Getting to know the great outdoors around the Inland Northwest has never been easier.
A summer series of free or inexpensive guided hikes and river trips is kicking off this week organized by groups with a cause.
The Dishman Hills Alliance and Spokane River Forum are starting in the Spokane area with easy day hikes and guided river trips.
Conservation Northwest and Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are focusing on acquainting the public with roadless areas in the Colville and Kootenai national forests.
Members of the Spokane Mountaineers lead or lend their outback experience to many of these outings.
Time is running out to sign up for next weekend’s whitewater rafting portion of the Spokane Forum’s “Meet Me at the River” trip series.
“Because of low snowpack and resulting impact on runoff, we moved raft trip dates from June to May 22-23,” said Andy Dunau, the forum’s executive director. “These are the only two raft trips available this year.”
The series includes 17 trip options that enable participants to explore the 111-mile length of the Spokane River from its source at Lake Coeur d’Alene to the confluence with the Columbia River.
Most of the trips run in the warmer post-runoff waters during July-September in flatwater kayaks, which are provided for participants who need them.
But rafts are the boat of choice for the next weekend in the stretch of rapids through Bowl and Pitcher and Devil’s Toenail in Riverside State Park.
Cost is just $25, but space on the trips is limited: first come, first served.
Hosts for the tours include natural resource and community experts who introduce participants to the Spokane River’s history, environment and wildlife, Dunau said.
A few of the summer trips feature tours of dams, moonlight paddles or camping trips in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt.
Of the people who joined the debut of the Meet Me at the River series last year, more than 50 percent had been on the river three times or fewer and more than 50 percent were novices, Dunau said.
People who had lived in Spokane for years were eager to rediscover their own backyard with the help of guides who know the waters and provide the vessels.
The hiking tours offered by conservation-oriented groups introduce the public to natural areas and lesser-known areas being considered for federal wilderness designation.
The groups list the hikes, details and contacts on their websites.