Thursday, September 15, 2016

Kootenai Falls

With only a 150-mile trip anticipated, we had a lazy morning and departed around noon.  The drive west from Kalispell was uneventful until we stopped an hour or so out for lunch.  The Kickin’ Horse Saloon and Eatery was just that.  Filled with video games, pool tables, a bar and tables, it is apparently the gathering place for all the locals.  

The sign advertises "Homemade."  We ordered the “classic cheeseburger” with fries and onion rings, and were not disappointed.  Jason served it all up fresh and cooked to order for John and me, plus a couple of other RVers who pulled in the same time we did.  Don’t miss this place if you’re in the area.

We rolled on down the road, then stopped to investigate what the sign said was “Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge.”  We were clueless about Kootenai Falls, but thank goodness we stopped.  Just a short walk down the hill and across the railroad tracks (on a special enclosed pedestrian bridge) was a real wonder!

The Falls are located between Libby and Troy, Montana, alongside US Highway 2.  Said to be one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls in the northwest, the previously calm river gathers momentum.  It surges first through China Rapids, and then over the falls, dropping 90 feet in less than a mile.

The Kootenai is named for the Kootenai Indians who once called this area home, and the area is s sacred site to the tribe.  More recently, the area has been used in the filming of a couple of movies.  Parts of “The River Wild” were filmed here in 1994, and in 2015 “The Revenant” used the falls for its river scenes.  I didn’t see the first movie, but it was easy to recognize where the latter was filmed.  And I can’t imagine how they managed to put anyone into that water and bring him out alive.  Those stunt men really earned their pay if they had to brave those rapids.

We indulged in a couple of huckleberry ice cream cones (they are as good as they look!)...

then left the falls area and boogied down the road some 30 miles to Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho.  While we were trying to locate our RV park, we discovered we had overshot our landing!  Our park was actually some 20 miles behind us, just outside Troy, Montana, and a couple of miles from Kootenai Falls.  We had driven right by it.  So, back we went.

Kootenai River RV Park is another small, family-owned park just a few yards from the river.  We have a lovely, shady site with nice grass for the dogs and access for them to have a dip in the stream. 

They only got to dip their paws, though.  The river is swift here as well.  As soon as Colt’s feet left the bottom, he started to drift down stream.  It didn’t take long for him to figure out that was not a good idea.  

On Saturday, John did some truck trouble-shooting, then we took a great hike with the dogs.  Just outside of Troy is the Old Highway 2 Trail.  It runs along a section of the original highway built some 400 feet above the current road.  The original road was built by hand between 1912 and 1915.  Carved from solid rock along the mountainside high above the Kootenai, the road was part of the original National Parks Road System.  It was built to give access from the Seattle area across the mountains to the new Glacier National Park.

The trail winds along the cliffs, with tall conifers overhead, overhanging rocks a bejillion years old, beautiful little fall aster blossoms and rocks covered in lush green moss.  

At every turn are spectacular views of the river, rapids and falls below.  What a delightful surprise this stop has turned out to be!

We ended the day with another trip to the falls for more ice cream and a closer look at the rapids and the "swinging bridge" just downstream.  Here's what the bridge looks like from the parking lot above.

And here's what it looks like from the end.  It's pretty high above the water, and the capacity is only five people on the bridge at a time.   It makes you wonder...

...especially when you look down at the river from the middle of the span!

The river did have one more surprise for us.  While looking into the sparkling water (a local fishing guide said it was "gin-clear") we saw flashes of bright red in the shallows moving upstream.  They were salmon making their annual spawning run.  What a treat to see them!

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