When Gerald Ford came to Libby in 1975 to dedicate the dam, the good citizens were not only there to marvel at the concrete monarch which held back the mighty Kootenai River, but also to fully display the power of a rugged northwestern people. They already knew it was a great spot to view wildlife, fish, and get your boat in the water, and now were able to demonstrate that they were much more than folks that, as an FBI Agent remarked back then, "have a few guns in every pickup, and a lot of pickups."
The area is an observatory full of opportunities for birders with Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, numerous ducks, and some swans, cranes and ospreys cruising about. One can find otter, mink, muskrat, raccoon, and fox sightings or sign in the wetland and shore areas. Huge Rainbow Trout lurk the darker waters, while Kokanee Salmon, and the sensitive Bull Trout prowl submariner-like niches in the recesses of the lake.
A smart fisher will not count out the stretch below the dam either! Large turbines turning in the dam also churn up many fish species that end up as chum which is in turn deposited into the water below the dam near the David Thompson Bridge. Many years ago, a forester buddy and I fished that area in his small boat. It was a nasty February day and the cold rain was directed by the wind in a fusillade of steel like hail. Our persistence finally paid off just before we were about ready to head for the barn. Jim caught two nice ones and I finally landed one too! They were large fish in the 14-pound range. A few years later on August 11, 1997, a fella named Jack G. Housel Jr. pulled the state record rainbow trout out of that stretch. The fish was 38.62-inches long, weighed 33.1-pounds, had a 27-inch girth, and was caught on a lure. And that’s no fish story!
Let your adventure include a trip through the dam visitor center, McGillvary Campground, Koocanusa Marina, Blackwell Flats and Osprey Landing as you get familiarized with the wild history of the Native Peoples and David Thompson’s Historic Trading Post near Blackwell Flats. Soak up the sun, the water, and the warmth of Kootenai Country Montana’s finest hospitality and recreational opportunities!