Kootenai Falls and the Swinging Bridge

After a restless night at the Sandman Motel, thanks to the 2nd story turquoise-neon-light that kept our room aglow, we arrived at the parking lot to Kootenai Falls. It was fairly early in the morning and we were the first to arrive.

neon light at Sandman Motel

There are very few choices of lodging in Libby. The Sandman Motel was okay, but ask for a room on the ground floor.

Word of caution here. Traveling west out of Libby, Montana, the sign to the falls is easily missed. We had to turn around and go back. If you are heading east on Hwy. 2, you should have no problem seeing the sign as it faces oncoming traffic from that direction. Whichever direction you are headed, don’t pass up the opportunity to explore this breathtakingly beautiful area. The falls are magnificent and will not fail to please.

The falls are a sacred site to the Kootenai Tribe and are considered  the center of the world. It’s a place where tribal members commune with the spiritual forces of nature. Anyone can enjoy the meditative quality of the falls. Take your time, listen to the sound of the rushing waters, and feel its energy. Then take the short hike to the swinging bridge. If you dare, take the exhilarating walk out over the river, and be rewarded with fantastic views of the water and mountains.


Parking lot Kootenai Falls

Parking lot on Hwy. 2 at Kootenai Falls


Our adventure began with a short walk through the woods past a picnic area, and then to a covered walkway that took us over railroad tracks.


Covered walkway Kootenai Falls trail

Covered walkway Kootenai Falls trail



If you’re lucky, like we were, a train will come by while you’re on the walkway and you can watch it rumble by on the tracks below.


Train at Kootenai Falls


As I took pictures of the passing train, a desire welled up in me to take a scenic rail excursion through the mountains.


Covered walkway Kootenai Falls trail2

Kind of like being in a spider web


A steep sixty-four step staircase led us down to the other side of the tracks where we continued to follow the trail.


Stairs Kootenai Falls trail2


The girls looked for thimble berries, but the berries were in short supply or past their prime.


E on Kootenai trail with steps in background


All cameras came out to capture a picture of the directional sign. We took the route to the falls which followed the shoreline of the river.


Kootenai Falls trail sign

Mallory and David are taking pictures of the grafitti on the sign.

Kootenai Falls

The sound of rushing water intensified as we approached the falls. Upon seeing them, I thought they were amazing and a sight to behold!


Kootenai Fall2


Such a short distance from the highway, yet tucked away from civilization, crystal green water cascaded over multi-tiered rock steps.


Kootenai Falls1


It was awe-inspiring and picturesque from every angle.


Kootenai Falls5


Flowers dotted the rocky shoreline and it was easy to see why the Kootenai consider it sacred ground.


Flowers Kootenai Falls


And why filmmakers thought it the perfect setting for the filming of the 1993 movie, The River Wild.


Kootenai Falls3


Always heed the advice of those that have come before, for they share it freely. It’s a form of encouragement to seek out the little gems that will make your journey exceptional.
Kootenai Falls6


Taking the advice of a young man in Libby, we walked out on the rocks to a vantage point near the top of the falls. Communing with the falls up-close provided a complete appreciation of the torrential water.


girls on rocks at Kootenai Falls


Once satisfied with our experience at Kootenai Falls, we returned to the trail junction and headed for the swinging bridge. The trail took us through a lush cedar forest with lots of rocks.


Kootenai Falls trail to swinging bridge


The hike to the swinging bridge was short, with outstanding views of the river.


view from Kootenai Falls trail2


Peek-a-boo views of the bridge could be seen along the way.


Peek of Swinging Bridge.Kootenai Falls


Near the river below the swinging bridge are stromatolites, a calcareous mound built up of layers of lime-secreting cyanobacteria and trapped sediment, found in Precambrian rocks, as the earliest known fossils. Don’t pass up the geological significance of this spot. These rounded structures are billions of years old.



Stromatolite formations below the swinging bridge

Stromatolite formations below the swinging bridge


As we approached the swinging bridge, I began to consider that crossing it may put me out of my comfort zone.

at the swinging bridge


I began to wonder about its structural integrity and maintenance schedule. How often had it been checked to make sure it was sound?


Swinging bridge Kootenai Falls2


The bridge is 210 feet long and suspended 100 feet above the river. It is sturdily constructed of heavy cable, wood, and wire. Actually it doesn’t swing very much, unless, of course, you make it!


Swinging bridge Kootenai Falls


Views from the bridge are magnificent in either direction. Crossing the bridge did make me a little nervous, however, and I had some difficulty taking my hand off of the railing in order to take pictures.


View to the west on Swinging Bridge.Kootenai Falls

View to the west on Swinging Bridge, Kootenai Falls


We crossed the bridge to the other side, where we took the steps down to an area where we took a brief look at the river. Then it was back over the swinging bridge where a family was waiting their turn to cross the river.


down stairs from swinging bridge Kootenai Falls


By the time we returned to the parking lot, a steady stream of roadside explorers were out and about. It was a good thing, as this is an attraction that is not to be missed.

Next up on our itinerary? Ross Creek Natural Area to see the big cedars.

Everywhere you look, life is an adventure!



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