Environmental History 
of the Spokane River


As Spokane began to industrialize more through the 1930s and 1940s, Hangman Creek continued to see changes to its use as well its flow. A local park and campground at what is now High Bridge Park borders Hangman Creek near its confluence with the Spokane River. The camp ground was shut down in the 1920s due to the Great Depression. Following the depression, a local man named C.B. Durant gained control of the land on the terms that the city would not have to support it financially. This park became a prominent car campground from 1934 to 1955 and was even featured in a camping magazine in 1946 that praised the campground as having very fair rates. The campground fell out of use in 1955 and was only used shortly as an affordable camp site for people traveling to Expo 1974 in Spokane. It later was turned into a dog park. 


During WWII, there was an increased need for food to feed both the soldiers and the citizens still in the United States. Because of this, most of the fertile land in the United States was utilized beyond its full potential. This is no different for the land along Hangman Creek. During WWII, 20,000 acres of the creeks headwaters were converted to farmland for the war effort. Even though this was not a sound farming practice, it was seen as the best thing to do because of the war effort. As the years have passed and people have begun to understand how to better manage farmland, non of those 20,000 acres have been allowed to revert to their natural state. years.

Image from https://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/693

Starting in the 1970’s, the city of Spokane began to recognize the state of both the Spokane River and Hangman Creek. Along with the cleaning up of shoreline in High Bridge Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did an inventory and status survey of the fish in Hangman Creek as well as the water quality as a means to understand the status and needs of the creek. This was an effort by the USFWS to determine the strength of the local trout population as people began to realize the damage done to the creek and wanted to try and begin the recovery process.

Image from Streamexplorers.org

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