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“Wild Heart of Spokane” beats a trail in the Dishman Hills

Posted on April 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Erin Dodge

Nestled between Spokane and Spokane Valley south of the I-90 lays the “Wild Heart of Spokane.” Trailheads lead you to natural wonders where you can experience a high diversity of rock formations and geologic features, native trees, plants and flowers, birds and butterflies, and find evidence of large mammals such as moose, elk, deer and bear. You may know the area as the Dishman Hills.

These hills are the focus of an upcoming lecture and discussion with Jeff Lambert, Executive Director of the Dishman Hills Conservancy. During the discussion, you’ll learn about upcoming guided nature walks and hikes, the five-year conservation plan, and ways to get involved as a volunteer for the conservancy.

Dishman Hills: The Wild Heart of Spokane
Wednesday, May 8, 7pm

Jeff Lambert shared some insights with me about the history of and current and future work of the Dishman Hills Conservancy and the natural areas available to the public.


Erin Dodge: What is the Dishman Hills Conservancy and why are its efforts important?

Jeff Lambert: The DHC was founded in 1966 to preserve and protect the Dishman Hills for recreation and education. The Dishman Hills is a unique area of natural wonders surrounded by urban development and known as the “Wild Heart of Spokane.”

Tom Rogers was the founder of the DHC. He was a biology teacher at University High School who viewed the Hhills as an accessible natural area that was perfect for nature study and fun recreational activities.

The rare plants and unique geologic features in the hills led to the first Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA), established by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in 1987 (under RCW 79.71.100 “Designation of certain areas as natural resources conservation areas”).

The NRCA designation protects the natural features of the Dishman Hills. The purpose is to permanently protect the geologic features, native ecosystems, plants, and animals. In addition to contributing to region-wide biodiversity conservation, the hills serve as a baseline reference site to guide the restoration of other nearby areas.

Erin: How can people learn more about the conservation areas?

Jeff: The best way to learn about the Dishman Hills is to go on a nature walk or hike. Anyone can sign up for free at the DHC website (

There are many DHC events that have information on nature and recreation. The Trails Day at Camp Caro on June 1, 2019, is an event with the trail run, free nature walks, trail information, agility course, climbing wall, and more. We also have a community picnic in August. All recreation trailheads are free with no parking permit required.

The website has information on history, nature, hikes, maps, and events.

Erin: What can people see and discover on walks and hikes?

Jeff: A guided walk introduces people to the correct route—you will not get lost and we make sure you go to the best spots.

The wilderness views are surprising given the hills are surrounded by urban development. You will also learn about the history and geography of the area. The hills have a wide variety of geological features, plants and animals.

The Dishman Hills has four major trailheads including Camp Caro, Glenrose, Iller Creek, and Stevens Creek. A new trailhead in the Ponderosa neighborhood is planned when funding is identified. All trailheads are free to access.

Our expansion plans, as part of the DHC mission, are to continue to acquire 1200-acres of Dishman Hills land for conservation and recreation and add three trailheads for public access. The total cost over five years is estimated to be $5.7 million. After the first year of the plan in 2018, 300 acres were acquired. The DHC plans to add more land as funds become available.

The DHC has an agreement to acquire 137 acres on Willow Springs Road for a new trailhead in September if the $800,000 purchase price can be raised. DHC is leading special site visits to this property to show off the natural features all summer long.

Erin: What are the different ways people can get involved?

Jeff: Hikes and nature walks are the best way to learn about the Wild Heart of Spokane.

Volunteering is the best way to be involved. There are many volunteer activities, including planting trees and shrubs, weed management, trail building, and helping with events such as outdoor education for kids and the annual picnic.

Joining the Dishman Hills Conservancy is the best way to get all of the information on events and news in new conservation areas and trails.

Of course, donations of cash, stocks, and real estate help fund conservation acquisitions, stewardship, and education. Donating is the best way to invest in the future of the Wild Heart of Spokane.

Learn more about the ongoing work of the Dishman Hills Conservancy, how to join the efforts, and upcoming guided hikes and walks at

Erin Dodge

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