views of the Centennial Trail and the occasional office building. The aquifer feeds this part of the Spokane River, creating remarkably cold and clear water. I easily paddled up to the No-Li brewery and back in about 2.5 hours, stopping to pick up some litter along the way.
Summary: The Downtown Spokane River Access Point provides a very easy way for canoers, kayakers, or paddleboarders to get a quick paddle in on a unique stretch of the River. Opening this stretch of river allows easy access for people working downtown a great lunchtime (or pre/post work) paddle. From almost anywhere in downtown Spokane you can be on the River in minutes!