Montana Kickass Experience: Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge

Imagine yourself driving through Northwestern Montana on US Highway 2, admiring the windy road surrounded by majestic mountains. Every once in a while you glance to the right, where you faintly observe a river, which also meanders through these remote parts of the world. At another turn, you see a large, undisclosed parking lot with countless parked cars next to a few public toilets without much else in sight. And you keep on driving not paying it any mind. Or, the thought of FOMO briefly flashes by, but you ignore it because your road buddy Sparky had seen another retriever from his rolled-down window and gave him a friendly “Woof!”

Listen to your “significant pets” or little voices in your head, because they may just be on to something (or just really gotta pee) 🙂

What is it?

Kootenai Falls is the largest undammed falls in the state of Montana and a major photographer and nature lover attraction for those traveling through the area. For the price of FREE, you get to enjoy not just one but two scenic sights: the falls and the swinging bridge.

To the Kootenai tribe, the falls is a sacred site. They view it as the center of the world, a place where tribal members can commune with the spiritual forces that give direction to the tribe and to individual members.

You can also hike, have a picnic, go for a swim, photograph, and just take it in because places like this are few in between.

Hiking Distance: 1-mile round trip (falls only); 2 miles round trip (both falls and suspension bridge)

Where is it?

Kootenai Falls is located at milepost 21 on US Highway 2 between Libby and Troy. The bridge is seven miles east of Troy, Montana, and 12 miles west of Libby, Montana. Look for Milepost 21 on Montana Highway 2.

Note that the falls and the bridge are not viewable from the parking lot, so it can be easily missed if you aren’t looking carefully!

When to go there?

The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from June until September.

Suggested Time: 60-75 minutes

Why go there?

Just take a peek…

No wonder Sparky was all aquiver because Kootenai Falls and The Swinging Bridge are also dog-friendly! Personally, I’d keep them on a leash and away from rocky edges that could fool them straight into the river. Just be mindful for your sake and that of your furry and other companions that may be blown away by the beauty of it all. And they wouldn’t be the first…

Did you know?

Kootenai Falls was the setting for the filming of the movie, “River Wild, “where actress Meryl Streep almost drowned during the filming. Sad, but true. Here is a trailer with some great shots of the river:

In more recent film history, “The Revenant,” (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy) was mostly shot in Argentina, but the filmmakers realized after most of it was filmed, they needed an iconic waterfall for one pivotal scene. They chose Kootenai Falls for a 10-day shoot in 2014. To film the scene, a camera was suspended by a cable attached to a helicopter, where a stunt double for Leonardo DiCaprio tumbled down Kootenai Falls.

It’s true what they say:

Montana is a visual delight for filmmakers.”

What’s really cool is that you don’t need a helicopter or even a drone to get as close as they did. Just walk further than most people where you can actually get down closer to the river. You’ll probably see others fishing as I did and after getting as close as you want, you feel like the cascades are your very own live performance by one and only – Nature Magnifique.

What’s nearby Kootenai Falls?

Ross Creek Cedar Grove Scenic Area

Libby Dam

Fire Lookouts

Moiye Falls

Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway

and others 

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Published by Alla Ponomareva

Daejeon based portrait and travel photographer/EFL teacher with a passion for traveling on a budget and sharing her stories on her blog www.allaponomareva.com

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