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Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway
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"When I talk to visitors that have traveled here from all over the world they are so blown away by the beauty and the vastness of the area. It just makes me stop and reflect and say wow, this really is a beautiful area to be in."
The Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway follows an historic route used first by Native tribes and then later by miners headed to British Columbia. It runs from Sandpoint all the way to the Canadian border. As you're travelling north on the byway the Selkirk Mountain range is off to your left. It has peaks close to 7,000 feet tall and is a great place for hiking and horseback riding. The byway crosses the Pack River that flows out of the Selkirks, and there's even a swimming hole on the river just off the road.
Further up the byway visitors can drive into the McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area. It was established in 1924 to protect Idaho's waterfowl habitat. Operated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game it encompasses more than 1,200 acres. Further north in Bonners Ferry, nature lovers can check out another great bird watching area, the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. It's one of the few refuges in the country that's so close to a major highway. At the refuge, over 263 species of birds have been recorded as well as all the major large mammals. Nearby, the town of Bonners Ferry was the historic location where northbound miners crossed the Kootenai River, lured to the riches in British Columbia.
As drivers follow a similar route toward Canada today, the views have changed little in the last century and a half. If you look closely you can see the contours of the Purcell Trench. It was created about 50 million years ago when the earth's crust stretched along a fault. Later, glaciers scoured out the trench further, leaving moraine boulder ridges and small remnants of bedrock. There's a wonderful viewpoint along the byway that looks out over the Purcell Trench and the Kootenai River Valley, framed by the peaks of the imposing Selkirk Mountains. You can continue your drive further into Canada along a route designated as the International Selkirk Loop.