The sleepy little village is confined to a hollow on the west bank of the lazy Okanogan River, it has an air of rustic serenity, emphasized by yellow roses and hollyhocks and vine-covered houses. Nevertheless, Riverside was once a bustling little metropolis and a point of great strategic value in the flow of Okanogan Valley commerce. A short distance north of town McLoughlin Rapids transform a section of the river into a roaring welter of white foam, which once marked the head of navigation on the Okanogan. Riverside was in its heyday in the period when steamboats carried the freight and a glamorous “steamboat-round-the-bend” spirit dominated the life of the town. Beginning with the opening of a general store near its present site by F. J. (“Pard”) Cummings in 1898, Riverside quickly became a supply point for the northern part of Okanogan County and the Colville Native American Reservation, the trading center of a region greater in area than some eastern States. To the west lay Conconully, the county seat, and the way to it led through Riverside, which profited accordingly.
In 1915 the railroad came in and the steamboats vanished. Conconully, missed by the railroad, collapsed, and the county seat was moved to Okanogan, below Riverside; while Riverside, chastened and subdued, found its present place in the scheme of things.
The bulk of Riverside’s inhabitants were sons and daughters of pioneers from the Cumberland region. There are long summer afternoons when the only movement in Riverside is the cloud of dust drifting above some cow nonchalantly marching down the main street. On week-ends in the 1940s, however, inhabitants of the outlying districts invaded Riverside and pre-empt the floor of the town hall, where they stage night-long successions of square dances and modern steps to the strains of “good old mountain music.”