Expo '74 and Riverfront Park

Welcome to Riverfront Park, a beautiful stretch of land and river located in downtown Spokane. This hundred acre park sprawls across two islands and both shorelines, providing visitors with breathtaking views of both upper and lower Spokane Falls. But this natural oasis was once a tangled mess of steel and concrete. It was home to several railroad companies, whose unsightly tresses hid the river from view. In the 1960's, a determined group of citizens conceived to clean up the river and reclaim the falls by bringing a World's Fair to Spokane. In 1974, that unlikely vision became a reality as Spokane welcomed the citizens of the world to the inland northwest for Expo '74. The fair would eventually come to an end, but when it did Spokane was left with Riverfront Park, something to be enjoyed for decades to come. This tour tells the story of Expo '74, and how Spokane was able to reclaim its most captivating feature, the falls.

Expo '74 and the Creation of Riverfront Park

The Spokane River gorge has undergone many transformations in the last century. Don't be distracted by the roar of the falls; look at the riverfront. Until 2011, the trees, shrubs, and concrete remnants you see here were the former YMCA…

Rediscovering the River

How did Spokane get a hundred-acre park right in the middle of downtown? Riverfront Park was once a tangled mess of railroad tresses and industrial overgrowth. During the 1960s it was hard to even tell that a river flowed through the city because it…

The Father of the Fair

In 1974, a World's Fair helped Spokane remove unsightly railroads from its downtown riverfront and left Riverfront Park in its wake. Spokane was the smallest city to ever host a World's Fair, so it took the hard work of countless…

Cold War Thaw

The 1974 World's Fair took place against a backdrop of improving relations between the United States and Soviet Russia. In May of 1972, USSR officials and President Nixon signed an environmental accord contributing to a general thawing of the…

When Nixon Came to the Fair

In May of 1974, an embattled President Richard Nixon visited Spokane to dedicate the 1974 World's Fair against a backdrop of lies, cover-ups, and political drama. By this time, the president was in his second year of the public scandal that…

Getting a Goat

Surrounded by a grotto of basalt columns is one of the most perennially popular remnants of Riverfront Park's past - the "Garbage Goat." Sculpted by Sister Paula Turnbull, a local nun and leading figure in Inland Northwest arts, this…

Spokane Falls SkyRide

The 1974 World's Fair provided Spokane with an opportunity to reclaim the beauty of Spokane Falls, which had been hidden for years by railroad tracks. In order to provide visitors with the most stunning views of this natural feature, fair…

Canada Island

Canada Island has had many different names and faces in the last 150 years. Today the island is a part of Riverfront Park and serves as a natural oasis in the middle of downtown. Forty years ago it was known as Cannon Island and was largely covered…

People's Park

Once an Indian winter camp, this area where Hangman Creek (Latah Creek) and the Spokane River merge has been a popular site for campers, transients, and picnickers. According to Curly Jim, from the Spokane Tribe and early friend of the whites who…

Totem Poles of Canada Island

Expo '74, the first environmentally themed World's Fair, opened in Spokane in May of 1974. Native American heritage was a focus. "What more fitting theme could be chosen than an environmental exposition for the presentation of a…

The United States Pavilion

In 1974, Spokane became the smallest city to ever host a World's Fair. The community used the opportunity to re-vitalize the depressed downtown district. The Great Northern Railroad Depot, which had occupied the centrally located Havermale…

Restoring the Falls

Standing on the bridge between Canada and Havermale Islands, you can see one of the many restorations of the Spokane Falls that began with Expo '74. The spray and splash of the falls during the annual spring and early summer snow melt is…

The Rotary Riverfront Fountain

The magnificent fountain in front of you, almost never transpired from vision to reality. When Riverfront Park was renovated following Expo '74, an entertaining children's fountain, as well as an aesthetically pleasurable art piece was…

Looff Carrousel

Riverfront Park's Looff Carrousel is one of America's most beautiful and well preserved, hand-carved wooden carousels. It has 54 houses, a giraffe, a tiger and two Chinese dragons, all of which are hand carved. Charles I. D. Looff built…

Washington State Pavilion

This building, the INB Performing Arts Center, was originally built as the Washinton State Pavilion for Expo 74. One of the most serious concerns for an exposition is getting exhibitors. The first on the list was the state of Washington. Fair…

The Great Northern Clocktower

You are standing next to the clock tower of the former Great Northern station. It is one of the few surviving remnants of Havermale Island as it was from the first years of the 20th century until Expo '74. Though it is one of the only remains…