July 2022 – The temperatures in central Washington near Chelan and Entiat had been climbing throughout our visit, and when the highs topped 100, it was time for us to leave! Our choices for cooler temps were to head either to the coast or to the mountains. We decided to scoot across Washington’s farmlands and aim for the tall mountains of Idaho. On our way, we made a brief stop in Coulee City Community Park in Washington.
Coulee City Community Park sits on the edge of Banks Lake and is a welcome oasis in an otherwise dry (though irrigated) land.
Kids were playing on a raft in the lake, and the haunting cry of seagulls filled the air. This was such a delight after driving through endless wheat fields!
We enjoyed a cool breeze as the sun sank lower in the sky, and we found a campsite on “the island,” a peninsula at one end of the park where we had a wonderful view of the lake under the protective shade of a row of tall trees.
Over the next few days, we took secondary roads across Washington, jumped on I-90 for a few minutes and then dropped south towards Idaho’s tallest mountains on US-95.
We turned east on the super crazy squirrely Route 5 that goes across the bottom of Chatcolet Lake, and then we suddenly remembered we’d made the same exact mistake of taking this road towing a big fifth wheel trailer 15 years prior, oops! From there, we continued south on Route 3.
These were narrow and winding roads, and although it looked like they might be scenic on the map, they proved not to be particularly so. However, we did come across a small waterfall labeled “PB Waterfall” on Google Maps.
As I’ve mentioned before, we travel very slowly, stopping every 30 to 40 miles to stretch our legs, let Buddy run around a bit, and have a look around.
Starting before breakfast one morning, twisty Route 3 brought us to some interesting looking buildings, and we decided to stop for a bite to eat and check them out.
It turned out to be the town of Bovill, Idaho, home to 256 people, and the first thing that caught our eye was the inviting brick Elk Saloon building that had a pretty corner entrance with hanging flower baskets out front.
Next to the Elk Saloon was a row of buildings. It was too early for them to be open, but we were intrigued by the old style of the buildings. The blue-gray one on the left was another tavern and the red one on the right had a sign saying, “E.K. Parker 1914.”
There was a big grassy park with a really nice RV dump station that had separate spigots for drinking water and non-potable water. On the opposite side of the lawn we saw the City Hall building.
Taped to the City Hall door was a small, unsigned, hand-written note: “Not feeling well. At home today.” So any pressing business we might have had with City Hall would have to wait til tomorrow or the next day. We had to smile!
At the edge of the park — which was the edge of town with large fields beyond — there were the remains of a train track switching station. The rest of the tracks had been removed and there was now a gravel path instead. There was something very nostalgic about the tracks and the weeds poking through.
We were really liking this town. We were the only people out and about at that early hour, so we didn’t have a chance to chat with anyone. But there was something very authentic and homey about the place. We wondered what the history was.
We hadn’t had any internet access for two days, and there appeared to be none for us here, so the mystery of Bovill’s origins would have to wait for later research.
One of the buildings that first made us pull over was across the street from the Elk Saloon: an old Conoco gas station.
As we walked over to it, we marveled at the tiny size of the gas station.
A hand painted sign in the window said, “Welcome to Conoco Inn…Nightly, Weekly, Monthly.” How fun!
There were flower pots out in front of the gas station, and each one had a homemade fountain made from a beer tap handle!
Behind the gas station was an old building with a Conoco sign on it too. The front of the building had huge doors for large vehicles while the back of the building had a smaller man door with another antique sign advertising Conoco products.
This was the real deal.
We were having a blast taking photos, so we circled around to the brick building again. The sign near the front door said, “Elk Saloon” while the sign on the side door said, “Elk Tavern.” Hmm. Either way, this looked like a really fun place to spend a few late afternoon hours.
A sign in the window explained what the Elk Tavern (or Saloon) was all about.
High on one wall there was an old Pepsi sign.
We felt like we were stepping back in time to the 1950s and 60s. An old truck that sported body panels of different colors (from a variety of other trucks, no doubt) caught Mark’s eye.
Back at the grassy park, we noticed a memorial plaque that honored the Bovill men of the Potlatch Forests who had served in the military and the National Guard.
Up on a hill, set back from the park, we saw an immense house that was in a serious state of disrepair. It looked like it had been quite a building in its heyday.
Later on, we discovered that Bovill was settled in the early 1900s by Hugh and Charlotte Bovill, English immigrants of aristocratic ancestry who were intrigued by the American West and came to this area to become ranchers.
They were successful in their ranching quest, and their town of Bovill began to attract homesteaders as well as loggers and sportsmen. To serve them, they built and operated the Bovill Hotel which is the oldest building in Bovill today.
And that building turned out to be the huge “house” we had seen on the hill!
Just beyond the Conoco Inn we came across the post office. It dated back to 1914 and still serves Bovill today. We learned that the railroad came to Bovill right around that time too, opening the door to ranching and logging commerce.
A little further on, we came across Camas Prairie Winery which is housed in an old historic building. It was still too early for the winery to be open, sigh, so we contented ourselves with looking at it from the outside.
We couldn’t resist peering in the windows of the winery. And what a delightful interior it was, fully decorated in an antique style. What a great place to savor a glass of wine and ponder the lives and lifestyles of the old American West!
A little further down the road we came across the old Opera House. Wow! Bovill had an Opera House back in the day! It was built in 1911.
As we wandered back towards the town park, we couldn’t help but marvel at how completely intact the town remained. So many towns have demolished their historic buildings and quite a bit of their own history along with them.
Later on, we discovered we had just missed Bovill’s annual “Old Timer’s Picnic” by a few days. We also found out that the old original jail house stands next to the City Hall and that the old Catholic Church and old Schoolhouse are worth a peek too. We sure wished we had seen those buildings as well. Oh well, next time!
These few hours of meandering about in a village-sized town that we’d never heard of before were utterly fulfilling. Little glimpses of American history like this (even when we don’t know the full story until later) often give us the most satisfying and memorable highlights in our travels.
Eventually, we got off of twisty Route 3 and onto US-95 which is a major north-south thoroughfare in Idaho. What Route 3 had lacked in scenery was totally made up for in jaw-dropping landscapes on US-95 as we descended from White Bird Summit down fabulous sweeping turns. Fantastically patterned hillsides filled our view and kept our mouths agape the whole way down.
Just before this descent, we stopped at White Bird Summit to take a photo of what proved to be the beginning of these incredible views, and we were joined by a group of motorcyclists. There were many more pullouts on the descent but they aren’t well signed and it’s hard to stop a large toy hauler flying downhill! We breezed past one pullout we didn’t notice until the it was too late that seemed to offer the most dramatic patterns of the whole drive. It was just a few miles south of the summit. I believe that pullout is the White Bird Battlefield Historical Landmark.
If you find yourself in this remote part of Idaho, be sure to stop in Bovill. Have a pint of beer for us at the Elk Tavern (Saloon) and sample a little wine for us over at Camas Prairie Winery!
Hmmm… Maybe you should spread those particular pleasures out over a few hours, and/or stay at the Bovill City RV park for the night (ask about it at the City Hall…if they’re open!)!
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Other blog posts from these areas:
- Pomeroy, Washington – An Impromptu Sunday Stroll!
- Entiat, Washington – An RV Friendly Town That’s On the Move!
- Chelan, Washington – Summertime Fun and Great Music!
- Stehekin Ferry: Cruise to a Hidden Gem in the North Cascades!
- An Exuberant 4th of July in Othello, Washington!
- North Cascades, WA – From the coast to the peaks
- Northern Washinton – Magical Mountains & Trees in Sleeves
- Southern Washington – Falling Logs
- Sun Valley, Idaho – A Joyful Return to a Favorite RV Spot!
- Nature’s Capriciousness in Idaho – Streams, Mountains and Storms!
- Idaho Falls River Walk – A Glorious Garden Stroll by the Snake River!
- Sun Valley Idaho – An RV Traveler’s Delight in Ketchum, ID!
- McCall, Idaho – Summer Beach Fun on Pretty Payette Lake
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall
- An RV Cruise Along Idaho’s Salmon River on US-93
- A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!
- Craters of the Moon + Cataclysms from Sun Valley ID to Alpine WY
- The Artsy Side of Sun Valley, ID
- Ice Queens of Sun Valley, ID
- Sun Valley Road Rally – Go Granny Go!
- Movin’ On Up to Sun Valley, ID
- Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, ID – Pretty Waterfalls
- Sawtooth Scenic Byway and Stanley, Idaho – Picturesque!
- Sun Valley Idaho – Music, History & Celebrities
- Sun Valley Idaho – RV Camping, Car Racing & Skating Legends
- Sun Valley & Ketchum ID – Beauty & Fun in the Mountains!
- Northern Idaho – Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
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