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The Laura Moore Cunningham

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway

The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway is Idaho's longest, at 202 miles, and it's like a big, beautiful classroom for studying the history of the American West, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. You could easily spend several days exploring just the western half of this byway, starting in Lewiston at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers.

The Lewis and Clark Discovery Center at Hells Gate State Park features a two-acre outdoor interpretive plaza, a beautiful moving stream with sculptures by artist Rip Caswell, and we highly recommend watching the film: "From the Mountains To the Sea: Lewis and Clark in Idaho." This is the perfect way to start your drive. Just outside of Lewiston is the Nez Perce National Historic Park site at Spalding. You'll find a fabulous museum and a research center here, as well as three sites used by the Lewis and Clark expedition — the Weippe Prairie, Canoe Camp, and Long Camp. At Canoe Camp, expedition members spent several days carving canoes from the Ponderosa Pines for their trip westward in 1805.

Just a few miles upstream is Long Camp at Kamiah, Idaho. It's where the expedition stopped for a few weeks in 1806 on their return trip, to wait for the snow to melt in the mountains. There's an interpretive kiosk in the Kamiah City Park right beside the bridge.

A short distance away is a site sacred to the Nez Perce. Be sure to stop and learn why it's called The Heart of the Monster. As you continue toward Montana, you'll find historic ranger stations like the one at Lochsa where you can step back into the 1920's with a little help from the friendly volunteer interpretive guides. The Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers offer plenty of recreational opportunities along this route, and every inch of this byway is a photographer's paradise. In fact, just east of the byway is the rugged and beautiful Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area. And at the top of the pass near the Montana border you can learn about history, geology and more at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center.