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Libby, Montana

Libby lies in the northwest corner of Montana, just 35 miles from Idaho and 65 miles south of the Canadian border.  Montana Highways 2 and 37 meet in this town.  About 12,000 people live within a 10 mile radius of the city.  Libby sits in a valley carved by the Kootnai River with the Cabinet Mountain Range to the south.  The river turns west at Libby after flowing south from Canada.  The abundant natural resources of dense forest, water and minerals provide the major employment in the community.  The Libby Dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, spans the Kootnai River about 17 miles north of town.  This dam confines the river and creates the 90 mile long Koocanusa, which extends into Canada.  Today Libby's assets include clean water, clean air, beautiful scenery and close access to nature's playground.   Fishing in the Kootnai River and the many streams and lakes provides anglers with many thrills.  Hiking, hunting, boating, skiing and snowmobiling are all popular sports.  The scenery changes with each season, giving visitors delightful views of mountains and forests.  A thriving downtown area and a shopping center on Highway 2 have excellent shopping.  An active community education program provide quality education, including Flathead Community College.  Many churches, service clubs and social clubs complete the patchwork of life in the Libby Community.

Web site: www.LibbyMT.com

Major Events and Festivals

February

Turner Mountain Fun Day

March

Irish Fair

Held the second Saturday in March.  Includes music, Irish dancers and arts and crafts fair. www.LibbyIrishFair.org

May

Fishing Derby

June

Libby Logger Days

Held in late June.  The family event opens on Thursday with the Water Fights and continues throughout the weekend with logging events, a parade, bull and bullette of the woods contest, lip sync contest, food and craft vendors, a beer garden, games and entertainment for all ages! 800.785.6541 or www.libbychamber.org/logger.htm

July

Fishing Derby

August

Ignite the Nites

Held the third weekend in August. The car show is open to all makes and model vehicles. Includes cruising, poker run, flame-thrower contest, neon contest, the formal car show with awards, burn-out and a dance. The show features categories for Best of Show, People's Choice, Most Improved and other categories for specific types and vintages of automobiles and motorcycles.  www.libbymt.com/events/ignitethenites.htm

September

Nordicfest

Held in early September. The festival includes a authentic Scandanavian food, dancing, workshops in wood carving, an International Fjord Horse Show, a juried craft show, quilt show, food booths, parade and more! www.libbynordicfest.org or 800.785.6541


Attractions

Fire Lookouts
Lookout towers and cabins were used by the Forest Service to spot forest fires and as remote work stations. Some lookout towers and cabins are still in use today and manned during the forest fire season. Others have been phased out of the system due to better coverage by airplane and other methods to spot new fires.  Some of these facilities are now available to rent by the public. The Kootenai National Forest has four lookout cabins and three lookout towers available for public rental. These are ideal for visitors seeking remote stays in the forest in a unique back country facility. These facilities are rustic and primitive in nature, and not all are accessible by vehicle, so visitors must be physically fit.
406.293.6211 or
click here

Heritage Museum
Located less than a mile south of Libby on Hwy 2, the Heritage Museum has exhibits on Native Americans, lumbermen, trappers and early area pioneers. The 12-sided building was opened in 1978 and manned by volunteers interested in preserving the area's colorful past. Inside there are cultural and natural history exhibits. Wildlife displays include a silver-tipped grizzly bear. The Museum is open during the summer season only. 406.293.7521 Kootenai Falls
Downstream from Libby, the river enters a canyon and flows over Kootenai Falls, one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls in the northwest. Kootenai Falls was the setting for the movie "River Wild" filmed in 1993. Kootenai Falls on the Kootenai River, adjacent to U.S. Highway 2 between Libby and Troy, is a major scenic attraction. The placid river which carries water volumes ranging from 3,500 cfs to 30,000 cfs, suddenly gathers momentum, surging first through China Rapids and then over Kootenai Falls, dropping 90 feet in less than a mile. The main falls is 30 feet high. The falls is accessed by a foot trail from the parking area next to the highway. The trail goes over a special pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, then winds down to the Swinging bridge which overlooks the falls. A picnic area is located just off the parking lot at the beginning of the trail. 

Libby Creek Gold Panning Area
The Libby Creek Recreational Gold Panning Area is located 23 miles south of Libby, Montana, within the Kootenai National Forest. The public is allowed to pan for gold within this area and any gold you happen to find is yours to keep. Some rules do apply, but this is a great recreational opportunity for the whole family.  www.nwmtgoldprospectors.com

Libby Dam
The Libby Dam was completed in 1972 as a joint project between the United States and Canada in an effort to provide flood protection and to generate hydroelectric power. The 422 foot tall Libby Dam holds back 90 miles of water in the Lake Koocanusa reservoir. 48 miles of the reservoir lie within U.S. borders, the other 42 miles are in Canada. Lake Koocanusa area offers many recreational opportunities for fishing and boating. There are campgrounds, picnic facilities, marinas and hiking trails in many places along both sides of the reservoir.  Click here for info or 406.293.5577

Northwest Peaks Scenic Area
19,100 acre Northwest Peaks Scenic Area, part of the Kootenai National Forest, is located in the northwest corner of Montana close to both the Canadian and Idaho borders. The Northwest Peak Trail offers scenic views of the upper West Fork Yaak River drainage and a panoramic view of the surrounding area at its crest with primitive recreational opportunities. Part of the Selkirk Range, the area contains alpine forests, lakes and rocky mountain peaks with elevations that reach to heights of more than 7,700 feet. The Forest Service cautions that the trail and unpredictable weather at high elevations limit access during early and late season.  406.293.6211

Ross Creek Cedars
This old grove of western red cedar trees is located not far from Bull Lake, in a valley on the western side of the Cabinet Mountains. These tall trees loom some 175 feet above Ross Creek. Local loggers discovered the grove and then worked to protect it. In 1960 the U.S. Forest Service set aside the Ross Creek Cedar Grove and it is now designated a scenic area. Today there is an informative nature trail through the grove with interpretive signs about ecology and the area's history. Near the trailhead are handicapped accessible toilets and a picnic area. The self-guided walk through the grove takes approximately an hour and a half. The turn-off to Ross Creek Cedars is 1/2 mile past the south end of Bull Lake on Montana Hwy. 56 (Bull Lake Road). 

Scenic ByWay - Lake Koocanusa 
The 67-mile long Lake Koocanusa Scenic ByWay follows the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa along State Highway 37 connecting Libby and Eureka. This road is open year-round offering vistas of the river and lake. The ByWay also includes a side loop along FDR Road No 228 around the west side of the lake. This is a leisurely, two-lane, paved road that is closed in the winter. The scenic ByWay highlights the southern half of Koocanusa Reservoir. Wildlife is frequently seen along the way, especially in the morning and evening hours. Deer, moose, elk, bear, eagles and osprey live in the forest along the way. Rock outcrops and ledges along the road provide habitat for bighorn sheep. Visitors can stop by the Libby Dam and take in a tour, or picnic in one of the numerous primitive sites or campgrounds along the way. 

Ten Lakes Scenic Area
Ten Lakes Scenic Area is one of the original nine areas designated for special wilderness evaluation under the Montana Wilderness Study Act. With the Canadian border as one of its boundaries, the Ten Lakes Scenic Area is located along the northeastern edge of the Kootenai National Forest dominated by a high ridge of the Whitefish Mountains. Long ago, alpine glaciers shaped much of this country. This 15,700 acre rugged wilderness area is dominated by deep carved valleys and high rim-rocked basins with numerous lakes. Mountains in the wilderness area rise to an elevation of more than 7,800 feet. Forested areas contain Englemann spruce, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, white bark pine and alpine larch. Wildflowers are abundant in spring and summer, and ripe huckleberries are backpacker's delight. Several trails criss-cross the area and are accessed from Highway 93 via various Forest roads. 

Yaak Falls
Located between Troy and Yaak, Montana, these scenic falls cascade in a beautiful narrow mountain valley, a photographer's delight. The sparsely populated Yaak area is rich in history and offers many recreational opportunities away from the crowds. A scenic turnout allows easy viewing of the falls.

Recreation

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area
The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness contains 94,360 acres of rugged terrain as the scenic backdrop for Libby, Montana. This beautiful mountain range has peaks as high as 8,712 feet. The high mountain trails and lakes are a backpacker's and fisherman's delight. The range stretches approximately 80 miles north and south and about 10 miles wide. The Libby valley lies on the eastern slope and the Bull Lake valley to the west. Motorized vehicles and motorized equipment are not allowed within the wilderness boundary. The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Kootenai National Forest, which is based out of Libby. Hikers and overnight campers should first check in with the Forest Service to get current information on any advisories or special conditions for the area in which they plan to visit. Since weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, wilderness visitors should come prepared for good as well as wet & cold weather. Mosquito repellant, sunscreen, and water purification equipment should also be carried. 406.293.7773 or www.fs.fed.us/r1/kootenai

Kootenai National Forest
The Kootenai National Forest contains 2.2 million acres of mountains and forest for public land for camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, wildlife viewing and more. The Kootenai Forest is dominated by two major rivers: the Kootenai and Clark Fork, along with several smaller rivers and their tributaries. The Yaak, Fisher, Tobacco, Bull, and Vermillion Rivers are smaller rivers within the confines of the Forest. There are 141 lakes located within the Forest boundaries that range from small alpine lakes to 1,240-acre Bull Lake. The Forest has over 1,400 miles of hiking trails, 40 developed campgrounds and many miles of backcountry roads for the visitor. In the winter there are over 70 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and many more miles of ungroomed and offtrail riding for snowmachiners and X-Country skiers. Kootenai River
This blue-ribbon fishing stream has trout and many other species of fish including white sturgeon which can live to be 80 years old and over 6 feet in length. The river's water flows from Canada into Lake Koocanusa, its waters held back in a 90-mile reservoir by the Libby Dam 20 northeast of Libby. The town of Libby is nestled in the Libby Valley along the shores of the Kootenai River. Past Kootenai Falls, the river flows past the town of Troy, and then heads back into Canada, reentering the United States in Washington, where it flows into the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean. This river is popular for fishing, river floating, rafting, and even summer inner-tubing. Water levels can fluctuate during the summer depending on the volume released by the US Army Corps of Engineers from Libby Dam. Lake Koocanusa
This 90-mile long reservoir behind Libby Dam is a recreational delight. 50 miles of this reservoir lie in the United States and the other 40 are in Canada. The name is a combination of KOOtenai-CANada-USA, the winning entry of a lake-naming contest as part of the Libby Dam construction project in the 1970s. The roads on either side of the lake make a wonderful driving loop with beautiful views of both sides of the lake. This loop through the forest along State Hwy 37 and the Forest Development Road (FDR) 228 was designated a Scenic ByWay in 1992. There are many turnouts along the roads with great views of the lakes. Campgrounds and boat docks are located on both sides of the lake, accommodating both tent and RV campers. Bring your camera, because wildlife is often seen along these roads. Deer, moose, elk and bear are often seen along the sides of the road. The Ural-Tweed bighorn sheep herd are often seen on the eastern side of the reservoir on the rocky cliffs (and sometimes beside the road). 

Turner Mountain Ski Area
22 miles from Libby up the Pipe Creek Road, Turner Mountain Ski Area offers downhill skiing with 2,400 feet of vertical rise. Turner sits at 5,952 feet elevation and operates with a 5,600 foot Double Chairlift. Facilities include: Day Lodge with Snack Bar, Ski Rentals. Ski Patrol on duty. Open Friday through Sunday, Holidays, daily Christmas to New Years. Also available by reservation. 406.293.4317 or www.skiturner.com