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We left Lost Lake and drove east and south to explore the St Joe River watershed in north Idaho. We’d never visited that area before and were not sure where we were going to stay. Fortunately we found a very pleasant campground about ten miles out of St Maries and settled in for the night. It was unusual for a US Forest Service campground because it wasn’t in the forest. It was in a meadow of tall grass that was mowed for the camping areas. The river is wide and slow there, not the mountain stream that we were expecting. Across the river there was an active logging unit with folks starting work early in the morning. We discovered that the logging industry is still very active in this part of Idaho and we saw and heard many log trucks coming and going starting before five am!

The next day we explored Marble Creek – an area that once held millions of board feet of white pine trees. The history of the area was fraught with danger in the form of terribly hard work and sometimes criminal activities in order to take over the prime old growth forests. They are still logging there although most of the white pine is gone due to harvest and disease. Much of the drainage is now in a mixed stand of second growth. We were surprised with the diversity of the forest and rate at which trees grow there. We read that north Idaho gets on average, 45 inches of rain a year! That’s a lot compared to our paltry 12 or 15 inches of rain per year. No wonder the forest was so dense.

We drove on upstream to Avery which was a very busy railroad town for many years. The electrified Milwaukie train had a major stop there. We traveled up the North Fork of the St Joe following the route of the train tracks through several tunnels and across one old steel trestle. It is amazing to think of these huge projects that were accomplished in the 1800’s!

The next day we headed to Montana via Forest Road 50 along the St Joe and Gold Creek. When the asphalt ended we had left Idaho.



  1. For a very important piece of the history of this forest you might want to read up on “The Great Fire of 1910”. There is a great book called “The Big Burn” on the subject.

    • My husband read that book before our trip and he told me many stories from it as we traveled in the region.

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