Map Quest

A Road Trip from Fort Spokane to Kettle Falls

Deep in Central Washington, the mighty Columbia spreads itself into Lake Roosevelt, and a scenic highway traces its shores.

By Allison Williams March 17, 2023

Image: Levi Hastings

1. Falls First

Thanks to the power of Ice Age floods, the landscapes around the Columbia River are exposed to basalt pillars and the steep walls of coulees, striking box-shaped valleys. Where the river bends west after its descent from Canada, Hawk Creek Falls sits near a campground of the same name and a boat launch popular with fishers in search of rainbow trout. A short trail heads to the Columbia itself, but access to a beach can depend on water levels.

2. Dig Deep

The placid remains and flat grassy lawns of Fort Spokane, where the Spokane River empties into the Columbia, belie the complex history they represent. Built in the 1800s at an Indigenous fishing area, the site was only a military installation for a few years. After that, the buildings were used as an Indian boarding school where children were forced to abandon their cultures and languages. A summer-only free museum tells the stark tale.

3. The Tiniest Trip

Positively Lilliputian compared to the massive Washington State Ferries operating in Puget Sound, the little Inchelium-Gifford Ferry resembles something out of the Oregon Trail computer game. Operated by the Colville Reservation, the platform holds a handful of cars as it bounces back and forth across the Columbia. Here, the river is backed up so wide as to get the name Lake Roosevelt, and the half-hour round trip is the easiest way to get an on-water view. Nearby Cloverleaf Beach has a protected spot for swim access. 

4. Take History Home

Built more than a century ago, the Old Apple Warehouse in downtown Kettle Falls has evolved from agricultural storage to a veritable indoor shopping center, its small wood-paneled rooms filled with antiques, art galleries, and boutiques. Plants sit next to stuffed animals and vintage crockery, new shirts and old dusty cowboy hats. The Crandall Coffee Company on one end of the warehouse builds epic breakfast burritos and Italian-themed sandwiches. 

Start: Creston, Highway 2
End: Kettle Falls, State Route 25
Distance: 81 miles

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