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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stand up paddleboarding banned on Little Spokane River, St. George’s put-in opens Friday

Beth Stern and Troy McCarthy enjoy a morning of paddle boarding on Newman Lake on June 20, 2018.  (KATHY PLONKA)

Stand -up paddleboarding is no longer allowed on the Little Spokane River between the St. George’s put-in and the Highway 291 nonmotorized takeout.

Per Washington code, swimming and floating the river in inner tubes is not allowed in the Little Spokane River Natural Area.

An additional reason for the change is “a significant increase of use on the river as well as a significant increase of illegal activity,” said Lara Gricar, a spokesperson for Washington State Parks.

When the law was established, SUPs did not exist, according to an agency news release. SUP users have been more likely to fall in the river than those who use canoes, rowboats, kayaks and rafts. SUPs, like inner tubes, make it easy to dip, swim or float partially submerged in the water. With the rise in SUP use, staff have seen an increase in habitat and resource damage to the Little Spokane River, according to the release.

In addition to the rule change, the St. George’s put-in on the Little Spokane River will open Friday.

The ban on SUPs drew prompt criticism from some.

Penny Schwyn is a SUPer and agrees there is a problem on that stretch of the Little Spokane. But it has nothing to do with SUPs, she said. Instead last summer she saw people in blow up rafts with fishing poles, boomboxes and copious amounts of booze floating and swimming in the river.

“We were pretty disgusted about it,” she said in an interview. “We are pretty savvy nature people. The idea that SUP users get in the water more than other users is just ludicrous.”

Instead of banning SUPs, she believes State Parks should focus more on “overall user education” and enforcement.

The put-in is located in Riverside State Park and is a popular place for people to launch kayaks, canoes and, in more recent years, stand -up paddleboards, according to a State Parks news release. From the put-in, paddlers follow the approximately 7-nautical -mile stretch of river that flows east to west into Lake Spokane. This section of river is part of the Little Spokane River Natural Area, which was established by the State Parks commission in 1987 to conserve a unique natural environment.

Recreation is not the primary focus of natural areas. The Little Spokane River is one of two rivers in Washington where private landowners own the water thus the majority of the river is closed to public access, although Spokane County has easements with the few private landowners between the St. George’s put-in and the Highway 291 takeout.

Where SUPs are allowed: Alternate locations in the park where paddleboards are permitted on the Spokane River and Lake Spokane are as follows:

  • Please Flats (on the Spokane River)
  • Nine Mile Recreation Area (Lake Spokane)
  • Carlson Road Put-in (top of the dam)
  • Lake Spokane Day-Use Area (Lake Spokane)

Kayak rentals at St. George’s: Riverside State Parks has entered into an agreement with City of Spokane Park and Recreation, which will offer kayak rentals for the first time starting this summer at St. George’s Put-in. For more information, contact Ryan Griffith, Outdoor Program Supervisor, 363-5414.