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New Wild Horse byway is part of first international system

The Wild Horse Trail, one of two new scenic byways approved by the transportation board last week, includes the stretch of U.S. 95 from Sandpoint to its junction with Idaho 1, about 10 miles south of the Canada border at Porthill. Board members of the International Selkirk Loop are excited that the Idaho route is part of a scenic loop that extends into lower British Columbia and eastern Washington.

That loop encircles the Selkirk Mountains, following U.S. 95 to Canada highway 21, north along the eastern shores of Kootenay Lake, around Kokanee Glacier Park and south into Washington, past Metaline Falls and along the Pend Oreille River.

Much of the scenic beauty along the Wild Horse Trail affords panoramic views of the Selkirk Mountains, Kootenai River and surrounding forested hills.

Ancestral home of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the region attracted trappers and traders around the turn of the 19th century. While they harvested furs, the Kootenai Tribe harvested fish each fall in bountiful numbers from the region’s waterways. A few decades later, miners engaged in their own harvest from Wild Horse Creek.

A number of unique cultural amenities are available along the byway, including galleries featuring local artists, new wineries and an elk farm. Sandpoint has a particular charm attributable to its world-class scenery and an unrivaled community of artisans.

The route serves as a gateway to boundless recreational opportunities in the region such as skiing, boating, kayaking, hiking and fishing, and hundreds of miles of recreational trails and access to dozens of alpine lakes.

“With the inclusion of the Wild Horse Trail in Idaho, the (International Selkirk Loop) intends to apply for National Scenic Byway status for the entire U.S. portion of the route in Idaho and Washington,” according to Carol Graham, ISL operations director.

“The Canadian government is most interested in continuing the continuity of the loop drive in Canada with the intention of becoming the first ‘international’ national scenic byway,” she said.