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Kootenai Falls 
and the 
Swinging Bridge

Downstream from Libby, the Kootenai River enters a canyon and flows over Kootenai Falls, one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls in the northwest. The falls and surrounding area are considered sacred to the Kootenai Indians whose ancestors inhabited the region. A forest trail leads from the highway parking lot down to the Swinging Bridge and makes a nice hike that is not too strenuous. Kootenai Falls was the setting for the filming of the movie, "River Wild". Location: US Hwy 2 between Libby and Troy, milepost 21.

The Swinging Bridge near Kootenai Falls on the Kootenai River
The Swinging Bridge
(click on pictures for larger view)

 
Kootenai FallsKootenai Falls on the Kootenai River, adjacent to U.S. Swinging BridgeHighway 2 between Libby and Troy, is a scenic attraction not to be missed. The calm river suddenly gathers momentum surging first through China Rapids and then over Kootenai Falls, dropping 90 feet in less than a mile. The main falls is 30 feet high and can be viewed from a "swinging bridge" that crosses the river. During the Depression, CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) crews did a lot of work in the area constructing roads and bridges, including the first swinging bridge, across the Kootenai River.

The falls area is a sacred site to the Kootenai Indians who once called this area home. This was a place where tribal members communed with spiritual forces. In the early 1800s, David Thompson, a Canadian explorer and employee of the Northwest Company, travelled into the Kootenai river area and used the Kootenai River as a navigational guide through the area following Native American Indian and game trails. He portaged around the falls, following cairns piles of rocks marking the trail built by the Kootenai Indians. 

The falls is accessed by a foot trail from the parking area next to the highway. The dirt trail winds through the trees and has frequent scenic vistas of the river. Benches are located at the top of the trail, and large boulders can be used for resting stops as the trail descends the hill to the river. 

The trail goes over a special enclosed pedestrian bridge View from train overpass bridgeover double railroad tracks, then winds down to the Swinging Bridge which overlooks the falls. 

While crossing the swinging bridge may not be for everyone, the views of the river from the trail make the hike well worth the time. Be sure to bring your camera! 

The river, falls and surrounding rock cliffs create a unique place that commands a feeling of the power of nature to all who visit. In the winter, the falls transforms into a spectacular cascading iceflow, and bald eagles can be seen perched in the bare cottonwood trees along the water's edge

Picnic Area, Food Services, Restrooms

The Libby Lions Club has created a picnic area in a grove of trees just off the parking lKootenai Falls Lions Club Picnic Areaot at the beginning of the trail with picnic tables, barbecue cooking areas, and restroom facilities.

A concession service is available at the Falls parking lot near the trailhead May through September with food services, ATM, souvenirs and visitor information. 

 

Handicapped Accessibility

There is an accessible paved trail about 4 foot wide and about 500 feet to an overlook where one can get a glimpse of the falls. It's just a glimpse of white water through the trees, but the trail to this overlook is under the trees with picnic tables and benches along the way. There are handicap-accessible restrooms near the parking area.

From this overlook, however, the trail is not handicapped-friendly. The trail becomes rather rough and rocky and leads downhill to an overpass of the railroad tracks; this part of the trail is maybe 150' long or so. On the downhill side of the overpass bridge, a metal staircase of 64 see-through metal grate steps lead down to the trail that goes either to the falls or the swinging bridge. All told, the trail to the falls is maybe 1/4 mile, and the trail to the swinging bridge is maybe 1/3 mile. Once near the falls, one can walk along a trail or over the rocks that parallel the river and go upstream to get closer to the head of the falls. Unfortunately, the most spectacular view is from down at the river, which is not accessible for a wheelchair or motorized cart.

 
Raildroad overpass bridge at Kootenai Falls Raildroad overpass bridge at Kootenai Falls

Railroad bridge on Kootenai Falls trail

Kootenai Falls is located at milepost 21 on US Highway 2 between Libby and Troy.

Map to Kootenai Falls

 
Kootenai Falls in the winter Kootenai Falls ice flow

Winter at the Kootenai Falls

 

 

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All page content copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Photos by LibbyMT.com unless otherwise credited.
Winter pictures of Kootenai Falls by Rick Kerr II. "kootenaifallsm" by Maggie Craig.
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