Exploring The Moyie River Of Northern Idaho
Saturday, August 13, 2016
by Marlene Affeld
Life On The Moyie –
I was blessed to grow up on the banks of the Moyie River in Eastport, Idaho.
From a child’s perspective, I envisioned the rest of the world as beautiful and peaceful as my home beneath the giant cedars. After a lifetime of travel, my sisters and I retraced the steps of childhood, played in the creek, panned for gold, and dined on fresh trout for dinner. The world does indeed have many beautiful places. However, Eastport remains one of my very favorite destinations when I want to escape the city and touch the earth.
Enchanting, yet relatively unknown, the Moyie River, one of the best-kept fishing, hiking, and Class III whitewater rafting secrets in Idaho, is an eco-adventure destination not to be missed. Additional recreational opportunities include
Born in the Purcell Mountains in southeast British Columbia, Canada, the Moyie River is a 92-mile long whitewater tributary of the Kootenai River. Flowing northeast, the river collects water from headwater streams before turning south and entering Moyie Lake.
Fishing The Moyie River
Moyie Lake is a fisherman’s paradise, home to fighting Kokanee salmon, giant lake trout, paddlefish, and sturgeon. Established in 1959, Moyie Lake Provincial Park, located less than 10-miles from Cranbrook, B.C. provides a boat launch for access to the crystal clear, deep blue mountain waters of Moyie Lake. Bull trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout thrive in the cold sparkling clear waters of the Moyie River.
Exiting Moyie Lake, the mighty Moyie River flows south and west, passing by the rural village of Yahk, British Columbia, and the Yahk Provincial Park before crossing the Canada-United States Border at Kingsgate, British Columbia and Eastport, Idaho.
Tucked in the folds of the spectacular Moyie River canyon on U.S. Highway 95, Eastport is a major Port of Entry from Canada into Idaho. A 24-hour border crossing, visitors find customs brokers available and a duty-free shop. Eastport is a significant entrance to the Selkirk Loop from the Calgary/Edmonton area, as well as points further north.
Black bears and grizzlies, mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, wolverine, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer inhabit the thickly forested remote terrain. The Moyie River and its tributaries lie primarily within the Kaniksu National Forest; home to more than 300 wildlife species. Several animal species listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered, including Canada lynx, grizzly bear, woodland caribou, and the elusive gray wolf forage the banks of the Moyie.
The glacially carved mountain area around Eastport has great historical significance being on a well-traveled route long before modern highways or railroads. Wild Horse Trail, made famous by Canada’s 1860’s gold rush, followed this path and in 1909 the first track connecting the Canadian Pacific Railroad to rail lines in Idaho was completed here.
Prostitutes, preachers, merchants, and miners from the “lower 48” made the arduous trek along the Moyie, through Eastport, following the White Horse Trail to what is still considered to be one of the most productive gold creeks in all of British Columbia. Discovered in 1863 by American prospectors, Wild Horse River, originally known as Stud Horse Creek, yield more than $7,000,000 of the precious yellow metal: at a time when gold was averaging $3.00 an ounce. One fortunate fellow, Mike Reynolds, mining the Moyie river channel, was blessed with the discovery of a 36-ounce nugget.
Initial gold prospecting activity in the area was from 1863 through 1868, with a second gold rush from 1885 to 1900. During this period, countless European and Chinese miners tread the banks of the Moyie on their way to writing their story in the archives of history.
In Idaho, the Moyie follows a convoluted course through a secluded wilderness canyon, before discharging into the larger Kootenai River 10 miles east of Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
Attempting to locate Moyie Falls on a map can be a bit confusing. The wilderness river, on its journey to the sea, boasts two impressive waterfalls. While both of the falls share a common name, and the Moyie River powers both, they are located in different countries, many miles apart.
Moyie River Falls, British Columbia, not to be confused with the larger Moyie Falls in Idaho, is an intriguing hiking destination hidden deep within a canyon southwest of Cranbrook, B.C.
Known not just for its spectacular scenery, but also because of its rich historical heritage, the area surrounding Moyie Falls, B.C. is pockmarked with old tailing piles and tunnels, indicating evidence of decades-old gold placer activity.
Gold was first pursued in the area during the late 1800’s with areas above and below the falls recording good production. Today, because of the escalating price of gold, the area shows renewed activity as weekend prospectors pan the streambed in search of the elusive golden mineral.
Accessing the falls is a bit of a challenge, even for the physically fit, requiring a drive via 4-wheel drive vehicle down a rough and tumble logging road, then a scramble down a steep logging skid trail to the open valley below. Once you enter the valley, cross the river traversing the mine workings, climb down a wall mounted ladder, inch along a narrow ledge and then scoot through a mine access tunnel piercing the rock wall, to arrive at a ledge outcropping facing the falls. You will agree the site is worth the effort as you view multiple rainbows produced by the mist of the cascading river. At the base of the falls, a deep plunge pool offers a perfect spot for a summer swim.
Not to be outdone, Moyie Falls, located west of the Moyie River Bridge near Moyie Springs, Idaho, is one of the largest volume waterfalls in Idaho. Exploding 70 feet into a narrow gorge, then plummets another 25 feet. The turbulent falls flow year around. Although diligent prospectors find occasional nuggets and solid flakes of gold, the Moyie River is more apt to yield fine flour gold and garnets.
Recoverable minerals found in the waters of the Moyie River include gold, platinum, silver, copper, lead, garnet, and zinc. In the Moyie River drainage, the majority of the gold is trapped in quartz veins. Take a drive through the beautiful valley below the falls. You will notice backhoes and gravel deposits everywhere: you can almost smell the gold.
To view the falls, travel east on U.S. Highway 2, exit west of Moyie River Bridge and proceed 0.5 miles to an open area providing a fine view of the fabulous falls.