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Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge
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mini location map2014-07-24
41 by photographer avatartibber
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Kootenai Falls and Swinging BridgeWestern, MT
Western, MT
Hiking avatar Jul 24 2014
Hiking1.44 Miles 162 AEG
Hiking1.44 Miles   1 Hour   27 Mns   1.05 mph
162 ft AEG      5 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
On my summer vacation and on our way to Priest Lake, ID to visit with relatives, my cousin Connie and me had to travel west on Hwy 2 in Montana; something neither of us Montana natives had done. This meant passing thru Libby and Troy, Montana. Obviously, neither of us had been in either place. I put up a notice on FB regarding our travel plans and where would people suggest we stop. This place was recommended by a couple people so I put it on the agenda.

We had just finished our stay in Woods Bay in Bigfork, MT with some other cousins so now it was time to head out (don't want to wear out the welcome from our two day stay). It was a beautiful day for our drive :) , though a bit blustery at times. We grabbed a Subway lunch at Libby to take with us to eat at our next scenic stop. The folks at the Subway seemed delighted to talk with the tourists about the touristy things we had planned.
Well the lunch stop was scenic in the cedar grove and there are even picnic tables but it was windy and cold so we just ate in the car :cry: .

We bundled up a bit before heading out on our little hike to the Bridge and Falls. The outhouses have moss tops 8) so that was kind of interesting. There is also a refreshment house. We read a couple of the signs along the way including two warning signs about 12 deaths that have occurred down by the water. We finished walking thru the very nice picnic area and headed toward what appeared to be a bridge and it was; going over the double set of railroad tracks. There was a long row of train cars parked there and one was getting ready to pass thru; missed the picture of the engine.

We walked across and down this very interesting steel staircase and onto the path that takes you to the intersection where you can go left to the bridge or right to the falls. We chose the Bridge first in case the weather would turn. You walk thru the cedar tree-lined path and soon you get glances and sounds of the river. We finally arrived at the bridge where you have to walk up a few stairs. Connie and I were going to let others pass but they backed out. It may be a bit frightening with the roaring river running far below.

I got the camera rolling and across this narrow suspension "swinging" bridge :whistle: we went enjoying the views to each side of us. The rush of the dark turquoise color water 100 feet below is intense. (Oh, I just read that the bridge is 210 feet long.) Once to the other side it looked like there was a trail that ran straight and one to the right. We decided to stay close to the river and walked a bit to above where the water made a slight curve. The geology right around here was great with the flat rocks showing old signs of glaciation or being at the bottom of water flow.

Also, in the distance is a set of falls :DANCE: . In the middle of the Kootenai River is a rock formation that resembles a ship. The water 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”.

At this point we are very near where the Pacific Ocean began or ended depending on what direction you were coming from. Upon my arrival at GNP a few days prior, I had bot a book on the Natural History of Glacier National Park and of course, that involved stories of the formation of the earth in western Montana and the Idaho panhandle to Sandpoint, ID where the ocean started at one time.
The last advance glaciers reached their maximum extent 15,000 years ago and had almost completely melted by 10,000 years ago. It was during this glacial advance that a finger from the glacial ice sheet moved south through the Purcell Trench in northern Idaho, near present day Lake Pend Oreille (ponderay) by Sandpoint, ID, dammed the Clark Fork River creating Glacial Lake Missoula.

This information would play a big role while I was in GNP, our travels on Hwy 2 and then back on Montana 200... and lucky for all of you ;) , I will be doing a couple trip logs on these scenic drives of our "glacial geology" road trip. Those few chapters in that book really inspired me to want to know and see more.

We lingered on the bridge for just a bit, soaking it all in. Truly amazing :y: . Next it was to see the falls. We really had no idea what was in store as we walked back to the intersection and continued east. We saw a few other people who had come from a side trail but we kept going as we wanted to see the main show. And WOW was it something; though not as tall as I thot they might be. The terraced bedrock of Kootenai Falls plummets forty feet over one of the Northwest’s most voluminous waterfalls. It is indeed a marvelous and dramatic site! and it's loud. The first 30 seconds of this other person's video from 2 years ago shows the scale of the falls much better than I did: The water was flowing even heavier then when we were there.

We hung around for a bit and tried to get a little higher to see what looked like a sideways bedrock shelf that the falls were sliding over upstream. It was a bit surreal. The Falls put off a good spray too. We are standing on an open and large bedrock area and when it's not so loud, it would be a fun place to picnic.

We headed back to the TH. We stopped on top of the railroad pedestrian bridge as a long train passed below us. We missed the engine again but were hoping for a caboose; nope. I read somewhere that a train passes thru here every 45 minutes. Back in the cedar grove I got some pictures of the moss-covered tree trunks. The low lighting here and our next stop didn't help with the picture and movie taking but as you know, that didn't stop me from doing both ;) .

I highly recommend this if you're in the area. You get a lot of bang for the buck; it's family friendly for the most part too.

Video of the Swinging Bridge hike (seen in the movie "The River Wild":
Video of the Kootenai Falls, Montana's largest undamned falls:
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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