The Clearwater National Forest is located in northeastern Idaho and is comprised of 1,671,485 acres. There are thirty-eight developed campgrounds, thirteen of which meet the selection criteria.
If green is your favorite color then the Clearwater National Forest is for you. Here you'll find every shade of green imaginable. There is the green of new ferns and ancient Cedars' lacey boughs. The green of late summer grasses softened cliff-faces while the deep, rich green of Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines ruffle the mountain's edge where it touches the sky. In the western section of the Clearwater you find rolling hills of high prairie where the Clearwater's greens are patch worked into the velvet gold of ripening wheat fields. The recreational opportunities and camping locations are as diverse as the various shades of green color found in this undiscovered U.S. National Forest.
The Clearwater National Forest calls itself "Lewis and Clark country." U.S. Route 12 is named the Lewis and Clark Highway because it parallels the route used by these men as they entered the region. The 80-mile Lolo Motorway Adventure Road (Forest Route 500) more closely follows the actual route used by Lewis and Clark from Lolo Pass at the Montana/Idaho boarder to Weippe Prairie, Idaho. The route follows the ridge tops of a land bridge between the Columbia River Basin and the Northern Plains. The Nez Perce called it "Khusahna Ishikit" – buffalo trail. Although not a maintained roadway, high-clearance vehicles can negotiate this route where one can experience the isolation and wonder that must have been felt by Lewis and Clark. Share a campfire with the spirit of Lewis and Clark at Hungry Camp, Sinque Hole, or Horsesteak Meadow (all hike-in camping locations and not included in this campground review) or imagine the messages left at Indian Post Office, the highest point of the route.
Not into 80-mile hikes but want to experience some of the history? Visit Killed Colt Camp, now called the Powell campground along U.S. Route 12. Although the running water (the camping locations' primary amenity) was from the Killed Colt Creek at the time of Lewis and Clark's visit, today one loop of the campground has electric hook-ups at each site. Wendover, Whitehouse, and Jerry Johnson campgrounds, good for car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping, also have historical connections to Lewis and Clark and the Lolo Trail. September 15, 1805 Lewis and Clark passed through Wendover and Whitehouse campgrounds, adjacent to the Lochsa River, on their way to the Pacific Ocean. The Jerry Johnson campground is located at the base of a "feeder" trail of the Lolo Trail. This 3.5-mile "feeder" trail provided access to the Lochsa River and it's abundant trout population. The Lolo Pass Visitor Information Center and Lochsa Historical Ranger Station are designed to provide the visitor with a real sense of what the country and life was like from the turn-of-the-century to the mid-1970's.
It is hard to believe Lewis and Clark nearly starved while in the Bitterroot Mountains along the Montana/Idaho border. Today, the Forest's visitors can enjoying viewing a large variety of wildlife. Elk and moose are common visitors at Elk Summit and Wilderness Gateway campgrounds. And the Clearwater River and its tributaries provide healthy populations of Cutthroat, Brook and Rainbow trout and Whitefish. Even Steelhead Trout and Chinook Salmon can be seen in these waters. Bears, mountain goats, eagles and osprey are also be found in the Clearwater National Forest.
The western section the the Clearwater National Forest is a patchwork of green and gold, private and forest land, ancient groves of Cedar, and acres of new Douglass fir. The recreational opportunities int this area include camping, hiking, horseback riding, trails for ORVs and winter sports. Laird Park Campground offers swimming in a lake produced by a 1933 Civilian Conservation (CCC) constructed dam. Little Boulder Creek campground finds its roots in history for it was once the site of Camp #4 of the Potlatch Lumber Company. To experience the beauty and tranquility of a forest, Giant White Pine Campground is delightful not only for camping but for the hiking opportunities.
With some 1,500 miles of trails in the Clearwater National Forest, five different Scenic Drives, Adventure Motorways, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, robust populations of various wildlife, widely diverse camping locations for a variety of experiences, and great fishing, the Forest has something for just about everyone. Come and enjoy the history, beauty, wonder and the many shades of green to be found in the Clearwater National Forest.
12730 Highway 12
Orofino, Idaho 83544
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
Rt. 1, Box 398
Kooskia, Idaho 83539
12730 Hwy. 12-B
Orofino, Idaho 83544
1700 Hwy. 6
Potlatch, Idaho 83855
Powell Ranger Station
Lolo, Montana 59847