Northwest Passage National Scenic Byway

In 1803, President Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find the Northwest Passage – the link between the Missouri River and the Columbia River through the unexplored Rocky Mountains. This 202-mile byway, stretching across the base of the Idaho’s panhandle, traces the steps of that exploration.

From the west, this beautiful route begins in Lewiston at the Washington state line on US 12 near the town of Spalding and the heart of Nez Perce Territory. The roadway traverses the winding Clearwater River Canyon, passing through the towns of Lenore, Orofino, Kooskia, and Kamiah – the latter being where the Earth was created, according to Nez Perce legend.

At Kooskia, the byway splits, with one route continuing south to the Camas Prairie and the town of Grangeville, while another heads east on US 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River, through a vast wilderness area toward the Montana border and the Lolo Pass Visitor Center.

Idaho 13 and US 12 above Kooskia, Idaho are winding, two-lane roads with occasional passing lanes and slow vehicle turnouts. During winter months drivers may experience some snow-covered roads as one nears Lolo Pass at the Montana border. The byway can be seen year-round for fishing and wildlife viewing. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular during May, June, and July. Travelers should allow 4 hours to travel the 175.5 miles from Lewiston to the Montana border, and 40 minutes to travel the 26.5 miles from Kooskia to Grangeville.

Reprinted from Idaho Department of Transportation Brochure

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