Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

Details

  • DesignationAll-American Road (2002/2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
  • LocationID
  • Length202 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Friends of the Clearwater
Statewide Byway Partners
Idaho Byways Map & Guide
Visit Idaho
Traditional tipis dot the landscape of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. But don't be fooled: some are intended as visitor lodging. At Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding
Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor Photo

Overview

The Lewis and Clark Expedition journeyed through north-central Idaho 200 years ago in search of the Northwest Passage. The sparkling rivers, deep canyons, and rugged mountains they encountered are relatively unchanged. Experience the culture, recreation, and scenery in this breathtaking land of the Nez Perce.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

At 202 miles, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is Idaho’s longest byway. This route follows the route Lewis and Clark navigated through north-central Idaho. It begins at Lewiston, splits at Kooskia, and arrives in Grangeville to the south and Lolo Pass to the east. The traverse winds along the Clearwater River Canyon, parting toward the Camas Prairie on one side while continuing along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River on the other.

This byway moves through a magnificent wilderness, including the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River, and ends at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Following the route along U.S. 12 parallels the history trails of Lewis and Clark and Nez Perce. On the southern edge of Lewiston, visit Hells Gate State Park, a public recreation area and entrance to Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Located where the Clearwater and Snake Rivers meet in Lewiston, stop to see the Tsceminicum sculpture, a bronze artwork that speaks of Nez Perce legend creatures.

In nearby Spalding, the Nez Perce National Historical Park Visitor Center honors the inland northwest home to the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) people. The park consists of 38 places that are significant to the history and culture of the Nimiipuu. Located in Orofino off Hwy 12 is Canoe Camp, the location where Lewis and Clark, with the help of the Nimiipuu, built five canoes that would deliver them to the Pacific Ocean. According to the Nez Perce creation story, coyote killed a large monster along the Clearwater River near present-day Kamiah, which resulted in the creation of different tribes in the region. The Heart of the Monster is a rock formation that represents this legend, also located within the park.

Kooskia Crossing is an historical marker that reveals four descriptive panels about the significance of the area. These panels are about the Lewis and Clark expedition; the Nez Perce flight of 1877; the brave quest of the Nimiipuu, called a Warrior’s Journey; and a timeline along the Clearwater River, called A Rich Traditional Land Use. Headquartered in Kooskia, the Lochsa Ranger District covers nearly 400,000 acres and offers plenty of wildlife viewing and recreational opportunities, including hiking and fishing.

Along the Idaho/Montana border is the DeVoto Cedar Grove, where the ashes of conservationist and historian Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955) are spread. The area was significant to his editorial work on the Journals of Lewis and Clark, with cedars towering the landscape, up to 100 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. Approaching the end of the byway is the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, an historical landmark where Lewis and Clark crossed over the pass in the Bitterroot Mountains.

Driving Directions

From Lewiston, take US-12E to Idaho County, and follow ID-13W to Kooskia. From here, you can go south to Grangeville, or follow the route east to Lolo Pass.

Points of Interest

  • Nez Perce Historical National Park

    The Nez Perce National Historical Park is comprised of 38 sites located throughout the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

  • Heart of the Monster

    The Heart of the Monster is a 53 acre site in Spalding, Idaho, that represents an origin legend sacred to the Nimiipuu people.

  • Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

    The Selway–Bitterroot Wilderness is a protected wilderness area in the states of Idaho and Montana, in the northwestern United States.

  • Selway River

    The Selway River is a large tributary of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho. It flows within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the Bitterroot National Forest, and the Nez Perce National Forest of North Central Idaho.

Itinerary

  • Rivers and Vineyards

    Get an early start in Lewiston, heading south to Hells Gate State Park. Spend the morning exploring the park, or head to Hells Canyon for a river adventure in the deepest river gorge in North America. Head back toward Lewiston for a hearty lunch and a history lesson. Visit the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center and the Nez Perce Historical Society. Finish your day sipping wine at any of the nearby cellars.

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