Avista’s North Shore

February 17, 2022

By Mitchell Clark, Conservancy Volunteer

A view from Avista’s North Shore property

In December of 2021, Avista Utilities and Inland Northwest Land Conservancy agreed to create a conservation agreement, protecting land along the north shore of Lake Spokane. This area is full of natural beauty, fishing and boating opportunities, and miles of trails where you can soak in gorgeous views (even on overcast winter days).

The agreement covers roughly 546 acres in Stevens County, northwest and downriver of Nine Mile Falls and downtown Spokane. This area had previously been open to public access and now, in addition to making sure that the forests in the area are managed for fire prevention and the mitigation of invasive plants, the Conservancy and Avista are ensuring that the property will never become yet another subdivision dotting the lakeside. This protects not only the scenery around Lake Spokane, but the plants and animals that call the north shore their home. 

Humans can also enjoy the north shore. Most of the land is open for the public to use during the day. There are also several campsites for overnight use. Recreation areas are accessible by both land and water. Down on the shore, people can swim, fish, boat, or hang around on an inner tube, and the land between the parking areas and lake offers plenty of opportunities to bike and hike. While recreation is not a central focus for conservation projects with Inland Northwest Land Conservancy, the added benefit for the public makes this partnership all that much more exciting.

The North Shore has no shortage of nature to preserve, as shown by a report done by the Conservancy. Animals, including bats to bobcats, elk, moose, and wolves, live among the Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and various native shrubs and grasses. Over 100 species of birds have also been spotted in the area — among them, bald eagles, great horned owls, turkey, and dozens of species of waterfowl, woodpeckers, sparrows, and flycatchers.

The native grasses, coyote, and rodents survive in the rugged landscape around the lake, defined by craggy cliffs and a mix of sandy and rocky shores. It was formed during the last Ice Age during the Missoula Floods, and the basalt cliffs are the result of torrents of water (normally held back by a Game of Thrones-esque ice dam) that would flood through the area, carving out a path through the volcanic rock.

The Long Lake Dam and power plant, which is surrounded by cliffs and forms the reservoir that is Lake Spokane.

Humans have long had an impact on the geology of the area. While not part of the agreement, the Long Lake Dam (which formed the reservoir that’s known as Long Lake or Lake Spokane when it was constructed in 1915) can be seen by boaters, people walking on the shore, or anyone who pulls over at an overlook, which also offers views of land protected by the agreement. 

The North Shore agreement isn’t the first partnership between Avista and Inland Northwest Land Conservancy. Their relationship actually goes back to the late 90s when the Conservancy helped the power company make sure its hydro-electric dams (like the one at Lake Spokane) are operated in a sustainable manner, in accordance with the regulations laid down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They also have a conservation agreement that protects the southern shores of Lake Spokane.

In 2018, the Conservancy worked with Avista to create an agreement to protect Sacheen Springs, an incredible wetlands ecosystem that also feeds into the Little Spokane River. Avista has also been an important part of the Make Beacon Hill Public Project, a plan to connect Esmeralda Golf Course, Minnehaha Park, John H. Shields Park, and Camp Sekani Park and preserve dozens of miles of trail. 

As with Beacon Hill, many of the projects the Conservancy has led or been involved with are well-known (and well-loved) by the community because they provide places to hike, bike, picnic, and just generally spend time outdoors. While the north shore of Lake Spokane provides those opportunities, it is an opportunity to protect land for the future, making sure that wildlife has homes, that our water and air are clean, and that the iconic outdoor lifestyle of the Inland Northwest can continue. 

Inland Northwest Land Conservancy helps protect many areas like the North Shore, throughout eastern Washington, and the Idaho panhandle. While not all those places offer the recreation opportunities that can be found around Lake Spokane, they are all an important part of keeping our local environment healthy for years to come.

For more information about how to enjoy all the recreational benefits of Lake Spokane, visit myavista.com/storymap/spokaneriver/index.html