As you stand at one of the overlooks to the Kootenai Falls looking north to the rugged and steep trails that even bighorn sheep cautiously navigate, it doesn’t take more than a hint of imagination to go back in history. With the crashing torrent of the powerful falls in surround sound, one can visualize David Thompson’s "fur brigade" of traders and explorers as they portage around the dangerous series of falls. Imagine their pain as they carry the Kootenai tribe designed "sturgeon nosed" heavy canoes of cedar and equipment along the precipitous trail. The Kootenai, otherwise known as the "Deer Robe People," for the beautifully brain tanned light colored deer robes they traded, helped guide Thompson’s party. Around 1808, Thompson’s journals included this passage.
"We had no alternative, we carried the canoe and goods two miles. The first mile among broken rocks shivered to sharp, small pieces... man had two pairs of shoes on his feet, but they were soon cut to pieces." The site of the falls is sacred to the native tribes still today, and has been used as a "Vision Quest" location. The falls is a "must see" on bucket lists for Kootenai Country, Montana!
It’s a great family outing to check out the falls and cross the timber and cable swinging bridge which spans the river. There are picnic areas and restrooms available. For the hearty hikers, the No. 218 trail continues north up steep cliffs, and bring your binoculars as bighorn sheep and possibly a peregrine falcon and/or eagles can be spotted. For more information on the historical aspect, check out Jack Nisbet’s books on David Thompson: The Mapmaker's Eye.
To access the falls, take Highway 2 approximately 9-miles west of Libby or 6-miles east of Troy. You can’t miss the large parking lot and summer "snack shack" adjacent to the highway, and you certainly won’t want to miss this popular local attraction. The walk down to the bridge is a little steep, but worth it and don’t forget your camera and a little imagination.