Northeast of the Columbia Basin lies a dramatically different landscape. Whereas the Basin is an arid shrub-steppe resting atop a geologically young basalt plateau, the Northeast takes birders into a green, wet region that rests at the intersection of three distinctive eco-zones: the Pacific Northwestern, the Northern Rocky Mountain, and the Canadian Boreal. Sage, potholes, and Ponderosa give way to lush wet meadows, wet-belt Douglas-fir and cedar forests, and remote subalpine zones. Birding on a glorious summer day in Calispell Lake or Bunchgrass Meadows, one might get the air of being in the Adirondack region of northern New York State rather than in Washington. North from the Sanpoil, Kettle, Columbia, and Pend Oreille Rivers, three main north-south-trending ridge systems composed of much older metamorphic and granitic rocks rise to a little over 7,000 feet. Glacially carved valleys that provide some of the finest, most intact riparian corridors in Washington separate these mountains—from west to east, the Kettle Range and two ridges  of  the  Selkirk  Mountains—and  provide  unparalleled birding opportunities too.

Precipitation in the region increases sharply with gain in elevation from the Columbia Basin, and also on a southwest-to-northeast gradient. Spokane, for example, gets about 18 inches annually, Ione in the northeast corner about twice as much. The higher peaks get upwards of 60 inches, much of it in the form of snow that lingers into July in an average year. Parts of the Selkirks in the extreme northeast corner are moist enough that forest communities resemble those of the west slopes of the Cascades. The lower foothills, and the scablands around Spokane, have open stands of Ponderosa Pine. Forests of Douglas-fir and Western Larch are typical at mid-elevations, joined or replaced by Engelmann Spruce, and Grand and Subalpine Firs on the higher peaks.

Compared to the rest of the state, the Northeast has a long, cold winter, less moderated by mild Pacific weather systems. Outbreaks of arctic air from north and east of the Rocky Mountains spill into the region with greater frequency and intensity, bringing sub-zero temperatures. January average low temperatures are 22 degrees at Republic and 29 degrees at Spokane. The mostly dry snow comes in moderate quantities. Main highways are well plowed and sanded; indeed, winter driving is quite often easier here than in milder parts of the state. If traveling in winter, it is always advisable to have emergency food, extra clothing, and a sleeping bag stashed in your vehicle.

Summer is characterized by more rainfall than elsewhere in Eastern Washington; violent thunderstorms do occur. July and August see a good number of bothersome insects anywhere near standing water or in forests. Summer days are hot (average July high temperatures 81 degrees in Republic, 86 in Spokane) but nights are cooler, especially in the mountains.

Services and accommodations are available in the Spokane metropolitan area, and also in the smaller communities of Cheney, Chewelah, Colville, Ione, Kettle Falls, Metaline Falls, Newport, Republic, and Usk.