I’m an armchair sailor, a landlubber at heart. So, on my first run down the Spokane River, with its few yet mighty class-3+ rapids, I opted for a guided rafting expedition with ROW Adventures. Consummate professionals, the guides explained things ahead of time. We practiced rowing in unison on dry land before we jumped into our rafts at the put-in spot, below T.J. Meenach Bridge. “Row, row, row!” our guide, Amber, yelled. I rowed with all my heart, like my life depended on it. I perspired impressively, already overheating in my drysuit. Soon the first rapids approached. We could hear their roar, like a mad crowd at a stadium. We paddled left, then paddled right and plunged into a gap to the left of a basalt boulder. “ROW!”
I grew up visiting the Bowl and Pitcher, gazing over the wooden Great-Depression-era suspension bridge at the roaring rapids, so the view from the water would be unique compared to my normal vantage point from dry land. My only previous rafting trips included the Clark Fork a few years back, and the White Salmon 15 years before that. Last summer, I finally tubed the popular stretch of the Spokane River for the first time, and I knew that the river view is unlike any other in Eastern Washington. It was only possible to get that view by being there in the water, constantly moving downstream.
The slow stretches between rapids were made exciting by friendly water fights, a fun way to pass the time in the sluggish parts. I preferred the relaxation of the calm, however, and let my head tilt back and watched the trees glide past upside-down so that their wavering reflections slid by oddly upright. Rafting can bring a kind of mind-expanding kaleidoscope effect brought on by the ever-changing, passing landscape.
I enjoyed the unequalled opportunity to closely examine the Spokane River’s sandy slopes contrasting with sections where we felt dwarfed beneath towering basalt cliffs. Passing through these sections of our landscape at river level provided a better understanding of the geology and river corridor ecosystem. At Plese Flats, we paddled to shore and hauled the rafts up, peeled ourselves out of our now sloshing “dry” suits and helped ourselves to a cooler of complimentary drinks. // (Nick Thomas)