Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Kootenai Falls — Impossible to Float?

©Bert Gildart: Though Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep may have navigated Kootenai Falls in the movie “River Wild,” few others have successfully run the rapids.  From a point just above the falls the river drops at a rate of 90 feet per mile.  If a floater survives the rapids, they must then contend with the falls, which drops 30 feet at its most extreme.


Some have attempted to kayak the falls and been successful, but not all.


Early explorers recognized the dangers inherent in the falls and choose to portage.  In 1808, the upper end of the falls stopped David Thompson and four other men traveling in a large canoe, at which they decided to portage.  Fifteen trips were required to pack equipment around the falls, each of which took one and a half hours.


Thirty years later, Father Pierre DeSmet, a Jesuit Missionary, arrived at the same conclusion, though his choices were limited as he was progressing up the river rather than traveling down.  DeSmet took eight hours to journey around the falls, mentioning in his journals that he made the crossing in a quadrapedal position, meaning he was crawling on all fours.

KootenaiFalls-13 Oregon Grape-10

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of visiting the falls is crossing the bridge; Kootenai River creates a warm micro-climate that speeds transition from flowers to berries, as in this Oregon Grape.

Today, thanks to creation of a Kootenai Falls County Park, established in 1991, all aspects of this beautiful falls can be enjoyed.  To look into the mouth of the falls, modern-day explorers will have to cross a swinging bridge, and that may be the most challenging aspect of the outing. But the rewards are immense.


Kootenai River flows through a narrow gorge engulfed by ledges of ancient sedimentary rock.  Rocks date from the Precambrian era and are 1.5 billion years old. Once they formed part of a great inland sea and today preserve ancient blue-green stromatolites, still visible as concentric rings.

Today, the falls are one of the main attractions in the Troy/Libby area, and a challenge to river rafters and kayakers.  Several have successfully kayaked the falls – but others have attempted – and failed.


One of the major attractions in the Troy/Libby area


And now a head’s up.  Janie and I will be joining other Airstream friends for a six-day float down one of Montana’s Wild and Scenic River. We will drive to Fort Benton, spend one night in the Grand Union Hotel and then the next day launch canoes into the Missouri River.  This is the same section about which Captain Meriwether Lewis waxed so eloquent.  When we return, we will be posting images and blogs about our journey. The float provides much beauty, and glad to say, none of the near impossible challenges provided by Kootenai Falls.




*Klondike Gold Field



One Response to “Kootenai Falls — Impossible to Float?”

  1. Tim Says:

    Hi Bert,

    Have you floated this section of the Mighty Mo previously? It’s beautiful for sure. Where are you going to take out?