US Capitol Christmas Tree

Kootenai Falls a treasure

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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.


Original story here.


Christmas at the Huckleberry Festival a Hit

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It was a wonderful weekend at the Huckleberry Festival! Saturday (August 12) was a very busy day with more than 80 new ornaments created by folks young and young at heart. We had a fabulous time talking and laughing with interested people who were very enthusiastic about the Capitol Christmas Tree, ornaments, and the Forest Service. The Cabinet District had displays on Recreation, Timber, Wilderness, Trails, and Fire. Many people took the opportunity to collect Smokey Bear items and to make original design ornaments. Sunday’s weather held down the crowd for a while but the day ended with several visitors and new ornaments. Even the Cabinet District Ranger got in on the ornament making! Thanks to all who participated and to the District people who helped make the weekend a success. -  Post by Stacey Hazen, Forester, Kootenai National Forest




Wild about Huckleberries

Friday, August 11, 2017

The huckleberry, which grows wild in the high mountainous areas of the region, is a tasty purple fruit and is celebrated across the state of Montana, with good reason. 

Huckleberries are edible and quite tasty. The small, round berries resemble blueberries but they are not the same fruit, as any proud Montanans will tell you. The various species of huckleberries range in color from bright red to dark purple to blue. Red huckleberries tend to have a tart flavor, while purple and blue huckleberries taste sweeter. In addition to humans, many animals enjoy huckleberries, including bears!*

July and August offer prime time picking and picking guides offer good advice to find the perfect patch, such as: Scout out your berry patches early, avoid picking on weekends, prepare your gear in advance, avoid early morning and late evening picking and be bear aware.

August 11-13 marks the 38th Annual Huckleberry Festival in Trout Creek, Montana. Trout Creek was proclaimed the "Huckleberry Capitol of Montana" by the state's legislature in 1981. People flock to taste and purchase the berries. Food vendors feature the tasty "purple gold" in huckleberry ice cream cones, on cheesecake, in drinks, and as a variety of desserts. In addition, more than 120 arts and crafts vendors display and sell their wares along with special events including, the Huckleberry Festival Parade, a Huckleberry 5K Run, dancing under the stars, Huckleberry Hounds Dog Agility Performances, Huckleberry Homesteader Pentathlon, Little Miss Huckleberry and Huck Finn Talent Contest, Festival Auction and more.*

During this year's festival, the Kootenai National Forest will host ornament making at the Forest Service booth on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff from the Cabinet District will be available to answer questions and to assist with ornament making. Watch for the float in the parade, as some of the ornaments that have been made locally will be on display. Stop by to say hello and make an ornament to send with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Learn more about huckleberries:
Huckleberry Hounds: Sniffing out Montana’s delicious purple gem.
What is a huckleberry?
Recipes: Wild Huckleberry Association

*Excerpts taken from Wonderpolis, Montana Vacation Fun, and The Huckleberry Festival.