Like most of the landscape in Eastern Washington, the South Hill Bluffs in Spokane reveal the incredible influence of Lake Missoula’s ice dam that broke apart and surged through the area around 20,000 years ago. The layers of clay, silt, and rock, can be seen in the ridges of the Bluffs all along the valley.
Today, evidence of the flood waters can also be seen in fossilized vegetation as well as present day flora throughout the Bluffs. Native wildflowers include sunflowers, buttercups and yellow bells, as well as plants that provided rich sources of food to the local tribes in the form of roots, berries, herbs and seeds. Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Biscuitroot and Bunchgrass are still seen in abundance along the trails that wind through the Bluffs from High Drive downwards.
Though the Spokane Tribe members that once used these resources were forcibly dispossessed and relocated by the federal government in the late 19th century, many Spokanes still visit and live in the area. The plants and flowers now provide food and shelter for various animals and birds. Just recently, Black bear scat was found along one of the trails and there is also occasional evidence of coyotes as well as the more familiar sightings of raccoons, skunks and porcupines. As more people use the trails, whether hiking or biking, it’s important to maintain a balance that allows dog walkers and nature lovers to peacefully coexist with native wildlife.
The Friends of the Bluffs help preserve this balance by keeping the trails clearly marked, cutting back overhanging or encroaching vegetation, and preserving the surrounding habitat.