Hangman Creek is one of the Spokane River’s largest tributaries and is surrounded by lush meadows and farmland. It once provided local tribes with food sources such as trout, salmon and freshwater mussels, as well as reeds used to make sleeping mats and lodges.
In April 1924, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported finding a bathing pool used previously by local tribes by the creek between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. These pools were dug just to the side of the streams and creeks, allowed to fill with water and shored up with stones. They were then covered with hides and hot stones were added to the makeshift baths. Once inside the bath, you’d be completely hidden to enjoy the warm water. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence of these natural spas - the creek itself has changed and eroded over time with both natural and man-made intervention.
In the 1930’s, as part of the Civilian Conservation Corp, (or CCC,) crews of workers including several Coeur D’Alene tribal members dug drainage ditches and straightened parts of the creek in an effort to improve agriculture. Today, those improvements have made parts of the creek so muddy that fish, including the native Redband Trout, cannot survive. The straightened streams also prevent the water from draining back as they should and instead the water rushes on eroding the banks and dislodging more mud downstream.
But all is not lost - with careful cultivation of vegetation along the banks, the creek can be restored and even become a fishing spot once more. The Coeur D’Alene tribes have begun just that on an upper stretch of the creek using federal habitat restoration money.