The Creation of the Falls: The Indian Falls

You are now looking at the Lower Falls of the Spokane River. This site was important in both the legends and daily lives of the Spokane, the Coeur d'Alene and others in this region.

In one story, the Spokane River and its gorge were formed when an imprisoned monster broke free of its bonds near the Columbia River and cut a scar in the earth as it fled to Lake Coeur d'Alene. In another, a Coeur d'Alene woman rejected the romantic interest of Coyote. Unable to get help from the Spokane or the Kalispel in seducing or kidnapping the woman, the trickster used magic to build a barrier between the salmon and the Coeur d'Alene people.

The last legend reveals a little of the importance of the falls as a gathering place for fish and people during salmon runs. Blocked by the falls, salmon congregated in the gravel beds of the Spokane River to spawn. For thousands of years, this mass of fish drew people to catch them. Once speared, fish could be laid out onto frames and smoked or skewered and then roasted close to a fire.

Like Kettle Falls and Celilo Falls, these falls drew people from such a long distance that a regular route existed between here and the upper stretches of the Pend d'Oreille River. This "Skeetshoo Road," as the first white visitors dubbed it, connected the Kalispel to the Spokane and the Coeur d'Alene, the three peoples mentioned in the Coeur d'Alene legend.

But it wasn't Coyote who finally blocked all of the salmon runs on the Spokane River, but Long Lake Dam. Built in 1915, this dam cut off fish from the falls, ending utterly a way of life and leaving only the memory of salmon.