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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

The Way of Water

by Carol Mack

Throw a glass of water out the window of any of the Newport Public Schools, and it will eventually trickle downhill to the headwaters of the Little Spokane River at Penrith. There it flows south to join the West Branch a couple of miles south of Elk. Then at Riverside State Park it empties into the Spokane River, which takes it due west to the Columbia.

But toss that same water down a classroom sink and it takes a very different journey---through sewer pipes and treatment plant to the Pend Oreille River, and then north to the Columbia in Canada. Those few steps between the window and the sink are not exactly the Continental Divide, but a significant boundary nonetheless... at least to a drop of water.

Watersheds define place more naturally and logically than political boundaries, though the divide lines are sometimes too crooked even for politicians. While the Pend Oreille River is our identifying feature, portions of the county drain into the Salmo River, the Colville River, Priest River, the Blanchard/Spirit Lake system, and the Little Spokane. Which direction does water flow from your place? Can you trace its journey to the ocean? Take a moment to locate yourself--from a water molecule’s point of view.

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