Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (US-12) RV Trip

June 2022 – Traversing the state of Idaho between Montana and Washington, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (US-12) follows fast flowing and wildly zig-zagging rivers for about 200 miles, paralleling part of the 8,000 mile route that Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery took on their famous out-and-back cross-country expedition in 1805-06.

We had eyed this route on the map several times and had heard how beautiful it is from friends, but we’d never ventured down it with our RV.

What a wonderful RV trip it turned out to be, especially the eastern portion in Montana and just over the border into Idaho!

Camas in bloom in Packer Meadow at Lolo Pass on US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway Montana

Camas flowers in bloom on the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in Montana

Starting on US-12 in Lolo, Montana, just northwest of Missoula, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway goes for 200 miles, branching into two forks west of Kooskia, ID, that reconnect in Spalding, ID, and ending at sister cities Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, Washington.

Mark always jokes that if there’s a big straight freeway and a little narrow squiggly road nearby, I’ll always put us on the twisty route. Well, there isn’t a freeway option with this route, and it’s about as squirrely a route as you can find on a map.

I confess, I was a little nervous when we started.

US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway in Montana and Idaho

US-12 is EXTREMELY twisty and made us a little nervous driving a big ol’ RV on it!

But it turns out that what looks like a crazy, kinky and possibly scary road with a big RV is actually a beautiful and wide highway that gently winds steadily downhill if you start at the east end of the Byway in Montana. Towing our 33’ fifth wheel toy hauler on this road was not a problem.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway US-12 highway in Idaho and Montana

It turned out the Northwest Passage Scenic Drive on US-12 in Montana and Idaho is actually easy to drive with an RV as it’s fairly flat with gentle sweeping turns.

We stopped at Lolo Pass to learn a little about the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. We found out later that this is the only place on the road with information about what lies ahead until you get to some of the big towns near the western end of the Byway. It’s also the last spot for reliable cell phone and internet access. So, if you take this RV trip, stock up on whatever literature you’ll need at Lolo Pass and do whatever online research you need to do before you leave that visitors center!

A ranger mentioned that the Packer Meadow lies out back behind the visitors center and that the famous Camas flower was in full bloom at that moment.

We’d never heard of the Packer Meadow or its famous flower, but we discovered we’d been fortunate to arrive here when the flowers were at their peak. A big flower festival was going to take place there the next day, so right now was the best time to enjoy these flowers by ourselves without hundreds of fellow tourists.

Buddy was thrilled at this news and promptly ran into the meadow.

Sitting in the wildflowers

Buddy ran into the meadow and then stopped to smell the flowers!

The sun was getting low in the sky and we quickly made the most of this incredibly special opportunity.

Photographing Camas flowers Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

We were so fortunate to see Packer Meadow at sunset at the peak of the Camas flower bloom. We’d never heard of either the meadow or the flowers until a ranger told us to step out back and check it out!

B&W Gooseneck Ball for Ram Trucks

We later learned that Packer Meadow is a place where the Lewis & Clark expedition stopped on two occasions.

The first was on September 20, 1805, when the Corps of Discovery met members of the Nez Perce trib. They conversed a bit in sign language and then the Indians offered them some tasty buffalo meat and soup.

The second occasion was on their return trip on June 11, 1806, when the “quamash” flowers were in full bloom!

Lewis wrote a very detailed botanical description of the flower, complete with drawings and the latest in anatomical descriptions according to the botanical books they carried in their portable library. Besides his extremely precise description of this flower, he wrote eloquently:

“The quamash is now in blume and from the colour of its bloom and at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete is this deseption that on first sight I could have swoarn it was water.”

And so it was during our visit 216 years later.

Blooming Camas flowers Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

“I could have swoarn it was water…”

In addition to making sure we saw these mesmerizing fields of lavender tinged blue flowers, the ranger had also mentioned that we absolutely had to stop at the Lochsa Lodge about 16 miles further down the Byway because they had the best huckleberry cobbler in the world.

With visions of huckleberry cobbler dancing in our heads, we hustled down the road and found a spot to stay next door at Powell Campground. We were up first thing the next morning to check out the cobbler at the lodge!

Lochsa Lodge is a beautiful rustic log cabin with a fabulous dining and bar area inside and a large porch overlooking the mountains out back.

Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Lochsa Lodge is famous for its huckleberry cobbler.

And the huckleberry cobbler is truly out of this world. They served it with a big scoop of huckleberry ice cream and four big dollops of whipped cream.

Huckleberry Cobbler at Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Nevermind breakfast — this was a feast fit for a king and queen at 7:30 in the morning!

Despite the early hour, we dug in with gusto.

Eating Huckleberry Cobbler at Lochsa Lodge Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Nope, our eyes weren’t bigger than our stomachs. This went down very easily!

Powell Campground is a very pleasant USFS campground with paved loops, reservable sites with hookups and a few first-come-first-serve dry camping sites.

We liked it so much we ended up staying for four days. And we hit the Lochsa Lodge for a piece of huckleberry cobbler every single day!

Kids had a blast riding their bikes all around the campground loops, and there were some wonderful stands of tall fuzzy white flowers in the woods.

Powell Campground Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Powell Campground was full of happy kids riding their bikes on the paved loops.

Unusual flowers Powell Campground Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

These unusual flowers filled the woods all around the campground.

While we were at the lodge one day, we started chatting with a fellow at the next table who seemed to be a regular. It turned out he was in the area getting trained to man a wildfire lookout tower, a job he did each summer.

“My wife does it too,” he said casually.

“That must be really nice to have all that quiet time together in the tower,” I said, kinda wondering to myself how all that togetherness would work out.

“Oh, no, actually, she takes a job in a different tower!”

Well, I guess having lots of quiet time apart can be beneficial too!!

He told us there was a fire lookout tower right across the street up on a mountain, so we took the RZR on the dirt road over there and went hunting for the tower.

Forest road view from a Polaris RZR

We headed out in the RZR in search of a fire lookout tower up some mountain somewhere!

The road climbed up and around and we felt out way at the various intersections, sticking to the bigger trail at each one. Eventually we spotted the tower in the distance.

We were at a pretty high elevation by now, and there was a huge patch of snow on the ground in front of it. Pretty good for mid-June!

Fire Watch Tower Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

There was still a patch of snow on the north side of the fire lookout tower.

Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment

There didn’t appear to be anyone in the tower, and there was a sturdy metal door blocking the stairway that went up into it.

Fire lookout tower Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway-2

We couldn’t go up the stairs, but the fire lookout tower sure had a great 360 degree bird’s eye view!

The watchman keeps watch in a single room at the top that has windows on all sides. They’re in communication with the other towers in the area and with a central office too. If any of them spots smoke, word spreads quickly.

Fire lookout tower windows have panoramic views

Looking out from this tower, the watchman can let the USFS know if there’s smoke anywhere.

Years ago, I met a man who was spending a summer in a fire lookout tower in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was delighted to have a curious visitor on a mountain bike show up at the base of the tower, and he gave me a tour and told me a little about the job.

It seemed like a pretty lonely job, but he explained there was a real need to have eyes on the surrounding forest at all times. He was working on a novel, and he said that if he couldn’t get his novel written in these gorgeous and utterly isolated surroundings, then he never could!

Today there’s lots of sophisticated technology available to detect smoke and heat sources out in the forests, but in certain places a watchman is still needed.

This fire lookout tower sits at the top of a mountain with views in every direction.

View from Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The views around the lookout tower went on forever.

Views from Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway


The wildfire tower watchman stays at the tower for extended periods, so there’s a wood stove inside and an outhouse down the hill.

Outhouse on Montana US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

“Hmmmm…what’s in here?”

Unlike most bathrooms, this outhouse had a lock on the outside of the door instead of on the inside.

Outhouse door lock

The outhouse door locked from the outside…

Once inside, we understood why: to keep the wildlife out! The toilet had a special cap under the seat that came with instructions to keep it in place when the toilet wasn’t in use so the critters wouldn’t make a mess!!

Toilet seat instructions in an outhouse

Keep the critters out!

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway follows the Lochsa River downstream. There had been a lot of snow that past winter, so the spring runoff made the river run fast and furious.

Lochsa Rivder Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The Lochsa River was running very fast.

Lochsa River on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway 2

We took little excursions from Powell Campground down US-12 in our truck to catch glimpses of the river and visit some of the pack mule bridges that cross the river. These are historic old suspension bridges that make it possible to get from the highway side of the river to the rough trails on the other side.

Suspension bridge on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

There are several suspension bridges that cross the Lochsa River

RV Keyless entry door lock
Suspension bridge on Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway 2

The trails on the far sides of the suspension bridges were pretty rugged.

We also hiked the Warm Springs Trail. This easy out-and-back trail took us deep into the woods. Buddy was completely in his element running ahead of us on the soft dirt trail under the towering pines. He had to wait for us slow pokes a lot, but he was okay with that.

Hiking Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Buddy waits for the two slower hikers in our group on Warm Springs Trail.

Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Warm Springs trail was a lovely stroll on a soft pine needle bed beneath ramrod straight towering pines.

Mark was in his element too. What a beautiful place!

Hike Warm Springs Trail Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Mark was in his element.

Sun in the trees Idaho US-12 Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The sun peeked through the trees every now and then.

Tree tops

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes.
– e.e. cummings

Here and there we spotted tiny wildflowers blooming too.

Wildflower in Montana

Such perfection. This flower was tiny.

We finally tore ourselves away from Powell Campground and continued down the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway with our trailer in tow.

We caught a glimpse of the Selway River and then made our way through the small towns in the western portion of the Byway until we landed in Clarkston, Washington.

Selway River Idaho

The Selway River branches off near Kooskia, Idaho.

Selway River Idaho 2

The Selway River was a little calmer than the Lochsa River.

Much of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is simply a winding road between two walls of tall pines, and we stopped in the various small towns at the east end to check them out, but these pretty spots in Montana at the west end were our favorites.

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More info about this part of the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway:

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McCall, Idaho – Summer Beach Fun on Pretty Payette Lake

July-August 2016 – McCall, Idaho, is perched right on the edge of beautiful Payette Lake, and in the summertime it is a wonderful waterfront beach town if there ever was one. What a great destination for an RV trip!

Payette Lake shore near Legacy Park McCall Idaho

McCall, Idaho, is a fantastic beach town!!

Even though McCall sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet, the temps in August were toasty warm and everyone was enjoying cooling off at the waterfront beach parks. What a beautiful setting!

Jet skis on the beach McCall Idaho

A rainbow of jet skis ready for action.

Beach umbrellas McCall Idaho Payette Lake

A nice spot to unwind for a while!

Kids were everywhere, and they were just loving the town beach. Two little boys were standing in the water blowing bubbles and two little girls up on the beach were trying to catch them.

Beach at Legacy Park McCall Idaho Payette Lake

Kids blow bubbles on the beach.

A little ways down the beach a little girl was playing with a wagon.

Playing on the beach McCall Idaho


Boats were lined up at the docks, and there was a steady stream of boaters heading out onto the lake.

Payette Lake Sports and Marina McCall Idaho

Bikes and boats – what could be more fun?!

The main street of McCall is very cute with historic buildings wedged together cheek-by-jowel. For those that want to cool off without going swimming, we found a skating rink just a few doors down with sessions that are open to the public.

Historic buildings downtown McCall Idaho

The main drag, just in from the beach, has some classic old buildings.

We made our way to Mountain Java on many mornings, sipping a tasty cuppa joe while sitting in the colorful Adirondack chairs that fill the lawn in front of the Mountain Monkey Business store and look out onto Payette Lake.

This was a wonderful way to start the morning, and we met both locals and tourists alike while kicking back and savoring the view and a brew.

Mountain Monkey Business and Mountain Java McCall Idaho

These colorful chairs on a lawn overlooking the lake became our morning hangout!

By a stroke of very good luck, we happened to be in town during the Antique and Classic Boat Show at the elegant Shore Lodge on the edge of Payette Lake. What a fabulous display of lovingly varnished boats from yesteryear!

Antique wooden boat show Shore Lodge McCall Idaho Payette Lake

What good fortune to be in town on the weekend of the Antique and Classic Boat Show!

These gorgeous boats were known as “lakers” in their day, because they were specifically designed for happy boating days on fresh water lakes. Their meticulously varnished and gleaming woodwork wouldn’t hold up to the salt water of the ocean.

Cockpit of classic wooden boat Payette Lake McCall Idaho

I could handle a day on the lake in a classy boat like this!!

I can just imagine spending a day on the water in one of these, complete with lunch at anchor in some secluded cove on the lake.

Antique and classic boat show Shore Lodge Payette Lake McCall Idaho

Let’s go for a ride!!

These boats have a lot of get-up-and-go too, and many of them have been upgraded with modern engines that have even more zip. The owners of these classic boats just love them and love talking about them too.

Antique and classic boat show Payette Lake Shore Lodge McCall Idaho

This boat won Best in Show. No wonder the owner is grinning!!

Whenever one fired up its engine, a little crowd would form around the boat to listen to the engine purr and to find out where the owner had purchased the boat, what its history was, and what he had done to refurbish it to its former glory.

There’s nothing like a classic yacht, and last year during our travels in Maine, we took a fabulous factory tour of Hinckley Yachts, a boat builder that has morphed from producing stunning sailing yachts to zippy, luxurious powerboats.

Antique and Classic Boat Show Shore Lodge Payette Lake McCall Idaho

Some of the boats went out for a spin while small crowds watched from the dock.

The boats here in McCall, Idaho, were a lot smaller than the Hinckleys in Maine, but their owners got just as much pleasure from taking them out for a spin. Every time someone began untying the dock lines and shoved off into water, there was a murmur of oohs and aahs from the rest of us watching in envy from the dock.

The setting for this fabulous boat show was the equally fabulous Shore Lodge, a high end resort hotel that presides over one end of McCall’s lakefront.

Welcome to the Shore Lodge McCall Idaho

Welcome to the Shore Lodge… Come on in!!

We wandered through the elegant Shore Lodge and explored its many nooks and crannies. It dates back to 1948 and has many refined touches of an earlier age.

Shore Lodge dining room etched glass sign McCall idaho

The historic Shore Lodge is a very elegant hotel right on Payette Lake.

The dining room has a breathtaking view of the docks below and all of Payette Lake and the distant mountains too. For those that needed a break from walking between the antique wooden boats, this was a great place for a bite to eat with a bird’s eye view of the goings-on.

Waterfront dining Shore Lodge McCall Idaho

Enjoy a fine meal while watching the boat show out on the docks!

McCall, Idaho, has a lot more to offer than just beach and boating fun, though. We found some fantastic mountain biking trails west of town near Brundage Mountain, and we enjoyed a beautiful bike ride through Ponderosa State Park which is located on a peninsula that juts out into Payette Lake on the east side of town.

Mountain Biking Brundage Mountain McCall Idaho

We found lots of mountain biking trails and dirt roads on both sides of town.



One day we took a drive down Highway 55 to do some exploring south of McCall. We came across the historic town of Roseberry which was settled by a few Finnish families in the 1800’s.

Roseberry Idaho historic Finnish settlement

Roseberry, Idaho, was settled by Finns and is an interesting townsite today.

The whole area is now a museum that honors those rugged settlers and offers a peek into their lives.

Antique cabin Finnish settlement Roseberry Idaho

Finns had unique log cabin construction techniques that they brought to the New World.

There are some old log cabins that the families lived in as well as a fun town site with a general store, church, school, barn and other neat buildings.

Inside a cabin Roseberry Idaho Finnish historic settlement

And we think RV living is simple!

The town of Roseberry had its hey day in the early 1900’s, boasting a hotel, two black smith shops , a butcher shop, logging mill, creamery and restaurant. However, ten years later, the Pacific, Idaho and Northern Railroad line came through about 2 miles west of town, and Roseberry wilted while the bustling town of Donnelly right on the railroad tracks thrived.

Amazingly, lots of Roseberry people moved their homes and shops over to Donnelly to take advantage of the boom there, transporting their buildings by wagon! It’s hard to imagine that kind of boom and exodus today, especially given the easily driven luxury homes we RVers get to live in.

Historic Roseberry Idaho

Wandering around Roseberry, Idaho, made for an enjoyable afternoon.

Down at Lake Cascade, next to the town of Cascade, we found several campgrounds along the shoreline. RVers, boaters and fishermen were enjoying these lakeside campsites. We didn’t stay, but what a great spot to camp!

Truck camper and boat at Lake Cascade Idaho

Payette Lake isn’t the only game in town.Lake Cascade a few miles south is very beautiful and quiet too!

Back in McCall, we enjoyed some moonless nights, and one evening Mark snuck out with his new 12 mm fish eye lens to catch the Milky Way straight up overhead. This made a very cool effect!

Milky Way above the trees McCall Idaho

The Milky Way crosses the heavens high above us while a shooting star zips by.

If you are looking for a wonderful area for an RV trip in the heat of the summer, McCall, Idsho, is a very fun beach town. There are more links to help you plan your travels below.

RV camping in McCall Idaho


Never miss a post — it’s free!

Here’s a little more info about McCall, Payette Lake, Roseberry, etc:

Some related posts from our Idaho and the NW Montana / Idaho Panhandle RV travels:

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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    An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall

    July 2016 – After a truly stunning few weeks in northern Montana — from adventures on the east side of Glacier National Park to learning about the unique history of Libby, Montana, and photographing the special wildlife and unique giant trees nearby — we took our RV on Idaho’s scenic back roads in the panhandle southbound from Sandpoint through Moscow to McCall.

    RV on a river in Idaho

    On the back roads of Idaho

    The summer was really heating up in northern Idaho, and when we arrived in Sandpoint, on the shores of beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, we were delighted to find that the small town of Sandpoint transforms into a beach town when the temps climb over 80 degrees.

    Sandpoint City Beach Park in Idaho

    Sandpoint City Beach Park on Lake Pend Oreille

    The small town hugs the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille, and people were taking full advantage of the summer sun to get out on the lake in anything that floated, from boats to kayaks to stand-up paddleboards.

    Standup paddle boards Sandpoint Idaho

    Sandpoint idaho has lots of summertime action on the lake.

    We discovered the wonderful Pend Oreille Bay Trail that runs along the water’s edge. This biking and hiking path offers both brief glimpses of the lake through the trees and open sweeping views.

    Pend Oreille Bay Trail Sandpoint Idaho

    Pend Oreille Bay Trail

    The trail is wonderfully shaded for much of its length and is a joy to walk, run or ride at any time of day.

    Pend Oreille Bay Trail bike path and running trail Sandpoint Idaho

    This shaded path goes right along the shoreline.

    There are paved bike paths all around Sandpoint City Beach Park too, and we rode everywhere.

    Riding the bicycle path in Sandpoint Idaho

    Sandpoint has bike paths all over the place.

    Sandpoint, Idaho, is such a bike friendly town, we even found a colorful sculpture celebrating two wheeled transport.

    Bike sculpture Sandpoint Idaho

    Sandpoint is a two-wheeler town!

    One day we spotted a van with bicycles on the roof. It turned out to be the famous PAC Tour, a challenging cross-country bicycle tour that puts even the hardiest cyclists to the test.

    Pac Tour cross-country bicycle tour in Sandpoint Idaho

    We bumped into the PAC Tour in Sandpoint!

    Their route travels from west to east and takes a little over 30 days. The cyclists were still fresh, as it was only Day 5. They had barely hit the big western mountains and were still a week away from the daylong 130 mile slogs across the flatter plains states. Kudos to all of them for taking on this huge athletic challenge!

    PAC Tour cross-country bicycle tour route for 2016

    These energetic cyclists had just started and had a long ways to go…

    The town of Sandpoint is very cute, and we enjoyed walking around the historic district. At one end of town we found the Libation District which has both brewpubs and a winery on both sides of the street. No shortage of fun there!!

    At the other end of town we found Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters where we got a peak at all of their coffee roasting equipment. For lovers of dark, rich coffee, their Guatemalan roast is really yummy. We took home a bag!!

    Evans Brothers Coffee Raosters Sandpoint Idaho

    Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters makes delicious coffee!

    We later discovered that they won 3rd place in the America’s Best Coffeehouse competition at the 2015 Coffee Fest Portland!!

    Just a few blocks away, we were very surprised to find the Litehouse Bleu Cheese factory where the popular salad dressing is made.

    Litehouse Bleu Cheese Factory Sandpoint Idaho

    Litehouse Bleu Cheese salad dressing is made here!

    But Lake Pend Oreille was the real focal point of our time in Sandpoint. One day we decided to get a view of it from high above. Locals suggested we take a drive up Schweitzer Mountain, a nearby ski resort.

    Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort Sandpoint Idaho

    Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is on a nearby mountain overlooking the lake.

    The view from up there was wonderful!

    Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort view of Lake Pend Oreille Sandpoint Idaho

    What a view — Sandpoint tucked up against Lake Pend Oreille!

    After a week in Sandpoint we meandered south a little further and bumped into the cute town of Moscow. Instead of finding the grand turrets of Red Square, we discovered a lovely shaded main street that is lined with all kinds of boutiques and tempting eateries.

    Downtown Moscow Idaho streets

    Tiny Moscow, Idaho, has a cute downtown area.

    A fun paved bike path passes through Moscow, and we jumped on the Latah Trail to ride through the farmlands out to the village of Troy about 11 miles east.

    Latah Bike Path from Moscow Idaho to Troy Idaho

    Lovely rolling farmland on the Latah Trail from Moscow to Troy, Idaho.

    Much of this pretty trail goes through open land with views across rolling hills covered with pastures and farm fields.

    Latah Trail from Moscow to Troy Idaho

    The Latah Trail goes through pretty farmland.

    After a few hours of riding on the bike path, we returned to Moscow and stopped in at Bucer’s Coffeehouse and Pub. We got there shortly after the noon hour, perfect timing for a brew…either coffee or beer!!

    Bucer's Coffeehouse and Pub in Moscow Idaho

    We stopped for brews at Bucer’s Coffeehouse and Pub — coffee for me and beer for Mark!

    Continuing our journey south along Idaho’s pretty US-95, we passed lots more farmland with hay bales spread across the fields and farmhouses looking very quaint in the summer sun.

    Farmland in western Idaho panhandle

    The drive on US-95 was as lovely as the small towns along the way.

    Motorhome among hay bales in Idaho

    We passed some beautiful rural scenery.

    The Little Salmon River accompanied us on our drive, and we had to stop a few times to get photos as we passed through a wonderful canyon.

    Idaho scenery Little Salmon River

    The Little Salmon River ran alongside us the whole way.

    We had never thought of Idaho as being home to vibrant beach towns, but when we arrived in McCall, we discovered that, just like Sandpoint, the whole town was out in force soaking up the rays at the town beach.

    Sunbathers were lying on beach towels, and people were swimming and playing in the water, eating ice cream cones while strolling the paths by the water’s edge, and fooling around on boats and jet skis on pretty Payette Lake.

    We loved the vibe of McCall so much that we stuck around for two weeks!!

    Legacy Park on the beach in McCall Idaho

    What a great surprise to find another sweet little Idaho beach town in McCall!

    If you are taking your RV on a north-south route through Idaho, Route 95 makes for a very scenic and enjoyable drive. There are some links with more info below.

    Never miss a post — it’s free!

    Info about Sandpoint, Moscow and McCall, Idaho:

    Other blog posts from our RV travels in NW Montana and Idaho’s Panhandle:

    Scenic Drives for RV Touring in Idaho:

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

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    An RV Cruise Along Idaho’s Salmon River on US-93

    April 2016 – Idaho is loaded with magnificent scenic drives that are wonderful for RV travelers. One of the most lovely is US-93 which runs south-north between Arco (outside Craters of the Moon National Monument) and the Bitterroot Valley in Montana.

    Scenic drive for RV travel on the Salmon River Idaho

    The views never quit on the scenic drive along US-93 in Idaho

    Leaving the cute village of Mackay behind us, the snowcapped mountains hovered alongside us as we drove, framing each image out the windows.

    Scenic drive for RV travel on the Salmon River Idaho

    This is a peaceful road that makes for enjoyable driving.

    At one point we spotted some old log cabins just off the road. Living in our lux-mobile that gives us hot and cold running water at all times, heat, air conditioning and instant access to friends worldwide, it is hard to imagine the rustic and rough life that was lived in these remote parts long ago. I had to get a shot of the “old” and the “new.”

    Log cabin and fifth wheel trailer RV

    A log cabin and our fifth wheel trailer meet at a crossroads between two very different centuries

    The scenery was lovely, and I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time, eager to see what was around the next bend.

    RV view on Idaho roadtrip colorful tree Idaho landscape

    Pretty colors…

    Like the scenic drive we had just done through farm lands and valleys from northern Utah into southeastern Idaho, this route is wonderful for leisurely paced RV travel where you aren’t in too much of a rush to get somewhere. Small towns and villages and scenic pullouts dotted the drive.

    RV camping on the Salmon River Idaho


    As we drove through the town of Challis, we suddenly noticed we’d passed by a sign that said “Brewing Company.” Mark doesn’t turn our buggy around for too many things, but this definitely warranted a U-turn and a second look.

    Sure enough, the River of No Return Brewing Company was located in what appeared to be a former house. The place had been open just a few months, but when we tasted their delicious House Brown Ale, we decided a second one was in order. Their beer is good!!

    Despite being the only people at the small bar when we first walked in, within a short time the place was full of regulars sampling the latest brew. Then a young gal showed up with a ukelele and began to perform. What a fun place!

    The bartender whipped up a yummy organic beef burger for us at the stove behind the bar. As he worked away, we began chatting with him and discovered he’s a full-time RVer who has been living and working in his 1959 Airstream trailer for five and a half years, boondocking and living on solar power the whole time. How cool is that?!

    River of No Return Brewery Challis Idaho

    That House Brown Ale sure is tasty!

    Once we resumed our travels on US-93, we noticed that the very scenic Salmon River had joined us. A look at the map showed it was going to flow alongside us all the way to Salmon, Idaho, and a little beyond that too.

    RV roadtrip on the Salmon River Idaho

    The Salmon River accompanied us for much of the drive.

    This route goes past lots of open pastures where cattle were grazing. It was spring and this year’s crop of baby calves had just been born. They romped around in the fields and butted heads playfully.

    Idaho ranching scene - calves butt heads

    Baby calves played together in the fields

    Sometimes they’d stop to get a drink of milk or a snuggle from mom.

    Camping sighting of calf licking mom Salmon River Idaho

    A mom and her calf.

    Birds were getting ready to raise their broods too, and at one stop we spotted an osprey sitting on his nest. These guys like to have a penthouse view, and they just love the tall poles with platforms that folks put out for them to nest on.

    We RVers like to call conventional houses that are built on foundations “stick built homes,” but that description applies just as well to osprey nests!

    Seen while camping Osprey in nest Salmon Idaho

    An osprey keeps an eye on the world from his stick built house

    We weren’t sure if there were eggs or chicks in the nest, but there were two very busy parents flying in and out of their stick-built home.

    Osprey landing in its nest Salmon Idaho


    Osprey are great fishermen, and we loved watching how ospreys and other birds go about fishing while we cruised the Pacific coast of Mexico in our sailboat. Unlike some sea birds like pelicans and boobies, ospreys fish feet first!

    Osprey feet and talons Salmon Idaho

    I wouldn’t want to be a fish looking up at this!

    After many pretty ups and downs and scenic twists and turns, US-93 delivered us into Salmon, Idaho. We took a walk along the Salmon River and were startled by the beauty of the bridge that spans the river in town as it stood against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.

    RV roadtrip bridge over Salmon River in Salmon Idaho

    The bridge over the Salmon River in Salmon, Idaho

    As I was staring at it, suddenly a truck towing a travel trailer went over it. That completed the scene just right!

    RV travel trailer on bridge Salmon Idaho


    Then a kid jumped up on the railing and walked the length of the bridge. Ahh…the fearlessness that kids have!!

    Kid on Salmon Idaho bridge

    A kid’s way to cross a bridge!

    It was a perfect spring day, and as we strolled along the riverside path, a family walking their dogs approached. Their little chihuahua puppy came bounding over to see us. He was just eight weeks old, and he bounced along with such joy that his feet didn’t even touch the ground.

    Chihuahua puppy running in Salmon Idaho

    A happy puppy!

    Spring was in the air everywhere, and flowering trees opened their blossoms to the sun.

    Spring flower blossoms in Salmon Idaho


    Spring flowers Salmon Idaho

    Spring is here!!

    Salmon, Idaho, and the salmon river owe their names to the well traveled fish we love to find on our dinner plate.

    Years ago we went to the Salmon Festival that takes place upriver in Stanley, Idaho, every summer. We learned there that salmon come into this world far inland, way upstream, and then, three years later, find their way to the Pacific ocean 900 miles downstream.

    Oddly, nowadays, they have to be loaded into trucks and barges and shuttled around the eight Salmon River and Snake River dams that they can’t get through by swimming!

    After living in the Pacific Ocean for a year or two, they swim back upstream, navigating by smell to reach their birthplace. Then they create the next generation of fish and perish. What a life!!

    Of course, people and osprey aren’t the only ones that think salmon make a tasty meal. A beautiful sculpture in town shows a bear catching his dinner in the river.

    RV roadtrip views Salmon Idaho

    A sculpture of a bear fishing for salmon is surrounded by colorful flowers.

    This part of Idaho is very beautiful, and a drive along US-93 is well worth doing.

    RV camping in Idaho


    For us, driving scenic roads like this is one of the best aspects of the RV lifestyle. The next leg of our trip would take us further along US-93 into Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

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    A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor!

    April 2016 – In our RV travels we prefer to take small back roads from town to town instead of zipping past everything on the interstates. As we left the Moab area in Utah to head north into Idaho, we scoured the map to find some skinny roads through the farmlands that would take us through the valleys between the mountain ranges.

    RV roadtrip past snowcapped mountains of northern Utah

    Wow! We left the red rock canyons of Utah behind and headed into northern Utah.

    Our minds were still reeling with the incredible and world renowned landscapes we’d enjoyed at Canyonlands National Park (North and South), Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park and even the roadside stop of Newspaper Rock after coming up through the (appropriately named) Valley of the Gods. But we were astonished by the beauty of our surroundings in this lesser known area as we looked out our truck’s windows.

    RV roadtrip through Farmland and mountasin of northern Utah

    We knew the farmland around in Logan, Utah, was gorgeous, but this was incredible!

    Route 89 heading out of Ogden, Utah, was a little fast paced for our tastes, so we snaked our way through the farmlands on Route 23 and then on Route 36. The views in every direction around us were breathtaking.

    Farm and mountain scenery southeastern Idaho

    It’s scenery like this that gets us off the highways and onto the backroads of America.

    This is farm and ranching country. Horses grazed in the pastures and cows dotted the fields all the way to the mountains in the distance. It was early spring, and newborn calves bounded behind their mothers.

    Views from the RV southeastern Idaho mountains

    Horses and cattle didn’t seem to notice the views — all they saw was breakfast!

    We had traveled through this part of the country several times before, spending time at Bear Lake and Logan Pass in Utah and driving north through Afton Wyoming on our way to and from the Tetons. Despite two visits to the Tetons, there are places there we still haven’t seen. However, we decided to stay on the Idaho side of that stunning mountain range on this trip.

    RV camping by southeastern Idaho lake

    The lakes were as beautiful as the mountains.

    And the scenery we were seeing was plenty glorious enough, and the roads were very peaceful!

    RV roadtrip through southeastern Idaho mountains

    Not a bad spot to live!

    The skies, however, were not peaceful at all, and rumbling in the heavens got our attention.

    RV camping southeastern Idaho

    The skies began to look a little threatening.

    A stormy day that had been promising rain all day long suddenly ended with a spectacular sunset that had us running out of the buggy and down to the shore to take photos.

    Southern Idaho sunset on lake

    Cloudy skies sometimes bring awesome sunsets. This one was exceptional, especially after a gray day!!

    As we were busily snapping away at the sky, I heard a loud splash and looked down at my feet to see a beaver swimming right past me.

    What luck!

    I managed to catch him surrounded by the sun’s vivid magenta reflection in the water before he dived out of sight.

    Camping sunset beaver in Idaho lake

    A beaver swam right by me!!

    We were doing this little backroad RV roadtrip in a season that fell somewhere between winter and spring, which gave us lots of unpredictable weather. Nasty weather makes for great photography, however, and we continued on our farm road journey on Route 38 under pretty clouds at dawn.

    Malad City Idaho sunrise

    Reflections at dawn.

    Later in the day, however, those clouds got angry once again. We watched a massive black cloud forming in the distance as we drove. Suddenly the cloud was upon us. Fortunately, just at that moment, we saw a huge roadside pullout with a big red sign that said “Stop!” And stop we did!!

    RV travel southeastern Idaho_

    Yikes! A huge black storm cloud made us pull over and stop!

    No sooner had we run back into the trailer and closed the door than the heavens opened up. It rained buckets. It rained so hard the raindrops seemed to be bouncing off the ground. Thank goodness we had our house with us!

    We made lunch, and afterwards we soon got drowsy from listening to the rain pelting our roof. So, we crawled under the covers for a nap! When we awoke, the skies had lightened and Nature gave us the “all clear” and go ahead to continue our journey on Route 37.

    2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually_

    Four hours later, after a good nap, the skies began to clear.

    We continued north, and after all this time on the backcountry roads of northern Utah and southeastern Idaho, when we arrived in the town of American Falls, we felt like we’d landed at an enormous city.

    We watched long trains crossing the train bridge in town. One was so long it had three engines on the front and two on the back!!

    Train crossing bridge in American Falls Idaho

    In American Falls we saw a long train with five engines!!

    The storm clouds continued to threaten and were moving very fast above us. I’d gotten a kick out of setting up a timelapse video of the clouds moving across the canyon walls of Dead Horse Point State Park a few weeks earlier, and this seemed like a perfect chance to try that technique again:

    From American Falls, our journey took us north along Route 39 to Route 26 and through Atomic City which we had enjoyed on an earlier trip to the otherworldly Craters of the Moon National Monument. But instead of seeking out moonscapes, on this trip we had snowcapped mountains in mind and on our agenda.

    RV views on Salmon River Idaho roadtrip - nowcapped mountains

    Snowcapped mountains were what we were after.

    We hooked up with Route 93 and followed it northwest to the village of Mackay. What a sweet town! Mackay, Idaho, is flanked by two gorgeous mountain ranges, and we walked around town with our heads tipped back to take in the beautiful views.

    Mackay Idaho main street

    Downtown Mackay, Idaho.

    Our RV roadtrip had brought us through some remote and quiet lands. To give you a sense of size and scale, the town of Mackay, which was a major landmark on our trip, has a population of 494!

    No wonder the local cinema can offer happy birthday wishes to a resident!!

    Main Street Cinema Mackay Idaho

    In a small town, your birthday can put your name on the marquee at the cinema! How fun!!

    Makcay, Idaho, is on the opposite side of the mountains from the much more well known, busy and trendy community of Sun Valley to the west, and it is “opposite” in spirit as well.

    “We like having a mountain range between us and Sun Valley!” One local said to me, laughing.

    We meandered the few streets, and admired the rustic, crusty and aging barns and buildings tucked between some of the homes.

    Crumbling Barn in Mackay Idaho


    Old barn Mackay Idaho RV roadtrip


    This part of Idaho is wonderful for RVing, and it has been popular with RVers ever since RVs were first built!

    Antique travel trailer RV

    We saw a cute antique trailer in a yard. Cool!

    Discovering special places that don’t get top billing in the tourist literature is one of our favorite things about this full-time RVing lifestyle. International tourists flock to the major cities and the National Parks. And why not, they’re spectacular! But the roots of America are in the small towns across the country.

    Old store front Mackay Idaho

    Get your stretchy suspenders here!!

    We were so glad we had chosen a route that we had never taken before through this familiar region. Every sight along the way was new and exciting!

    RV camping Salmon River Idaho

    Getting off the beaten path is our favorite aspect of RVing.

    If you are have an RV road trip planned between northern Utah and southern Idaho, consider getting off the interstate and exploring the smaller roads. It’s a very beautiful part of the country!! More info below…

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    Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, ID – Pretty Waterfalls

    The Tetons!

    Mid-July, 2012 – We left the corner of Wyoming near Afton and journeyed north into Idaho.  We were doing our route planning to take in as many official “scenic byways” as possible, so now we followed Idaho’s Teton Scenic Byway.

    We had been to Grand Teton National Park at the beginning of our travels in 2007 and had been awe-struck by the jagged beauty and majesty of the mountain peaks.  The national park is on the eastern side of the mountains in Wyoming, and its roads wind right along the base of the mountains.

    The Teton Scenic Byway in Idaho is on the western side and the road is much further distant from the mountains, running right through the rich valley farmlands.  The views were lovely, but unfortunately the sky and lighting didn’t cooperate with us on that particular day, and the smoke from nearby wildfires made the mountains hazy at best.


    But a real highlight was to drive through fields and fields of perfectly spaced, rolling rows of green plants.  “What do you think that is?” I asked Mark.  “Hmmm….” He mused.  “This is Idaho… which is spud country… Idaho potatoes maybe??”   Yup!  We soon saw a sign saying that this was “seed potato” country.  It explained that many farmers in the area are third and fourth generation seed potato farmers and that after storing the potatoes through the winter in cool cellars many are cut into 2″ cubes in the spring to create the next season’s crop.

    Upper Mesa Falls

    Where the Teton Scenic Byway leaves off the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway begins, and we made the turn onto that road.  Two beautiful waterfalls give this scenic byway its name.  The Lower Falls is very pretty, but the Upper Falls is a stunner.  We were glad to have our National Park Pass because these falls are one of those “federal lands” area with an entrance fee that is covered by the pass.

    Waterfall Mist

    The afternoon light lit up the mist that foamed off of the falls, and we wandered up and down the enormous walkways and stairways that cascade along the edge of the falls for tourists.

    As we were leaving we noticed three fellows carrying kayaks up the stairs.  It turned out they were had just kayaked 8 miles down the river, and apparently that stretch of river is excellent white water and rapids.  Fortunately they had stopped short of the falls!!  Mark wanted to get a picture of me with them — and when one of them playfully put his arm around me for the shot I discovered he was sopping wet from head to toe!  That got me laughing.

    Crazy wet kayakers!

    The Upper Falls are known for the rainbow that forms in the mist in the mornings, and we set the alarm to make sure we caught the rainbow at its peak according to what a ranger told us.  Out of laziness we hadn’t changed the clocks in the trailer since leaving Arizona two months earlier, but we we knew we were off by an hour.  Well, we were off by an hour the other way!  So we got to the falls in the freezing cold semi-darkness and were just about frozen to the bone by the time the little rainbow finally made its first showing.

    The falls create a rainbow each morning.

    The Upper Falls is also home to the Big Falls Inn, a cool old log cabin built in 1915 by Snake River Electric Light & Power Co. as an office/residence for workers.

    Big Falls Inn – from the Power Company!

    Over the years it has been used in many ways — as a way station for travelers on Yellowstone Highway,

    Baby robins

    as a dance hall, and as a corporate retreat.  In 1986 the Forest Service acquired it through a land exchange.

    We had simpler accommodations in our buggy nearby, but outside our window a little robin’s nest was full of open-mouthed chicks!

    Continuing our journey north, our road wandered out of Idaho and into the Bitteroot Valley of Montana.





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    Sawtooth Scenic Byway and Stanley, Idaho – Picturesque!

    Stanley Lake Idaho

    Stanley Lake

    Stanley Lake Idaho

    Creek near Stanley Lake

    Stanley Lake Idaho

    Stanley Lake

    Stanley Idaho camping Stanley Idaho campground

    Camping at Stanley Lake

    Stanley Idaho

    Scenery near Stanley.

    Stanley Idaho

    Sawtooth Mountains.

    Stanley Idaho

    Sawtooth Luce's.

    Stanley Idaho

    Homes perched on the hills in Stanley

    Redfish Lake Idaho beach

    Redfish Lake

    Redfish Lake Idaho beach

    Redfish Lake

    Redfish Lake Idaho kayaking

    Beach at Redfish Lodge

    Redfish Lake Idaho kayaking

    Ghosting along on Redfish Lake

    Redfish Lake Idaho kayaking Redfish Lake Idaho kayaking

    Private boat-in campsite on Redfish Lake

    Redfish Lake Idaho kayaking Stanley Idaho Salmon Festival

    Salmon Festival in Stanley

    Stanley Idaho Salmon Festival

    Namesake for Redfish Lake

    Sawtooth Mountains

    Cattle enjoy a nice view.

    Sawtooth Mountains Sawtooth Mountains

    Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley.

    Sawtooth Mountains Stanley Lake Idaho

    "Ahhh" moment as we walk towards Stanley Lake.

    Stanley Lake Idaho Stanley Lake Idaho

    Sunrise on our final morning

    Salmon River Idaho

    Salmon River

    Salmon River Idaho

    Drive along the Salmon River

    Stanley, Idaho

    Late August, 2009 - We drove

    north from Ketchum/Sun

    Valley to Stanley Idaho along

    the Sawtooth Scenic Highway.

    As with Indiana's Amish

    Heritage Trail that we had

    recently driven, we discovered

    the tourism folks of central

    Idaho have created a series of

    CDs to accompany the

    beautiful scenic drives through

    their state.  Complete with mile

    marker indicators, music and

    driving instructions, the

    recording was expertly made and we enjoyed having a tour guide right there in the truck with

    us.  We learned tidbits about the mining history, Indian history and geology of the area, and

    the CD recommended some excellent stops at scenic viewpoint along the way.

    Stanley is a tiny hamlet with just 40 year-round residents, although the population soars to

    300 each summer.  It is frequently the coldest place in the continental US in the wintertime, but in summer the days are hot.  We

    rode our bikes to Stanley Lake and found crystal clear water sleepily lapping the shores of towering mountains.

    We returned with the kayak and spent a blissful morning drifting across

    the mirrored reflections of the rugged peaks.  As we floated into the cool

    shade under the thick pines on the far side of the lake, we felt intoxicated

    by their heady, pungent scent.  We laid back and lazily watched the

    rainbow trout jumping for moths.  Each foolish bug would flirt with the

    water's surface until his wings got wet, and then he'd start a spinning

    death spiral that ended with the gulp of a fish.

    There is a


    and several

    hiking trails

    around Stanley

    Lake as well.

    We made a few trips to the lake

    over the next week, each time

    enjoying that burst of "ahhh" as

    the trees parted and the lake

    came into view.

    It seemed like a perfect spot to

    bring the family for a week of

    camping.  The sites are

    perched right on the water's

    edge and there are endless

    activities to keep kids amused

    along the shore.

    The early mornings were cold

    and quiet, but as each day

    wore on and the sun flooded

    the shore, the sounds of kids

    voices carried across the


    The Sawtooth Mountains line the horizon like the cutting edge of

    a saw blade, and everywhere we turned their snowcapped tops

    formed a backdrop.  Stanley sits at the intersection of three of

    Idaho's official "scenic highways," and there are viewpoint pullouts

    and photo-op spots all over town.

    One afternoon we got a pizza at Sawtooth Luce's.  This little log cabin

    eaterie has been in the same family for several generations, and our

    waiter proudly announced that three weeks earlier the owners had just

    given Stanley its first locally born baby in 30 years.

    We took the kayak to Redfish Lake, another

    expanse of clear, turquoise water set against a

    wide mural of the Rockies.  The water was

    cool, but so inviting, with every rock and fallen

    log clearly visible many feet below the surface.

    There were several beaches, some accessible

    by car and others, we later learned, accessible

    only by boat.  The sand on every beach was

    wonderfully white.

    We cast about for a while to find a good launching spot and settled

    on the beach by Redfish Lodge.  This is a fun and busy place.

    There are cabins, a lodge, a camp store, boat rentals, a marina

    with slips and moorings for powerboats and sailboats alike, and a

    white sand beach loaded with families.  It is an ideal swimming

    area, as the water is shallow for a long distance, keeping it

    somewhat warm.  We quickly inflated the kayak and cast off.

    It didn't take long for the playful voices from the beach to fade into

    the distance as we pedaled our way along one shore.  There was

    a point in the distance that lured us, tantalizing us with images of

    what might lie beyond.  The crests of a few jagged peaks poked

    above the nearby trees, promising a dramatic view once we

    rounded the point.  It seemed like we would never get there, but

    suddenly the point swung wide, like a door opening to another

    land, and we found ourselves in an emerald green pool of

    shallows at the feet of two majestic mountains.

    Many evergreen

    trees along the

    shore were red.

    They were going

    through their

    death throes as

    beetles invaded

    the tender flesh under their bark.  This made for interesting colors among the

    trees, but was disconcerting in a forest that should be solid deep green.  From a

    distance much of the forest high up on the ridge was grey, as many trees had

    already succumbed to the armies of invading pests.  In places it seemed just one

    in ten trees was wearing its intended green hue.

    We found a perfect spot to land for a shore-side snack.  It was actually a boat-in campsite,

    complete with a fire ring, a wood pile left by a previous camper, and a table.  A tiny beach

    stretched along the shore,

    and a large rock sat out a

    ways in the lake.  Mark was

    tempted to go swimming,

    but he didn't want to be

    soggy wet and cold for the

    return trip.  So he settled

    for wading out towards the

    big rock, carefully hiking his

    shorts up higher and higher

    as he went.  He stepped

    gingerly from one submerged rock to another, leap-frogging

    towards the big boulder.  Just as it looked like he'd made it to the rock

    island, his foot slipped on some algae and he doused himself thoroughly.

    Oh well, so much for staying dry.

    After kayaking a little further we turned around, leaving the dramatic

    rocky horizon behind us.  Before long, the sounds of kids playing in

    the water at Redfish Lodge pierced our little oasis of silence, and

    we paddled our way back into the hustle and bustle of a hot

    summer day at the beach.  Kids licking ice cream cones, parents sipping cold beer, and sunbathing teens changing from white to

    pink greeted us as we deflated the kayak and folded it back into its bag.

    That weekend the town of Stanley hosted the Salmon Festival, a fair

    celebrating the local salmon.  We knew nothing about salmon when we got

    there, other than how to grill it, but by the end of the day we had learned

    many amazing things about the life cycle of these intrepid fish.  We were

    astonished to learn that when 3-year-old salmon make their way from

    Stanley down the Salmon River to the Snake River to the Columbia River to

    the ocean some 900 miles away, they make a mental note of the smells

    along the way so they can sniff their way back home a year or two later,

    never making a wrong turn up a wrong tributary.  Once home, they flirt with

    each other and the females choose their mates.  The males quiver

    alongside their females, waiting impatiently for them to lay their eggs so

    they can be fertilized.  Once the seeds for the next generation have been

    sown, the parents die.

    We had known that salmon fishing

    had deteriorated badly in recent

    years, but were shocked to learn

    that in the decade of the 1990's

    only 10 local salmon made it

    back to Stanley to spawn, putting

    them on the endangered species

    list.  This year 750 or so are

    expected to return, a recovery

    attributed to the removal of many

    dams along the rivers and

    meticulous breeding in

    hatcheries.  We had known that

    river dams impeded salmon

    migration, but were stunned to

    find out the trouble is during

    their trip down to the ocean, not during their return up river to spawn years later.  Young

    salmon approaching a dam as they swim towards the ocean are guided out of the river to

    be loaded onto trucks and barges so they can be taken around the dam and then returned

    to the river on the other side where they continue their swim to the ocean.  For Stanley

    area salmon this happens at four dams on the Snake River and four on the Columbia.

    That's a lot of corralling, loading and unloading for a six inch fish that is designed just to

    swim with the current to the ocean.  Most don't make it.  The young are tagged with

    microchips before they leave the hatchery so they can be identified upon their return from

    the ocean, at which point they have grown to recognizable salmon size.  The

    microchip tags aid in isolating a few fish for hatchery breeding when they return,

    keeping the hatchery DNA pool as wide as possible.

    This was a lot to take in and gave us a far greater appreciation for the wild caught

    filets we buy at the supermarket.  Mulling it all over, we wandered about the town

    of Stanley, taking several bike rides along the scenic highways.  The views

    everywhere were breathtaking.

    We went to a lecture at the Stanley

    Museum given by a man who had

    kayaked the same route that the salmon

    take: the Salmon River to the Snake River

    to the Columbia River to the ocean.  He covered the

    distance in 52 days in 2001, experiencing some of the

    same hassles the fish do at the dams as he took his

    kayak through the lock systems.

    Stanley also has a mining history, but we didn't stay long

    enough to delve into it too deeply.  There are some

    intriguing mining relics and ghost towns in the area that

    we decided to save for a return trip another year.

    We took one last hike out to the far end of Stanley

    Lake and breathed in the moist pine scent.

    On our final day in the area

    the sun cast an orange

    glow on the rocky peaks for

    a few moments as it rose in

    the sky.

    Then we started a two-day

    trip down the road along the Salmon River, thinking of the salmon and of the kayaker as

    we drove.  The river was our constant companion as we descended northwards towards

    Stevensville, Montana.