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  Along the Washington / Idaho border, Granite Falls (not pictured) barrels over a flat rock chute and crashes into a wall near the bottom, forcing it to take an immediate 45 degree turn. It careens over a maze of boulders and aged, fallen trees crisscrossing the creek bed like Pick-up Sticks. A hollow in the rock beside the outpouring resembles a shallow cave, complete with bright, green ferns growing up its sides. Sheer cliffs stand guard on three sides, appearing to arch over the avalanche of water.

  But there’s more to see in the immediate area than just Granite Falls – the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars is home to a vast stand of 2,000- year-old cedar trees. Some of these ancient beauties reach 150 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter.

  The short trail back to your vehicle puts you in a small campground known as the Stagger Inn. When it was used by firefighters in 1926 there were no roads in the area, making the Stagger Inn a remote base camp accessible only by foot. After a hard day battling flames, tired and bedraggled, the men would stagger in for food and sleep; hence the name. The going is easier these days, and there are several hiking trails – one-half to a mile long – leading to different viewpoints of both Upper and Lower Granite Falls.

  Three miles downstream from the falls is the locally-famous Priest Lake Shoe Tree, a cedar tree with hundreds of different colors and styles of footwear hanging from its trunk and limbs. It’s a local tradition for families to bring their worn out shoes as an offering, and snap a few photos for the album.

  Visiting Granite Falls is a great all-day adventure. Where else will you find a raging waterfall, an ancient cedar grove, a camping and picnic area and a genuine shoe tree?

  How to get there: From Priest River, go north on Highway 57 to Priest Lake and follow the signs to Nordman. The falls are 13 miles north of Nordman on Forest Road 302.

  How to get to the Shoe Tree: Drive 10 miles north of Nordman on Forest Road 302 and take the turn-off to the Tillicum Creek Trail. The Shoe Tree sits across the small bridge that crosses Granite Creek about 150 feet off Forest Road 302.


  You may be wondering why a Montana waterfall would be featured in this article. It’s simple: We want you to know about great places for a day trip. If we make awesome finds just over the Montana, Washington or Canadian border, we’re going to make sure you know about them.

  Kootenai Falls is a spectacular spot and even comes with a swinging bridge. Situated halfway between Troy and Libby, Mont., you can get there from Sandpoint in less than two hours. There’s a nice pullout parking area, complete with an interpretive

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site showcasing the Kootenai Tribe – the falls’ first human visitors.

  The swinging bridge can be reached by taking the wooded walking path, past the restrooms, some picnic tables and barbecue pits to a fork in the road; a set of arrows point right for the falls and left for the bridge.

  This waterfall is different from the
others listed. It’s not a creek, it’s a river. The channel is swift and wide, with green water cascading down many tiers until it gets to the major drop-offs. There are several curtains
of water side-by-side that look and act completely different from one another. If the dramatic sight looks familiar, that’s because the 1994 Meryl Streep/Kevin Bacon movie, “The River Wild,” was filmed here.

  Visitors can get up close and personal with the torrents; large, flat rocks offer a naturalistic and exhilarating picnic spot right at their feet.

  These rocks have a history with the Kootenai Tribe that dates back 500 years – perhaps your picnic spot is the very site where tribe members once sat to meditate or pray. Kootenai Falls is the last major waterfall on a Northwest river that hasn’t been channeled through a dam.

 Several times throughout the years electrical co-ops have tried to get a proposal for a dam passed, but it’s always been opposed by the Kootenai-Salish Tribes. Progress will eventually reach the Kootenai River, so take the time to see these falls in their natural, unrestrained beauty.

  Taking the trail to the swinging bridge brings you past another set of falls. In the middle of the Kootenai River is a rock formation that resembles a ship. The deluge is forced on either side of the “ship’s hull”, with part of the overflow traveling along a wide ledge that runs the length of the rock. As the river drops in altitude the ledge is gradually suspended several feet above water-level and creates a small but pretty fall at the back of the “ship”.

  The bridge, suspended 100 feet above the waterway, is constructed with large cables, wood and wire making it quite sturdy. It’s 210 feet long, and if you go to Kootenai Falls, you’ll want to brag that you crossed it. Take pictures of the torrent below as proof of your bravery.

  How to get there: From Sandpoint, take US 95 north towards Bonners Ferry for just over 34 miles. Turn right at US 2 and drive 37 miles.

  Prepare yourself for the most in-your-face waterfall of all. Snow Falls is a complete surprise. Only five miles west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, there is no clue that a waterfall is anywhere in the vicinity until a small brown sign points the way. Don’t bother looking; it’s not there. Drive a little farther around a bend and there will be a turnout. Park and walk down the trail about a half-mile to the upper falls. You’ll pass several smaller falls along the way, but keep going. There will be no doubt when you reach the real thing.

  A wooden walkway takes you to the very edge of roaring Snow Falls.

Even from that height, the immense volume of water plummeting below causes spray to rise up from the pool like smoke, immediately fogging up glasses and camera lenses. You’ll feel like you’ve been sprayed in the face with a water bottle set to “mist”. Your hair will be limp, your clothes will be damp and your smile will be wide. It’s a stunning sight with the sunlight streaming through the trees, turning the moss to radiant shades of green.

  When you’ve had your fill, backtrack to the lower falls. It’s just as magnificent but you’ll stay dry. There are gorgeous small and mid-sized falls along the way, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the spectacle you’ve come to see. Just like the upper falls, you’ll know when you get there.

  A wooden walkway with stairs leads to the edge of a crashing, powerful waterfall that takes several turns, giving it the shape of a lightning bolt. The trail is good but it may be a bit of a hike for some people.

  How to get there: From Sandpoint, go north on US 95. Turn left at the golf course on Deep Creek Road, just before you enter Bonners Ferry. Drive three miles and turn right on Lion’s Den road. Drive two and- a-half miles to the waterfall trail.



  On the east side of Priest Lake are several gorgeous water features, but I choose to introduce you to Hunt Creek Falls. First you’ll be struck by the dramatic contrast of color; coal black rocks jut through a curtain of pristine white water, a thick emerald carpet of moss covers boulders and trees, both standing and fallen. The falls are surrounded by gray, sheer rock cliffs and lush greenery. In places, cedars grow straight out of rock outcroppings with no apparent space for roots.

  Cedar and hemlock trees create an enchanting, leafy canopy over the falls and Hunt Creek. The upper section rushes over rocks, crashing into a bubbling pool. In its hurry, the water splits around a boulder the size of a dump truck, then careens down a second falls, which is split by another huge boulder. So from the lower vantage point the second cascade looks like two waterfalls gushing into a “Y”, mixing together in the turbulent pool below.

 Gaining momentum, the water is forced through a narrow, rock squeeze-chute, blasting out the other side in its desperate attempt to escape.

  If you bring young children to
Hunt Falls, make sure you hang on to them; there are no railings. The hike is an easy one that most anyone can make.

  How to get there: From Priest
River, head north on Highway 57 about 22 miles and turn on Dickensheet Road. Drive five miles and turn right on Cavanaugh Bay Road, which will turn into East Shore Road. Just past the three mile marker will be Forest Road #23. It takes off up the hill to the right. The only sign is a brown post with a white “1” on the front and “23” on the side. Take this road up the hill and turn immediately to the left. There’s a sign for a Department of Lands camping area. Pull in and stay to the left, following the road until it gets too rough. Park and you’ll hear the water. Follow the road on foot the last 100 feet to this awe-inspiring sight.

  There is no sign of any kind to alert you that there is a waterfall here. More than likely, the only other people you’ll see will be holding this magazine and following the directions – just like you.

Two for One Special!

  You can easily take in two of these waterfalls on a day trip. If you head to Priest Lake, you can see Granite Falls on the west side of the lake and Hunt Creek Falls on the east.

If you decide to go to Kootenai Falls in Montana, you can drive only five miles out of your way and see Snow Falls in Bonners Ferry.


  There are many more waterfalls, both large and small, in North Idaho and the surrounding area: Myrtle Creek Falls, Smith Creek Falls, Yaak River Falls, Lion Head Natural Slides – the list goes on. Go to the Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce Web site to find a map to four in Boundary County. You can find several more on the Priest Lake Web site. Idaho Parks and Recreation have flyers with directions to many area waterfalls.

  Take a day; any day. Make a picnic lunch and head for the mountains, rivers and creeks. Discover waterfalls you’ve never seen, roads you’ve never taken and campgrounds you didn’t know were there. Not only will you find breathtaking scenery, but the odds are you’ll run across more than one form of wildlife.

  If North Idaho is packed with
hidden jewels, then these intense
waterfalls are the glittering diamonds.
Go find them!

Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce
(208) 267-5922
Priest Lake Web site
(208) 443-3191
Idaho Parks and Recreation
(208) 334-4199 | | | |
Sandpoint Idaho Arial Photo Guide

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