Uniquely North Central Idaho

February 21, 2023

Idaho's Longest Byway

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (Highway 12) is Idaho's longest byway, which at 202 miles, follows the route Lewis and Clark took through north-central Idaho. This beautiful road winds through canyons, forests, and along wild and scenic rivers. Watch out for the "99 miles of winding road ahead" sign!

North America's Deepest River Gorge

a blue jet boat, surrounded by whitewater rapids, makes its way through the Snake River, in Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, 652,488 acres of beauty and adventure, where you can let your senses run as wild as the landscape. The deepest river gorge in North America. Scenic vistas that rival any on the continent. World-class whitewater boating. Spectacular mountain peaks. Vast reaches of remote wilderness for hiking or horseback riding. Diverse and abundant wildlife. Artifacts from prehistoric tribes and rustic remains of early miners and settlers...Hells Canyon National Recreation Area truly offers something for everyone, and much to remember.

Tallest Waterfall in Idaho

Just 50 miles east of Moscow, Idaho, visitors will find The Elk Creek Falls Recreation Area, home to the Elk Creek Falls National Recreation Trail, possessing the tallest waterfall in the state of Idaho. Three separate waterfalls totaling over 140 feet carve a beautiful canyon filled with mesmerizing columnar basaltic formations…with amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, pedestal grills and trailhead information all accessible by a developed Forest Service trail… Elk Creek Falls awaits you!

Tallest Bridge in Idaho

The tallest bridge in Idaho is definitely a sight to see. Located near Orofino on the Elk River Backcountry Byway is Dent Bridge, the highest of all the bridges in the state at 500-feet tall. Spanning across the Dworshak Reservoir, this impressive man-made structure is must-see for any bridge hunter in the state of Idaho. It is also the 2nd highest reservoir bridge built in North America.

Highest Dam in the Western Hemisphere

Dworshak Dam is the highest straight-axis concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere. Only two other dams in the United States exceed it in height. World Atlas named it "One of the 7 Most Awe-Inspiring Dams in the United States.

Nimiipuu Homeland

North Central Idaho is home to the Nez Perce National Historical Park headquarters. Since time immemorial, the valleys, prairies, mountains, and plateaus of the inland northwest have been home to the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) people. Extremely resilient, they survived the settling of the United States and adapted to a changed world. Nez Perce National Historical Park consists of 38 places important to the history and culture of the Nimiipuu. The visitor center is located 10 miles east of Lewiston.

Largest Wilderness Area in the Lower 48

©ROW Adventures

The Frank Church-River of No Return is a wilderness of steep, rugged mountains, deep canyons, and wild, whitewater rivers. The Salmon River Mountains, located south of the Main Salmon and west of the Middle Fork, are the most massive range, and dominate the Wilderness. It encompasses a total of 2,366,757 acres and is the largest contiguous wilderness in the lower 48 states.

Largest Tree in Idaho

Idaho's largest tree can be found at Perkins Cedar Grove near Elk River. It's a Giant Western Red Cedar that's over 3000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and over 177 feet tall! Near here is the Hobo Cedar Grove Trail which has a 240-acre grove of large Western Red Cedars. And, while we're on the subject of cedar trees, the DeVoto Grove Picnic Area and Trailhead (near Lolo Pass) offers visitors 2 loops through stands of ancient western red cedar trees (some over 2000 years old!). Enjoy views of the Lochsa River, picnicking and a chance to take a walk back in time--come and take a look for yourself and experience what it was that conservationist and historian Bernard DeVoto found so magical about this place.

© Snake River Adventures

Largest Freshwater Fish in North America

The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. This fish is catch and release only but the photos will prove that there's no need to lie about how big this fish is. Some are more than 10 feet long and can weigh 400 pounds or more. Find a Hells Canyon guide to help you hook one of these monster fish.

Oldest Public Building in Idaho

The Pierce Courthouse stands as a reminder of the gold rush that swept through the region in the 1860s. The namesake of the courthouse, Elias Davidson Pierce, discovered gold in the creeks above Orofino, which triggered events that have had lasting consequences for the Nez Perce. Built in 1862, the courthouse is the oldest public building in the state of Idaho.

Highest Point of the Palouse Range

Moscow Mountain is the highest point of the Palouse Range of the Clearwater Mountains just north of Moscow. Nearly all of the 60+ miles of trails are on private land but are accessible to mountain bikers, hikers, runners, and other non-motorized users. Winter recreation provides access to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and winter cycling or fat biking.

Home of the Nez Perce Creation Story

The Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) creation story occurred along the Clearwater River near present day Kamiah. Iceye’ye (Coyote) killed a large monster, thus creating different tribes in the region, including the Nimiipuu. A rock formation in the area is said to represent the heart of the monster described in the legend. It is sacred to the Nimiipuu people.

One of the Oldest Continuously Operating Museums in the Northwest

The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, founded in 1931, is one of the oldest continuously operated museums in the Northwest. The collection contains artifacts pertaining to the mining, logging, ranching, farming, and settlement of North Central Idaho as well as a history of the Monastery of St. Gertrude. The Rhoades Emmanuel Memorial contains a unique collection of Asian and European artifacts, some of which date to the Ming Dynasty in China (1368-1644).

Home to Walt Disney's Wife

Idaho native Lillian Bounds married Walt Disney in Lewiston, Idaho in 1925. Lillian was born in nearby Spalding and raised in Lapwai.

Oldest Active Church in Idaho

The First Indian Presbyterian Church is an historic church and cemetery off the highway east of Kamiah. This is the oldest active church in Idaho. On Sundays, services are held and hymns are sung in the Nez Perce language.

Home to Prehistoric Mammoth Bones

Tolo Lake is the largest natural water body on the Camas Prairie, and a traditional gathering area for many bands of the Nez Perce. In 1994, an Idaho Fish and Game worker discovered a huge bone! Three prehistoric mammoth skeletons and an ancient bison skull were recovered. An actual bone is on display at the Grangeville Visitor Center along with a complete life size mammoth skeleton replica.

Five of the Best Rivers in Idaho to Raft

© ROW Adventures

North Central Idaho is known for whitewater rafting. Idaho is #4 on the Best Places to Raft in the US and five of these rivers are located here.

The Lochsa River is one of the original six rivers designated Wild & Scenic. Its name means "Rough Water" if that gives you an idea of the type of whitewater you're going to experience. And, with 40 (Class IV) rapids in 20 miles, some named Bloody Mary and the Grim Reaper, it's truly a heart-pounding bang for your buck. As a free flowing river with no dams controlling it, the season is controlled by the spring run off.

© Salmon River Experience

The Salmon River of No Return is also one of the first Wild & Scenic rivers in the nation. Cutting through the Frank Church Wilderness, the pristine beauty of this deep river canyon and miles of unimpeded rapids make it one of the best whitewater rivers in North America. Guides offer half day to multi-day trips. Rapids range from Class II to IV.

Rafting trips on the Snake River through Hells Canyon are often 3-5 days. Most of the rapids are between Hells Canyon Dam and Pittsburg Landing. The river flows through cultural artifacts like homesteader cabins and a lot of wildlife. The majority of the rapids are Class III and IV.

A man and woman paddle through a calm river, surrounded by pine trees, on a small turquoise catamaran
Clearwater River

The Selway River descends 100 miles and drops nearly 8,000 feet from the Bitterroot Mountains to the Lochsa River. Another Wild & Scenic River, the trip spans about 47 miles and 5 days with Class II-IV rapids.

The Clearwater River is beginner and family-friendly with Class I and II rapids. It begins at the confluence of the Selway and Lochsa Rivers and is a perfect day trip float.

Longest Free-Flowing River Within a Single State

Idaho's Salmon River of No Return near Riggins is the longest free-flowing river that heads and flows within a single state. The Main Salmon River was called “The River of No Return” back in the early days when boats could navigate down the river, but could not get back up through the fast water and numerous rapids. The romantic name lives on today, even though jet boats can navigate upstream.

More River Miles Than Any Other State

Selway River

Dozens of rivers flow through Idaho. Some of these flow hundreds of miles while others, like the North Fork Salmon River, flow less than 30 miles. And, with so many rivers, it is no surprise that in the Lower 48 states, Idaho has the most river miles and most of these are in North Central Idaho.

First Roman Catholic Mission for the Nez Perce

St. Joseph’s Mission, near Culdesac, is the first Roman Catholic mission established to serve the Nez Perce.

Lewis & Clark Spent 6 Weeks Among the Nez Perce

The Lewis Clark expedition spent four weeks with the Nez Perce at Long Camp on their return journey, waiting for the snow to melt to cross the Bitterroot Mountains.

First Nez Perce Dictionary & Grammar Book

The Asa Smith Mission was established near Kamiah. Asa Smith took the first steps in saving the Nez Perce language by writing the first Nez Perce dictionary and grammar book.

Lochsa Historical Ranger Station

Historic Ranger Stations

The Lochsa Historical Ranger Station was used as an administrative hub for a system of fire lookouts, smoke chaser, cabins and other remote forest service facilities. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is no longer in use but remains much as it was in the early 1900s. A self-guided walking tour helps visitors gain a better understanding of the Forest Service’s rich heritage.

Slate Creek Ranger Station’s two-story log cabin was built in 1909. It was used as district headquarters and guard station for fire, trail, and road crews. It is now a historical museum. Located at the Salmon River Ranger District office at Slate Creek on the Salmon River between the communities of White Bird (approx. 10 miles to the north) and Riggins (approx. 18 miles to the south).

Fenn Ranger Station

The Fenn Ranger Station, located on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests near Kooskia, is a historic ranger station complex built by the Civilian Conservation Corps 1936 – 1941.  Its distinctive architectural elements in combination with its surrounding landscape architecture provide one of the most historically important and most elaborate ever-built ranger station complexes within the National Forest System lands

This Remote Road is on the National Register of Historic Places

The Elk City Wagon Road was used by the first gold miners to reach Elk City in 1861 and in 2001 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This adventurous road takes you past forest service lookout towers (some of which you can stay in) and many historic sites. The wagon road intersects with the Southern Nez Perce Trail used by the Nimipuu to travel between the Camas Prairie and Montana.

Theater on the National Register of Historic Places

Grangeville’s Blue Fox Theater, built in 1929, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The marquee and neon lights punctuate the building’s retro aesthetic, but inside, a bit of digital-age technology shines an even brighter light on the classic big screen offering all the latest hit movies on display.

Designated Wilderness Area

Seeking solitude? The magnificent 206,000-acre Gospel Hump Wilderness just outside of Grangeville is about as remote as you can get. With no cell service, there are elevations varying from 1,970 feet at the Wind River Pack Bridge along the Salmon River to 8,940 feet at the summit of Buffalo Hump. 

4 Million Acres of Outdoor Recreation

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is 4 million acres of beautiful and diverse land located in north-central Idaho. Nearly half of the forest is designated Wilderness. They also sport three rivers popular with thrill-seeking floaters—the Selway, the Lochsa and the Salmon. From the dry, rugged canyons of the Salmon River to the moist cedar forests of the Selway drainage to the rolling uplands of the Palouse, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests offers something for everyone.

Camas Flowers on the Weippe Prairie
Camas Flowers on the Weippe Prairie

Weippe Prairie - Camas Bulbs & Where Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce

The Weippe Prairie has always been a traditional gathering place for the Nez Perce. Families come to dig for camas bulbs, an important staple in their diet, and socialize. It was here on September 20, 1805 that they met the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery for the first time. The Nez Perce are credited for the survival of the expedition.

The Trail of the Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark

The Lolo Trail was used by the Nez Perce as a route over the Bitterroot Mountains. It extends from Weippe Prairie to Lolo Pass along the Idaho-Montana border. Lewis & Clark followed this route on their trip across the mountains to the west coast in 1805. Looking for safety in Montana in late July of 1877, the non-treaty Nez Perce followed the same trail during the Flight of 1877.

Nez Perce Villages

Weis Rockshelter was a home of the ancestors of the Nez Perce 8,000 years ago. An ideal location due to its proximity to the Salmon River.

Hasotino is an ancient Nez Perce village uncovered by archaeologists that dates back 11,000 years. It was located near a lamprey fishery, a delicacy for the people. Located in Hells Gate State Park just south of Lewiston, Idaho.

Lenore has evidence of Nez Perce ancestral villages and pit houses dating back 8,500 years.

Ivy League Railroad Towns

Harvard and Princeton are known as the Ivy League towns of Idaho. Princeton was founded in 1896 and named by a prominent lumber man for his hometown of Princeton, Minnesota. When a railroad station nine miles east was built, a local landowner named the town Harvard because of the rivalry between the two eastern colleges. This set a pattern for college names, (Yale, Standford, Vassar, Cornell, Wellesley, and Purdue) along the Washington, Idaho & Montana railroad line.



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