North Central Rockies Forests, Part D: forests, parks and reservoirs

The review of the national forest system of the North Central Rockies forests concludes with highlights of the Selkirk Range in Idaho and Washington. The areas described are the Colville NF, Kaniksu NF (one of the Idaho Panhandle national forests), and Priest River Experimental Forest. The post continues with a description of national park system areas and reservoirs in the North Central Rockies forests.

Colville NF, Washington, is 953,000 acres, including the mountains on both side of the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington, along with the Selkirk Mountains and areas east of the Kettle River and Colville River in the North Central Rockies forests ecoregion. Vegetation in the wetter eastern portion of the forest is western red cedar and hemlock. The Forest also includes the Kettle River range to the west of the Kettle River in the Okanogan dry forests ecoregion. The forest is home to the Selkirk Mountain caribou herd. There are 367 miles of trail, including a segment of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Within the North Central Rockies ecoregion, the trail passes the Salmo Priest Wilderness, Shedroof Mountain, Crowell Ridge, Boundary Dam, Beaver Mountain, Abercrombie Mountain, and North Fork Silver Creek.

To the East of the Pend Oreille River, Bunchgrass Meadows Research Natural Area (RNA) (N48˚41’ W117˚11’) is a mountain meadow and bog on Forest Road 1935 east of Sullivan Lake Road east of Ione. The Mill Pond Flume area (N48˚51’ W117˚48’) provides trailheads to the south of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. The Maitlen Creek Research Natural Area (N48˚46’ W117˚19’) is a 657-acre Douglas fir-western larch community along Sullivan Lake Road. Halliday Fen RNA (N48˚56’ W117˚17’) is a 724-acre marl fen with 13 rare plants. West of the Pend Oreille River, Abercrombie Trailhead (N48˚56’ W117˚29’) provides access to a 3.2-mile trail to a ridge with panoramic views of the area. It is accessible from Leadpoint on the west side of the Selkirk Range. On the Little Pend Oreille River is the Lake Thomas Trail (N48˚37’ W117˚32’). The forest includes three miles of the Kettle River near the British Columbia border which is considered eligible for the national wild and scenic river system.

Between the Columbia and Kettle River, a small section of the forest is in the Rossland Range extending south from Canada. Pierre Lake (N48˚54’ W118˚8’) is viewed from a lakeshore trail. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail passes through this section, passing Elbow Lake and Pierre Creek.

Kaniksu NF, mostly in Idaho but reaching into Montana and Washington, is 1.6 million acres, and is administered by the Idaho Panhandle, Kootenai, and Colville forest supervisors. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail crosses the forest, passing Canuck Peak, Ruby Ridge, Moyie River, Bussard Mountain, Brush Lake, Parker Peak, Long Mountain, Lion Creek, Upper Priest Lake, and Little Snowy Top.

In the Clark Geographic Area in Montana (administered as part of the Kootenai NF), the Bull River is a tributary from the right bank of the Clark Fork adjacent to State Route 56. On the South Fork of the Bull River, Berray Cedars Botanical Area (N48˚9’ W115˚48’) is a stand of large old western red cedars.  The East Fork Bull River Botanical Area (N48˚7’ W115˚45’) is an area where northern beech fern grows. The Bull River (N48˚4’ W115˚48’) and its tributaries North Fork (N48˚14’ W115˚46’), Middle Fork (N48˚13’ W115˚46’), East Fork (N48˚7’ W115˚44’), and North Fork of the East Fork (N48˚8’ W115˚42’) are eligible for the wild and scenic river system.

Rock Creek is a tributary to the right bank of Clark Fork below Noxon Dam.  At the headwaters of Rock Creek is Rock Creek Meadows Botanical Area (N48˚3’ W115˚39’), an area of meadows and wetlands. West of Noxon Rapids Reservoir on Marten Creek, Devil Gap Geological Area (N47˚54’ W115˚50’) is an area of cliffs, rock outcrops, and sparse vegetation. At the headwaters of Marten Creek, Ulm Peak RNA, Montana (N47-54, W115-57) is an area of mature mountain hemlock with steep rocky cliffs and two lakes on the Idaho state line.

The Vermilion River is a tributary to the upper end of Noxon Rapids Reservoir. The first 11 miles of the river are considered eligible for the national wild and scenic river system. The Vermilion Falls Recreational Area (N47˚53’ W115˚22’) is a series of falls on the scenic river. South of the river, the Seven Point Genetical RNA (N47˚49’ W115˚22’) is a 2,400-acre stand of whitebark pine. Seeds are collected for research on resistance to blister rust.

In the Lower Kootenai Geographic Area, administered as part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, Northwest Peak Scenic Area, Montana (N48˚57’ W115˚58’) is a 13,000-acre area of alpine lakes and open stands of cold-habitat trees in glaciated basins. Included are Rocky Candy Mountain in the Kootenai NF and Northwest Peak in the Kaniksu NF. Copper Falls Geological Area (N48˚58’ W116˚9’) is an 80-foot falls on a tributary to the Moyie River. An interpretive trail provides access from Forest Road 2517 off U.S. Route 95.

On Caribou Ridge, Three Ponds RNA, Idaho (N48˚39’ W116˚26’), is a glaciated basin with shallow ponds and sphagnum bogs within a western paper birch stand. It is southwest of Bonners Ferry. Also southwest of Bonners Ferry via County Roads 2, 13, and Forest Road 402 is Snow Creek Falls (N48˚40’ W116˚26’). In the Cabinet Mountains southeast of Bonners Ferry, Hunt Girl Creek RNA, Idaho (N48˚32’ W116˚10’), includes old growth western hemlock and western redcedar. Wet sedge meadows, fens, and streams are also present. Smith Creek RNA (N48˚52’ W116˚44’) in the Selkirk Crest is upstream of Smith Falls and includes marsh and sphagnum bogs with rare plants.

The Kootenai River (N48˚40’ W116˚6’) is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system where it flows through a canyon from the Montana-Idaho border downstream six miles. Long Canyon Creek is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from its headwaters on the Selkirk Crest (N48˚47’ W116˚39’) to its confluence with the Kootenai River (N48˚57’ W116˚32’). Trail 16 follows the creek for most of its length, and the creek is lined with old growth western red cedar.

In the Pend Oreille Geographic Area (administered as part of the Idaho Panhandle NF), Scotchman No. 2 RNA, Idaho (N48˚13’ W116˚4’) is an area of rock cliffs, ledges, talus slopes, a glacial cirque, and forests of subalpine fir and Sitka alder on Scotchman Peak on the Montana border. Also in this geographic area, the Pack River is considered eligible for the wild and scenic river system from its headwaters  at Harrison Lake (N48˚41’ W116˚39’) 15 miles downstream to where it leaves the national forest (N48˚30’ W116˚36’). The river is designated critical habitat for the bull trout.  On Grouse Creek, a tributary to the Pack River, Grouse Creek Falls (N48˚28’ W116˚20’) is in a narrow gorge to the east of Colburn on Forest Road 280.

The Priest Geographic Area includes national forest lands in Idaho and Washington which drain to Priest Lake. The Upper Priest River drainage includes three special areas. Snowy Top RNA, Idaho (N48˚59’ W116˚59’) is a peak in the Selkirk Mountains on the US-Canada border. Near-alpine conditions support subalpine fir, green fescue, wet meadows, and rare plants. The Upper Priest River Botanical Area is 5,000 acres along a 15-mile stretch of the Upper Priest River, from the Canadian border (N49˚0’ W116˚57’) south to near Priest Lake (N48˚50’ W116˚57’). The area is an extensive moist old growth forest of cedar, hemlock, and grand fir. Trees are to ten feet in diameter. A trail follows the river, and the area also contains Upper Priest Falls. Just downstream, Upper Priest River RNA (N48˚49’ W116˚56’) includes the floodplain old growth forest along the Upper Priest and Hughes Fork Rivers above Upper Priest Lake. The RNA is set aside for the old growth and rare plants including northern beech fern. The Upper Priest River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from the US-Canadian border to Priest Lake. Hughes Fork is also eligible from its headwaters (N48˚57’ W117˚1’) to the confluence with the Upper Priest River (N48˚49’ W116˚56’). Old growth cedar and a large meadow used by grizzly bears are along the stream.

On Priest Lake are three special areas. Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area (N48˚47’ W116˚56’), state of Idaho and Kaniksu NF, completely surrounds Upper Priest Lake and contains old growth red cedar. This area is an IBA for eagles, waterfowl, and passerines. Tepee Creek RNA, Idaho (N48˚43’ W116˚53’) is an area of old growth western white pine on the western side of Priest Lake. Bottle Lake RNA, Idaho (N48˚53’ W116˚53’) is a muskeg bog and vernal pond containing sphagnum and surrounded by western red cedar.  It is on the west side of Priest Lake.

North of Nordman, Forest Road 302 swings west into Washington. The Huff Lake Botanical Area, Washington (N48˚44’ W117˚4’) was set aside to protect several peatland and rare plant types. There is an overlook and boardwalk. Huff Lake is a glacial kettle adjacent to the North Fork Granite Creek. Continuing north on FR 302, Roosevelt Cedar Groves/Granite Falls Scenic Area, Washington (N48˚46’ W117˚4’) is also along the North Fork Granite Creek. This area contains two waterfalls, a small peatland, and old growth western red cedars from four to 12 feet in diameter.

Off of State Route 57 between Priest River and Nordman are five special areas.  Potholes RNA, Idaho (N48˚37’ W117˚1’) is an area of wetlands, springs, and marshes surrounded by western hemlock forests. The area drains into Kalispell Creek west of Priest Lake. On Forest Road 313 west of the Priest Lake airstrip is Hanna Flats Botanical Area (N48˚34’ W116˚59’). The Hanna Flats National Recreation Trail (NRT) winds among old growth western red cedar and rare ferns. To the west of Hanna Flats, Bath Creek Geological Area (N48˚35’ W117˚1’) is a 600-foot-deep outlet of a glacial lake. Binarch Creek RNA, Idaho (N48˚30’ W117˚1’), is an area of beaver ponds inhabited by westslope cutthroat trout, within grand fir and western red cedar forests. Kaniksu Marsh RNA, Idaho (N48˚27’ W116˚56’) is a wet meadow and marsh with sphagnum, sedges, and bog birch. It is adjacent to State Route 57 south of Priest Lake and includes part of the Chipmunk Rapids NRT.

In Washington along the Pend Oreille River is an area of the Kaniksu NF administered by the Colville NF. North of Newport, the Upper Wolf and Lower Wolf Trailheads (N48˚11’ W117˚3’) provide access to mountain biking and other trails on the north side of the city. The Pioneer Park Heritage Trail (N48˚12’ W117˚3’) is on the northeast side of the Pend Oreille River north of Newport and is an interpretive trail on the history of the Kalispel Tribe. An off-road vehicle area is accessed by the Batey-Bould Trailhead (N48˚22’ W117˚22’) west of Cusick. The 49˚North Ski Area (N48˚18’ W117˚37’) is also in the Kaniksu area.

Priest River Experimental Forest, Idaho (N48˚21’ W116˚50’), conducts research on regeneration and site preparation in a variety of forest types, including subalpine fir, grand fir, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and western red cedar. Within the forest is Canyon Creek RNA (N48˚21’ W116˚45’), which includes western white pine and spruce-fir forest in the Selkirk Mountains northwest of Sandpoint. Wellner Cliffs RNA (N48˚22’ W116˚47’) contains dry cliffs of gneiss, schist and granite with western hemlock, western red cedar, and grand fir; there are riparian areas at the base of the cliffs.

National Park System units of Canada and the United States in the North Central Rockies forests include historical and natural features. The First Oil Well in Western Canada National Historic Site is described under Waterton Lakes National Park in the World Heritage Sites section. Glacier NP, Montana is described under World Heritage sites and national historic landmarks. Prince of Wales Hotel National Historic Site is described with Waterton Lakes NP in the World Heritage Sites section.

Nez Perce National Historical Park, Idaho-Montana-Oregon-Washington, commemorates the sites, stories, and artifacts of the Nez Perce Tribe. Sites in the northern Rocky Mountain forests include the following:

  • Asa Smith Mission, Idaho (N46˚13’ W116˚0’), was the site of an 1839 short-lived mission to the Nez Perce, commemorated because the missionaries wrote a dictionary and grammar of the Nez Perce language.
  • Canoe Camp, Idaho (N46˚30’ W116˚20’), at the confluence of the North Fork Clearwater and Clearwater, was where the Lewis and Clark expedition built canoes for travel to the Pacific Ocean in 1805. The site is four miles west of Orofino on US Route 12.
  • Heart of the Monster, Idaho (N46˚13’ W116˚0’), is the site of the Nez Perce origin story where Coyote defeated a monster and created the Nez Perce people. The site is on US Route 12 east of Kamiah
  • Lewis and Clark Long Camp (N46˚13’ W116˚0’) commemorates a four-week visit where Lewis and Clark camped among the Nez Perce on their return from Oregon in 1806.
  • Lolo Pass, Montana-Idaho (N46˚38’ W114˚35’), is the site of a visitor center on US Route 12
  • Lolo Trail (see description under National Historic landmarks) was used by the Nez Perce in their flight from US Army troops in 1877.
  • Looking Glass’ 1877 Campsite, Idaho (N46˚8’ W115˚57’) is at the Kooskia National Fish Hatchery.  Looking Glass’ band of the Nez Perce tried to remain neutral but was attacked by the Army and joined the other tribal members in the fight.
  • McBeth House, Idaho (N46˚14’ W116˚2’) was the home of Presbyterian missionaries to the Nez Perce in the late 19th century. The house in Kamiah is not open to the public.
  • Musselshell Meadow, Idaho(N46˚21’ W115˚45’) is a traditional camas root gathering area.
  • Pierce Courthouse, Idaho (N46˚ W115˚), commemorates an 1860 gold rush which resulted in the loss of Nez Perce land.
  • Weippe Prairie, Idaho (N46˚21’ W115˚55’) was where Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce, and was a traditional root gathering area.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Washington, which includes a strip of reservoir lands between elevations 1290 and 1310 along the Columbia River impounded by Grand Coulee Dam, extends into the North Central Rockies ecoregion between Marcus (N48˚40’ W118˚4’, river mile 708) and Little Dalles (N48˚52’ W117˚52’, river mile 729). This portion of the NRA provides camping and reservoir recreation in a gorge of the Columbia River accessed by State Route 25.

 Federal and federally licensed recreation lakes in the North-Central Rockies Forests include reservoirs managed by municipalities, public utilities, investor owned utilities, and the federal government. Most take advantage of the hydroelectric power opportunities in the mountainous region.

East of the Continental Divide are three reservoirs. Gibson Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N47˚36’ W112˚46’), stores water from Sun River in the Lewis and Clark NF for irrigation west of Great Falls. Sun River Diversion Dam, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N47˚37’ W112˚42’), is three miles downstream from Gibson Dam and diverts water to the Pishkun Supply Canal for transport and storage at Pishkun Reservoir. Lake Sherburne, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N48˚50’ W113˚31’), is a 1,700-acre reservoir with the dam on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and most of the reservoir within Glacier National Park at the Many Glacier area

The remaining dams are in the Columbia River basin. In the Snake River drainage is Dworshak Reservoir, USACE, Idaho, behind the highest straight-axis gravity dam in North America, at 717 feet, and occupying 54 miles of the North Fork Clearwater River (N46˚31’ W116˚18’). There are 30,000 acres of federal land above the normal pool. On the lower reservoir, there are four environmentally sensitive areas for ponderosa pine maintenance and restoration (Ahsahka Hillside (N46˚0’ W116˚17’), Freeman Creek Point (N46˚33’ W116˚17’), Little Bay (N46˚35’ W116˚15’), Cold Springs (N46˚37’ W116˚15’), and Dent Bridge (N46˚36’ W116˚11’).  Also in the lower reservoir are trails at the dam area (West Ridge and Merrys Bay), Big Eddy (N46˚33’ W116˚18’), Canyon Creek (N46˚33’ W116˚13’), and Cold Springs.  Ore Creek (N46˚37’ W116˚13’), Elk Creek (N46˚41’ W116˚14’), Homestead Creek (N46˚51’ W115˚54’), and Benton Butte (N46˚52’ W115˚48’) are environmentally sensitive areas managed for old growth western red cedar and grand fir. At the junction of the North Fork and Little North Fork Clearwater (N46˚50’ W115˚55’), lands are managed for elk habitat mitigation to replace the lost river bottom vegetation. Magnus Bay (N46˚39’ W115˚29’) is an environmentally sensitive wetland area. Craig Mountain near Lewiston in the Palouse prairie is also managed for elk habitat mitigation from the project. A 2008 Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act requires spring and summer water releases from Dworshak Dam to benefit steelhead and Chinook salmon.

On the main Columbia River is Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (Grand Coulee Dam), Bureau of Reclamation, Washington-British Columbia. The north-central Rockies Forests ecoregion includes the upper reaches of this Columbia River reservoir, including areas around Northport, Washington. On the Spokane River is the Post Falls Project, Avista Utilities, Idaho (N47˚43’ W116˚57’). Parks along the reservoir are managed by the City of Post Falls and contain a hiking trail network.

On the Pend Oreille River and tributaries are eight dams. Boundary Dam and Reservoir, Seattle City Light,Washington (N48˚59’ W117˚21’) is on the Pend Oreille River along State Route 31. Pewee Falls drops 200 feet into the reservoir near the dam. A campground on the reservoir (N48˚56’ W117˚20”) is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The dam supplies one third of Seattle’s power. Box Canyon Dam and Reservoir, Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County, Washington (N48˚47’ W117˚25’) is on the Pend Oreille River north of Ione in the Colville NF. Further upstream in Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille, USACE, Idaho, is a natural lake in the Purcell Trench that has been raised by Albeni Falls Dam. Near the dam the lake is more riverine, and the original natural lake bed is east of Sandpoint. The dam and visitor center (N48˚11’ W117˚0’) are on US Route 2 just east of the Washington state line at Pend Oreille River mile 90.  Large volumes of woody debris flow down the Clark Fork River each spring, and a driftwood control facility is located at the confluence with the lake (N48˚8’ W116˚11’). Morton Slough Game Management Area (N48˚12’ W116˚41’), is an IBA for migrating diving ducks at river mile 105.

Upstream from Lake Pend Oreille is the Clark Fork River. Cabinet Gorge Dam and Reservoir, Avista Utilities, Montana (N48˚5’ W116˚4’), is a 263-MW facility on the Clark Fork River on Route 200 at the Idaho state line. Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Avista Utilities, Montana (N47˚58’ W115˚44’) is a 488-MW facility on the Clark Fork River on Route 200 in western Montana. Thompson Falls Dam, NorthWestern Energy, Montana (N47˚35’ W115˚21’), is a 94-MW facility on State Route 200 on the Clark Fork River Mile 208.

The Flathead River, a tributary to the Clark Fork, includes Kerr Dam in the Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands ecoregion and Hungry Horse Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N48˚20’ W114˚1’) is west of Glacier National Park in the Flathead National Forest.  The 6,800-acre, 34-mile-long reservoir provides water recreation in a deep canyon of the South Fork Flathead River. Recreation facilities are managed by the Flathead National Forest.

In the Bitterroot River valley are two Bureau of Reclamation facilities. Como Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N46˚3’ W114˚15’) stores irrigation water from Rock Creek in the Bitterroot NF. A seven-mile National Recreation Trail circles the lake and passes a waterfall. Rock Creek Diversion Dam, Bureau of Reclamation, Montana (N46˚4’ W114˚13’) diverts water to Bitter Root Feeder Canal for irrigation east of Hamilton, Montana.

On the Kootenai River and tributaries are two dams. Moyie Dam, City of Bonners Ferry, Idaho (N48˚44’ W116˚11’) is just above 85-foot Moyie Falls, off of U.S. Route 2 in northeastern Idaho. Koocanusa Lake, USACE, Montana-British Columbia, is 90 miles long.  Libby Dam (N48˚25’ W115˚19’) was constructed in the Kootenai Narrows to impound the reservoir. The upper end of the reservoir is in British Columbia near Cranbrook (N49˚27’ W115˚27’). The Kootenai NF in the US maintains recreation facilities. In BC, Kikomun Creek Provincial Park and Wardner Provincial Park are on the reservoir.  To mitigate for the loss of riverine habitat, the USACE funds the Murray Springs State Fish Hatchery (N48˚57’ W115˚9’), where trout are reared, in the Tobacco Plains area. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is along the reservoir shoreline near Rexford.

to be continued