The NWA: How all this

‘herding cats’ began...

Back in 1987, you know about the time when telephones were just that, email was non-existent and we got information through the U.S. Mail, the foundation of this club was laid.


When visiting outdoor stores like Mountain Gear and REI, one would find fliers suggesting the need to form a rafting club in the Inland Northwest. That went on for months until somehow the so-to-speak “herding of cats” culminated.

It took a while for all the dots to be connected but in 1989 Bob Clark, Paul Delaney, Jim Pace and Jim Paul met to form

what would initially be called the Inland Northwest Whitewater Association. Somewhere along the way, quite early in fact, we shed the “Inland” and shortened things to NWA.

While it’s not certain how the first meeting was wrangled together in July 1989 — we might have actually had to call people? But it happened at the Spokane Valley Savage House Pizza Parlor and drew a room-full of rafting and kayaking people of all stripes.

First-year dues were a mere $5, just enough to cover the cost to mail an occasional 8.5 X 11 newsletter with what content we could cobble together. Remember: No internet?

Like the vagabonds that river runners tend to be, meetings have moved here and there: Five-Mile Pizza, Solicitor’s Corner (Division & Francis) and now Jack & Dan’s.And so from humble beginnings began what is now the 30-year mission to connect whitewater enthusiasts across the region.

There have probably been hundreds of people who have been members, gone away, only to come back. The group has changed over the years not unlike the nature of moving water itself.

What began simply as a way to get together and enjoy our rivers has morphed into a family of sorts. We’ve had great fun together and helped one another advance our personal skills and expand the footprint of our river running. We’ve even shed a few tears as over those decades for friends we’ve lost way too soon.


We’ve stayed away from being a political action group, but not from making our mark in the community by not being JUST a rafting club and being part of many endeavors!

The meeting we helped organize and pack Mountain Gear during efforts to further curtail recreational use in the Frank Church Wilderness, perhaps saved a few more river experiences?

With NWA’s help here are some of the things of which we are justly proud:
  • We initiated the first large community river clean-up efforts in 1993 with the initial Riverfest. That several year effort that put hundreds of volunteers along the shores of the Spokane River, has become the Spokane River Cleanup Day and The UpRiver Scrub which takes place each September.

Some of the crew of volunteers from sponsor Johnson Controls at the first UpRiver Scrub in 2010.

  • NWA helped draw attention to the Forest Service's plans in 1998 to cut usage in the Frank Church Wilderness. Helping put about 150 people into Mountain Gear that summer — including boaters, horse enthusiasts and private aviation folks — we can say, likely helped change those plans to keep more of us out. (Thanks Paul Fish for your help!)
  • Starting in 2002, NWA members assisted the Friends of the Falls who worked to develop the Great Gorge Park below the Spokane Falls in Downtown. That effort later helped promote the proposed Spokane Whitewater Park which was never built, but ultimately provided some of the funding to improved river access.
  • NWA has been a key player in assisting efforts to initiate laws for lifejacket use on the Spokane River, hopefully keeping river users safe when enjoying this special gift of Mother Nature.