A Devil, Coyote, Bowl and Pitcher

No, that’s not the opening to a joke. My title actually refers to the Bowl and Pitcher, a massive rock formation found in the roaring waters of Riverside State Park. The great structure gained its first name, “The Pitcher," in the 1880s when early settlers noted that the more prominent crag looked like a pitcher with a handle. It didn’t gain its more eccentric nickname—“The Devil’s Teapot”—until around 1815, but even that name fell out of use when “The Bowl and Pitcher” gained more popularity in the following decades.

Initially formed from Columbia River basalt lava flows, the Bowl and Pitcher formations are widely believed to have tumbled down from the nearby cliff faces before they were weathered down by years of erosion (McCollum 3). You can easily see the Pitcher from both the refurbished cable suspension bridge and the Bowl and Pitcher overlook on the eastern shore of the Spokane River—just keep an eye out for the tall rock with a pitcher-like handle sticking out of its left side! Now its sister formation, on the other hand, is a little harder to find. The Bowl lies about 200 feet upstream from the Pitcher amidst a bunch of other similar looking boulders, with its only discernible feature being the hollow bowl-like shape. If you stand in just the right spot on the overlook, though, you should be able to see both formations at the same time.

The Bowl and Pitcher isn’t just a pretty pair of rocks to look at. There is a legend attached to these basalt structures, one that has been passed down through the people of the Spokane Tribe for generations. There was once a village along the Spokane River where the sun sets, and the people who lived there had gained possession of the moon. There were murmurings about other natives who wanted to steal the moon and put it back in the sky, so the moon tribe banded together to prepare for the attack. Meanwhile two conniving antelopes decided to steal the moon behind their backs, bolstered by the fact that their speed was blinding compared to that of the humans. Just as predicted, they stole the moon and outran the natives who chased them. They held onto the moon until they came upon another village. Satisfied with their heist, the two antelope set the moon outside of a teepee and went inside. Coyote caught wind of this, so he took the opportunity to steal the moon and race off with it. The antelope heard him and commenced the chase, but even their blinding speed couldn’t compare to the determination of Coyote. He took off toward a nearby shoreline and rolled the moon into a pool just below the falls of the Spokane river, where it still remains to this day (Children of the Sun).

Whether you are fascinated by legends, or just have an interest in prominent geological features, the Bowl and Pitcher formations offer a little bit of something for everyone. Make sure to stop by the next time you’re hiking through Riverside State Park, and enjoy taking part in this fascinating feature of Spokane history.