Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spokane Valley, 1857

So I was fooling around at the National Archives website the other day and found this:

Isn't it lovely? This watercolor was painted around 1857 near Plante's Ferry across the Spokane River, and is surely the earliest depiction of Spokane Valley. If you click through to the original record you can zoom in and explore this very detailed painting. Can you find the two men in a canoe? The wagon road?

The image reveals a lot about the environment at that time. I tweeted the image and the helpful @doigSt identified the mountains: "Signal Point, Blossom Mountain & the 2 Mica Peaks." He also asked why there are so few trees in the image. The almost complete lack of trees in the valley would have been due to native burning. Plateau Indians typically set periodic fires to many areas to shape the land to their needs. Regular burning created a purposeful mosaic of prairies and forest that created environments rich in game animals and popular plant foodstuffs.

I believe the painter must have been part way up the same bluff where Spokane inventor Royal Riblet built his mansion. Riblet is a great local character, the inventor of the chair lift and many other, often less practical, inventions. Perhaps I will head out with my camera and see if I can rephotograph the same area from the same location. In the meantime, here is the approximate same view in Google Earth:

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