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A road trip, with a little fishing on the side.

Actually, the headline is a bit misleading. The whole point of the trip was to go fly fishing; the road to the river simply a means to an end. But then plans were altered such that I would embark on a route that became a road trip worthy of note. Thus I’m posting this entry not so much as an interest to the 3 regular followers of my blog, but rather as a resource to those random internet travellers who may stumble upon this while researching the route from Montana to Idaho over Hoodoo Pass.

My destination was the North Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho. Originally I was going to take the most direct, quickest route and drive to Lewiston, Idaho, up the Clearwater River via Greer and beyond. However, as I researched the matter, it became clear that I should take an extra day and travel a route that had long intrigued me, though I never before had cause to venture that way. This was my first trip to the NF Clearwater, and I decided to take a course that would entail more or less a big loop, without repeating as much of my route as as possible.

The path I chose took me on I-90, eastbound, to Superior, MT. This portion of the journey I’d done dozens of times, though never before actually stopping at Superior. Exit I-90 at Superior, turn right at the off ramp, then follow the frontage road to the left. Stay on this for a couple miles or so and the road makes a right hand bend and becomes Forest Road 250/Diamond Rd/Trout Creek Rd. It’s paved for a couple of miles before transitioning abruptly to a graded forest service road. From Superior to Hoodoo Pass is approximately 25 miles. The road, which was in good shape with only a few sections of teeth-rattling washboards, is wide enough for two vehicles to easily pass in most places. On this Thursday afternoon in mid July I only encountered perhaps a half dozen travelers coming in the opposite direction. Once you reach the summit, you’ll cross into Idaho and begin your descent into the NF Clearwater drainage. From the summit onward the road is not wide enough for two vehicles to pass, but there are occasional pullouts if needed. Rd 250 takes you down Black Canyon, approximately another 29 miles to Kelly Forks. From there, it’s another 44 miles downstream to Aquarius Campground, which is the last campground on the NF Clearwater before exiting the Clearwater National Forest (a few miles before you reach Aquarius, the road turns back to pavement, as you leave the dust in the rear view mirror). Onward down 247 though logging country to Headquarters (a place, not a town), turning right onto Hwy 11 through more logging and wheat farming country toward the towns of Pierce and Wieppe, ID respectively (cool little towns steeped in rich Idaho history). From there, down the steep and winding Greer Grade. This is worth the trip alone and seems to be a popular ride for motorcycles, as there are several Youtube videos of two wheelers riding the grade. At the bottom of the grade, I passed quickly through Greer and past Orofino, ID. From here on it was a familiar drive down Hwy 12 along the Clearwater to Lewiston, up the Lewiston Grade on Hwy 195, past Pullman, WA (Go Cougs!) to Colfax (Taco Time!). From there, westward on Hwy 26 to Vantage, then west on I-90 until returning home to the wet side of WA. It was 969 miles round trip with three stops to let the Man Van drink fuel. Once leaving Superior, I found the entire drive, all the way to Greer, to be very enjoyable. Everything else was familiar territory simply to be gotten through.

Superior, MT must have a high opinion of itself.

Superior, MT must have a high opinion of itself.

Road 250 our of Superior is paved, until it's not.

Road 250 out of Superior is paved, until it’s not.

Road 250 turns to gravel a few miles outside of Superior, MT.

Road 250 turns to gravel a few miles outside of Superior, MT.

There's no shortage of dust in Montana.

There’s no shortage of dust in Montana.

Road 250 climbs toward the summit of Hoodoo Pass

Road 250 climbs through logged hillsides toward the summit of Hoodoo Pass.

The Man Van stops along thew way to Hoodoo Pass so the driver can relieve hisself.

The Man Van stops along the way to Hoodoo Pass so the driver can relieve hisself.

It's worth stopping to smell the roses as you ascend Hoodoo Pass.

It’s worth stopping to smell the roses as you ascend Hoodoo Pass.

Beautiful country near the top of Hoodoo Pass in Montana.

Beautiful country near the top of Hoodoo Pass in Montana.

Looking down into Idaho from Hoodoo Pass.

Looking down into Idaho from Hoodoo Pass.

A small rock slide near the summit of Hoodoo Pass.

A small rock slide near the summit of Hoodoo Pass. This was as bad as the road got.

What's this? Pavement into Idaho?

What’s this––pavement in Idaho? Who knew? It was short lived.

Hidden Creek Campground. Recommended if you don't mind a pay site.

Hidden Creek Campground. Recommended if you don’t mind paying $10/night. I didn’t mind.

Hidden Creek is a nicely shaded campground, right along the NF Clearwater.

Hidden Creek is a nicely shaded campground, right alongside the NF Clearwater.

The pavement didn't last too long. Idaho marks their fallen rocks so you won't run into them.

Black Canyon Road/Rd 250. Idaho marks their fallen rocks so you won’t run into them.

Black Canyon Road, alongside the NF Clearwater.

Black Canyon Road, alongside the NF Clearwater. Not suitable for large RVs.

The NF Clearwater River through Black Canyon.

The NF Clearwater River through Black Canyon.

The bottom of Black Canyon Road at Kelly Forks.

The bottom of Black Canyon Road/250 at Kelly Forks.

There are no photos of the road from Kelly Forks to Aquarius. Imagine, if you will, a dusty, graveled forest service road with ample room for two vehicles to pass; with no harrowing sections or hairpin turns. It’s a well-travelled road suitable for RVs of any size.

Headquarters, ID. Headquarters for, what exactly? Not much here other than what you see in the photo.

Headquarters, ID. Headquarters for what, exactly? Not much here other than what you see in the photo.

I should have—but did not—stop to take photos in Pierce and Wieppe. I had several hours of driving ahead of me and wasn’t thinking about much other than putting miles behind me.

The road beyond Wieppe, ID.

The road beyond Wieppe, ID, through high prairie and wheat country.

Near the top of Greer Grade in Idaho. A steep, twisty road with amazing views.

Near the top of Greer Grade in Idaho. A steep, twisty road with amazing views.

One of several hairpin turns on Greer Grade that could not get any sharper.

One of several hairpin turns on Greer Grade that could not get any sharper.

Once at the bottom of Greer Grade, there were no more photos taken for the remainder of the trip, until several hours later when I was in the middle of eastern Washington on Hwy 26…

Perhaps the most photographed potato shed in the world, east of Othello WA.

Perhaps the most photographed potato shed in the world, east of Othello WA.  Go Cougs, indeed!

 

 

10 thoughts on “A road trip, with a little fishing on the side.”

  1. Those road photos tell the real story. Some lonely places. Which can be a good and welcome change.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      I expected the NF Clearwater to be a much more lonely place than it turned out to be, but that’s for another story. It was a great road trip, and when I go back some day I’ll take more photos along the way. Some beautiful country.

  2. Morris says:

    I’m just wondering what Howard will say – – do you think he’ll want to hear about the fishing?

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      If Howard is smart, he’ll have stopped reading my blog by now. That said, I expect he’ll chime in eventually.

  3. John says:

    It’s always nice to take break at work and see a place I’d like to eventually fish. Thanks again for the story and pics. Any mishaps to report?

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Thankfully no mishaps on the road trip aspect of the trip. Nothing too significant to report on the fishing side of things either, which I’ll post about shortly.

  4. jon says:

    Nicely done! “Cool” country on top.

    1. Kirk Werner says:

      Cool, as in the nighttime temperatures? Actually perfect for sleeping, unless…oh, never mind 😉

  5. Howard said this looked like a pretty nice trip judging by the photographs. Don’t forget to mention the bear that crawled into your tent. That’s my favorite part!

  6. Mark says:

    Sir,
    it’s always worth to stop and to smell the river in the High Sierra : )
    Got help you
    Mark

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