Reposted from Great Falls Tribune, March 30, 2017, Kristen Inbody
The Kootenai Falls seem different from day to day, moment to moment.
And Linzie Schwindt of Cut Bank would know.
Now a student at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Schwindt has visited the falls the largest undammed falls in Montana more than 20 times.
"I love stopping there," she said. "The falls are very beautiful. The water level is always changing, so the view is always different."
She likes to show the falls and nearby historic swinging bridge to people who have never seen them before.
"The swinging bridge is my favorite," Schwindt said. "There's just something about being on a swinging bridge over a deadly river that is exhilarating."
The falls are a sacred place to the Kootenai, and a popular stop for travelers. A concessions stand is open in the summer.
The Kootenai Falls are a short walk from a well-marked stop with a large parking lot along the U.S. Highway 2 between Troy and Libby.
An overlook is handicapped accessible. A rocky, sometimes steep, dirt trail through the forest leads to a 64-step pedestrian bridge over train tracks and then divides into a path west to the swinging bridge and east to the falls.
Some might recognize the falls as a setting for the 1994 movie "The River Wild," which starred Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.
Most visitors come in the summer, but the falls trail is open year-round.
"It is one of our more popular spots in the forest," said Willie Sykes, public affairs with the Kootenai National Forest.
Those who cross the swinging bridge often bring a picnic lunch or seek another angle from which to view the falls.
For a taste of the wild away from the popular trail, visit the Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area, which stretches along the north bank of the river.
The WMA's 172 acres begin eight miles downstream from Libby and stretch for three miles along the river. Bighorn sheep, deer, black bears, moose and eagles put in appearances.
Visitors should note the interesting geology of the region, too.
The Kootenai River Gorge rips through sandstone and thin layers of shale, with folds from compression that dates back 50 to 100 million years ago.
The rock was deposited 1.5 million years ago, when much of Montana was covered by water. Ancient ripple marks and large stromatolites (the remains of algae mats) are visible in the canyon.