A World Away

September 2, 2021

by Heidi Lasher, Conservancy Volunteer

If you’ve paddled on the Little Spokane, you know its magic. You know how it tucks you into its green folds and whisks you away from the modern world. You know also how the river distorts time, turning an otherwise hurried day into a luxurious stretch of time in which a motionless heron can command your whole attention. You know the sound that a paddle makes, when it plies through water, sending your canoe skimming over the smooth surface. You know what it’s like to stop thinking about appointments and driving directions and deadlines and drop into the present moment and wonder why it feels so long since you’ve been here and now.

A sunset over the Little Spokane River

In June of this year, Conservancy supporters Bob and Nancy Crotty and board president Tom Bradley and his daughter, Anne, joined staff member Todd Dunfield on their first-ever paddle down the Little Spokane River. “I’ve canoed a fair bit all over the country and I knew about the Little Spokane,” said Bradly who spent his career in the national park service and moved to Spokane about four years ago. “But I hadn’t yet been.”   

“It was peaceful and quiet,” said Nancy. She and Bob live on Latah Creek and have been exploring the outdoors since moving to Spokane in the 1970s, but until this June they, too, had never paddled the Little Spokane. “You’re isolated even though you’re close to suburbia and the city. That’s very unique for a heavily-used place.”

From left, Conservancy supporters Robert and Nancy Crotty, Community Conservation Manager Todd Dunfield, Conservancy Board President Tom Bradley and Anne Bradley

Over the course of the day, new friendships were forged and connections were made. Todd, an ardent historian, spoke about the natural history of the river and explained the importance of the river and its salmon to the native people of the region. Later in the summer, Todd would join other Conservancy staff and supporters, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and staff from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to release 51 adult chinook salmon into the Little Spokane River. The release marked the first time salmon have swum in the Little Spokane since dams blocked their passage 111 years ago.

“We are always learning about Spokane,” said Nancy. “The pearls are those areas that are being set aside. We need to keep looking for these areas that will not be turned into houses and shops and stores.”

Bob, who grew up in the Bronx, agreed. “We better protect it while we can,” he added. “If we don’t set aside more land now, then what’s going to be given to the next generation?”

The Conservancy has made it a priority to connect people to the land and provide opportunities to experience the tranquility and conviviality that can be found in natural places. “Places like Rimrock to Riverside and Saltese Uplands and Waikiki Springs are places we can get people on the land,” said Bradley. Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes natural spaces so special. “There was nothing dramatic about the day,” recalled Bradley. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, simply, “It was just lovely to be out on the water.”

Todd Dunfield leads regular outings and trail maintenance events with the Conservancy. These events (InlandNWLand.org/Events) are designed to give participants a unique view of lands we protect and an understanding of why they matter. Please join us!