3 rivers in Idaho–Lewiston to McCall

18 Oct

Clarkston WA was a busy little place after the long open spaces we had driven through before we arrived there. Damp dismal grey clouds hung over the hills on Saturday morning when we awoke after a showery night. With the prospect of a good internet connection we decided a domestic day would be in order and booked in for a second night.

Fortunately the afternoon brightened a little, enough for us to take a brisk walk along the shore line of the river where there is a good  cycle/walking path. Saturday night the rain came again and Sunday morning was just as dismal as the day before. Time to get some miles under the wheels and move a little further south. We took highway 12 south from Lewiston ID, it mostly followed the Clearwater River where numerous small boats were working their way up and down the water – the fishermen were out in force.

At some point we realised the landscape was changing, the dry grass covered hills were dotted with pine trees and by the time we arrived at Orofino we were in a semi wooded valley. The camp ground manager was considerate enough to make sure we were at the quiet end of the campground as she had a number of fishermen in for the week end sport. She told us the previous day 2000 fishermen were supposedly out on the water! We quite believed this as everywhere were small campers and trucks with boat trailers, little boats with up to 5 people on board all hoping to catch the big one! We presume they are fishing for the salmon, we did not see anyone catch anything so either we missed ‘it’ or there were an awful lot of disappointed fishermen going home after the week end.

Monday morning arrived very slightly brighter and we left Orofino with no definite destination in mind, the furthest would be McCall but we had several places before there we could stay overnight… we would see where we ended up…


The Clearwater River flows swiftly through its valley and as we progressed the hills rose higher, by Grangeville we were high in the tops of the mountains where in the distance we could see a dusting of snow on the very tops (around 8500ft). We had left behind the Clearwater but now had the Salmon river at our side, just as fast flowing and still dotted with fishermen. We had a pass to travel through and decided that our lunch stop should be after this point. We had not realised that construction on the road would hold us up for 20 minutes or so, a rock face is being redesigned at the top of the pass, presumably to avoid winter slides. Immediately after the construction we came through the end of the pass to the most wonderful vista with a very convenient pull in for photo opportunity and lunch too.


Far away in the distance was a patch of blue sky, the afternoon mantra was ‘head for the blue’…..


We drove on through high hills then eventually down into the valley where we picked up the Little Snake River which made its way in deep narrow canyons with rocks towering high above us. The famous Hells Canyon gorge is only 8 miles west of this point but the access is via dirt roads, the main access being from the west in Oregon.


Towards late afternoon we crossed into Mountain Time from Pacific and lost an hour, we also crossed the 45th parallel, half way between the equator and the north pole, once upon a time we thought of these landmarks as an exciting point in our journey but we have now crossed so many time lines, and parallels and umpteen crossings of the Continental Divide we have become slightly blasé about them. What rarely fails to captivate us however is the changing scenery, todays 180mile drive was one of so many changes and such dramatic beauty it could not help but be memorable.


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