The Friends of the Bluff is a community group of volunteers that formed in 2010 as stewards of the High Drive Bluff Park in Spokane, WA.
The High Drive Bluff Park
The Park comprises about 500 acres of steep, partially forested hillside between SR 195, Hangman/Latah Creek, and High Drive on Spokane's south hill. A network of trails winds amongst Ponderosa pine and bunchgrass along the steep, sandy hillside. The area is frequented by hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers, and runners. Deer, moose, coyotes, porcupines, and skunks - as well as numerous bird species - also utilize the Bluff.
History of the Bluff
10,000 years ago, the Bluff was reformed by periodic floods from glacial Lake Missoula that rushed down the Spokane River in unfathomable proportions. The waters washed over the top of the south hill, depositing river rock on the plateau and leaving highly erosive sand on the steep, southwest slopes of the Bluff (John Latta, geologist).
200 years ago, explorer David Thompson rode down Latah/Hangman Creek valley below the Bluff. He described the valley as being "park-like" with the trees set sufficiently far apart that it was possible to gallop a horse through the area (Jack Nisbet, naturalist and author). Some of the trees growing on the Bluff now were there when Thompson came through!
In about 1972, a fire ravaged the slopes at the southwest end of the Park. A few large trees survived, and the spaces between them filled in with dense, young regrowth, which is known commonly as “dog hair” for the pencil-thin, closely clumped saplings.
During that period, the Bluff was used largely as a dumping ground for unwanted appliances and vehicles. The first trails were carved, often straight up and down the hillside, by dirt bikers. A few individuals dug out trails for hiking and mountain biking – and these trails became the backbone of the trail system that laces through the area today.
Ultimately, the area was named a city park and off-limits to dumping and motorized vehicles. The current Bluff users are passionate about the area for the measure of nature, solitude, and proximity it provides. The Friends of the Bluff work to conserve these positive elements while counteracting the negative impacts of human use on the Bluff.
The City of Spokane is the landowner and holds the ultimate responsibility for the park. With limited resources to manage the area, the City has welcomed the partnership and volunteer effort offered by the Friends of the Bluff group.
Read more about the geologic and natural history of the Bluff