Several Idaho highways with unique characteristics and intrinsic beauty were designated All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The International Selkirk Loop, that incorporates two Idaho scenic byways and scenic routes in Washington and British Columbia, received the nation’s most prestigious designation, that of All American Road.
The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, on U.S. 12 between Lewiston and the Montana border and on Idaho 13 from Grangeville to Kooskia, also was designated an All American Road. The selection recognizes the outstanding scenic and historic values of the north-central Idaho routes.
The U.S. 12 segment follows part of 1804-1806 Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Members of the Idaho Transportation Board were informed of the new designations Thursday during their monthly meeting in Boise.
Two other Idaho routes were selected as new National Scenic Byways – the Pioneer Historic Byway in southeastern Idaho’s Franklin and Caribou counties and the Western Heritage Historic Byway on Idaho 69 and Swan Falls Road between Meridian and the Snake River. The scenic route passes through the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.
Idaho is the only state to have all of its 2005 submissions approved by the U.S. Transportation Department.
The Payette River and Pend Oreille scenic byways were designated in 2003 along with the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway.
As the nation’s only international scenic byway and just one of 16 All American Roads, the Selkirk Loop includes:
The Selkirk Loop includes 280 miles, with another 242 miles of “Super Side Trips.”
“Travelers find activities to suit every age, interest and lifestyle in all four seasons,” according to the Selkirk’s corridor management plan. “More than 90 percent of the loop follows crystal clear rivers and lakes and is home to one of the largest diversity of large animals in the lower 48 states…”
Species include moose, elk, deer, grizzly bear, big horn sheep, mountain goats, wolves, black bear and woodland caribou.
“While outdoor recreation is a primary year-round draw, many of the towns along the loop offer wonderful history, culture, shopping, dining, accommodations, attractions, entertainment and events,” the management plan adds.
The Northwest Passage National Scenic Byway is 202 miles. It parallels the largest wilderness area found in the lower contiguous 48 states. The route begins at the Washington state line in Lewiston and traverses the pristine Clearwater River, passing through the Nez Perce National Historic Park areas of Spalding and Kamiah and the towns of Lenore, Orofino and Kooskia.
The byway continues along the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River through Lolo Pass to the Montana border. A southern route splits off from U.S. 12 and passes through Stites and Grangeville before connecting with U.S. 95.
The Pioneer Historic Byway is located in the far southeastern corner of Idaho, following U.S. 91 from the Idaho-Utah state line to Idaho 34, north to U.S. 30 and then east to Soda Springs where it meets the Oregon Trail-Bear Lake Scenic Byway. It proceeds north on Idaho 34 to the Idaho-Wyoming border.
It includes portions of a route that Idaho’s early pioneers traveled and passes through Franklin, Idaho’s first settlement.
Travelers can see the remnants of Idaho’s first grist mill, one of the original Yellowstone Highway markers, the century-old Mormon Oneida Academy, the Bear River massacre site, Devil’s Hand, the Niter Ice Cave, Last Chance Canal and geologic areas.
Connecting Interstate 84 and the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA, the Western Heritage Historic Byway follows Idaho 69 and Swan Falls Road for 30 miles. The five-lane route to Kuna gives way to a two-lane roadway that crosses an arid plateau and winds down the Snake River Canyon to Swan Falls Dam.
Idaho Power operates a hydroelectric plant, maintains a public museum and offers a day-use park at the base of one-mile winding road.
A number of predatory birds, including hawks, eagles and osprey are native to the area and may be visible from Dedication Point, a breathtaking vista at the breaks of the canyon about 16 miles south of Kuna.
With federal scenic byway designation, routes become eligible for National Scenic Byway funds that can be used for administrative costs in implementing corridor management plans.
Scenic byway designation also could qualify planning organizations for more project funds and greater national and international recognition through increased marketing. In turn, that marketing can enhance rural economies by generating more tourism.