Monthly Archives: March 2009

Native American Culture in the Pacific Northwest

Idaho and Montana are rich in Native American heritage.  Our local tribes are involved in many wildlife and fishery projects, as well as offering visitors a glimpse into their past and their future.

In North Idaho, the Kootenai Tribe maintains a hatchery for raising and releasing the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon.  This intriguing and bizarre prehistoric fish has a history that extends beyond multiple ice ages.  Visitors to the hatchery can talk with tribal members and  learn about their efforts to re-introduce this fish to the Kootenai River eco-system, as well as view the the baby white sturgeon and other fish that are being raised there.

The Cataldo Mission, built in 1848 , stands tribute to the inginuity and craftmanship of early Native Americans in tandem with Jesuit missionaries.  Sitting on a grassy knoll overlooking the Coeur d’Alene River and facing I-90, the mission is Idaho’s oldest standing building.  The Old Mission Park encompasses a visitors center featuring Native American history, a picnic grounds, walking paths and 2 ancient cemetaries.  The annual Feast of the Assumption Pilgrimage of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is an event not to be missed in August, held at the Cataldo Mission grounds.

The People’s Center, located near Flathead Lake, Montana encourages visitors to participate hands-on in Native American crafts and history.  Because the museum exhibits stay with the traditional use of oral history, personal native guides will translate for visitors as they explore the artifacts and stories of these proud tribes.  Cultural education classes such as beading, basketry, traditional costume, Native Games and Tribal Language are held regularly and the public is encouraged to participate.  The Peoples Center is a perfect place to experience the rich, cultural heritage of the Kootenai, Salish and Pend d’Oreille tribes.

Gain a Blackfeet perspective of Glacier National Park and the Going to the Sun Road by taking a tour narrated by a lifelong tribal member. The tour concentrates on Glacier’s natural features relevant to the Blackfeet Nation, past and present.  Visitors will gain valuable insight into the cultural past of the land known to the Blackfeet as the “Backbone of the World”

Call TMI Tours at 1-800-975-7775 or email us at [email protected] for more information and reservations.

Moose – Silent Giants of the Forest

Bull Moose

Bull Moose Photographed while Snowshoeing near Spirit Lake, Idaho

Seeing a moose in its natural habitat is an amazing treat. We have the privilege of living in an area of United States which is heavily populated with moose. Along with all of the other wonderful wildlife found here (elk, whitetail and mule deer, mountain lions, wolves, black bears, and grizzly bears), North Idaho is a great place to observe and photograph moose.

The average adult moose stands 6–7 ft high at the shoulder. Males (bulls) may weigh anywhere from 850–1600 pounds and females (cows) may weigh 600–800 pounds. Typically, the antlers of a mature bull may span from 3 ft and 5 ft in width. The moose is the second largest land animal (bison is the largest) in both North America and Europe.

Bulls will drop their antlers after the mating season and to conserve energy during the peak of winter. A new set of antlers will then re-grow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest growing animal organs known. Initially, new antlers have a layer of skin called felt which is shed once the antlers become fully grown. Immature bulls may not shed their antlers for the winter, but retain them until the following spring. Spring time in North Idaho is famous for “shed hunting”, which involves getting out in the backcountry by either hiking, riding atv’s, four wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles, or snowshoes (depending on the weather and terrain) to look for dropped moose, elk, or deer antlers. Continue reading

Ancient Cedars and Waterfalls

Looking for a great day trip or an interesting place to visit on your customized Self Drive Experience? The Roosevelt Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls are an excellent destination for anyone visiting North Idaho. Located near the Idaho/Washington border, on the west side of Priest Lake, Granite Falls cascades down a narrow, sheer rock gorge and hits the bottom with a thunderous roar. A one mile loop trail from the lower cedar grove will take you to excellent view areas about the lower falls where you are able to view both the upper and lower portions of the falls. If you continue another ½ mile on past the vista points, you will arrive in the upper cedar grove.

The Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars is the home of a virgin forest containing giant cedar trees that are up to 2000 years old. The trees here are up to 12 feet in diameter and reach heights of 150 feet. The area was designated a Scenic Area in 1943. These sentinels are amazing. You’ll find yourself stopping constantly and just looking up at their beauty. Don’t forget your camera! If you want, TMI Tours will also arrange a gourmet picnic lunch prepared in advance by one of the top chefs in our area. Imagine sitting in the picnic area under these giant, ancient trees…what a great experience!

This is just one of many great locations to visit in North Idaho. Let us help you arrange day trips or a complete itinerary for your family or group so that you can maximize your enjoyment of the natural beauty that we enjoy here in the Inland Northwest. Call us today at 1-800-975-7775 to start planning your adventure.

Exhilarating Whitewater

Idaho has more miles of whitewater river than any other state; over 3,000 miles of perfect, raftable adventure.    A whitewater vacation in Idaho can mean anything from 1 day to multi-day trips with overnight campsites along the river.

In the Spring and early Summer, the water is high and the rafting is exciting.  1 day trips on the Moyie River and the St. Joe River are a great way to introduce yourself to river running.  These are true northern Idaho rivers, deep wilderness canyons, lush cedar forests and wild, wild water! In late summer and early fall, 1 day trips on the Clark Fork River in Montana, combine roller-coaster waves with warm pools for swimming and relaxing.

Probably the most quintessential Idaho whitewater experience is the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.  This is one of the 10 top whitewater rivers in the world and it is known for it’s trout fishery, natural hot springs, wildlife, ancient pictographs and class III/IV rapids. Running through the Frank Church-River of No Return-Wilderness (the largest forest wilderness in the lower 48), these trips are lengths of 3, 5 or 6 days, combining whitewater thrills, soothing hot springs and luxury beach camping. 

Drive along any river in Idaho during the summer, and you will see people floating along on inner tubes, inflatable islands, rafts … just about anything they can commandeer to get on the water.  This is the local’s favorite way of travel and a great way to enjoy a warm summer day and see beautiful scenery and wildlife.   There are several companies that will rent you floats, drop you off and pick you up at the end of your trip.  All you have to do is relax and enjoy the ride.

Call us at TMI Tours for rates and information on the best whitewater trips.  Come and experience some of the wildest rivers in the country, right in our backyard.

Ride the Hiawatha

Everyone should ride the Hiawatha Trail…at least once! Whether you’re a North Idaho local or you’re just visiting our beautiful area, we highly recommend this beautiful, easy bike ride.

This “crown jewel” of rail-to-trail mountain bicycle trails is located near Interstate 90 at the Idaho/Montana state line, 12 miles east of historic Wallace, Idaho. With 10 tunnels and 7 high trestles, this 15-mile winding route crosses the rugged Bitteroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. The Route of the Hiawatha is best known for the long, dark Taft Tunnel, which burrows for 1.66 miles under the Idaho/Montana state line.

While a 15 mile bike ride (one way) may seem daunting to many, it’s an easy trail to ride. Keep in mind that it never exceeds a 2% grade anywhere on the trail (due to government regulations when the railroad was built). This makes it an easy trail for children and adults of any age and skill level. For bikers who enjoy longer, more challenging rides, you may turn around at the end and ride back up for a total of 30 miles.

There are several spots along the trail that feature historical markers and beautiful vistas await you at every turn. Don’t forget your camera!

TMI Tours can make all of the arrangements for your group if you wish – tickets, bike rentals, headlamps (required), and even gourmet picnic lunches! Call us today at 1-800-975-7775 to plan your trip. The tentative opening for the Hiawatha this year is May 24th, 2009!

Our Top Picks for Outdoor Activities in North Idaho

  • Iron Man 2009 really kicks off our summer season. This huge event draws elite athletes from all walks of life, as they compete in a 2.4 mile swimming event, 112 miles of bicycling, and 26.2 mile run. If you are planning to attend Iron Man this summer, you need to call TMI Tours to secure accommodations as they will sell out in advance. This event begins June 21st and draws large crowds, as well as participants, so be prepared for downtown Coeur d’Alene to really come alive.
  • Kayaking and canoeing: we have so many miles of shoreline between Coeur d’Alene Lake, Hayden Lake, the Spokane River, Twin Lakes, Spirit Lake, and the beautiful marshlands of the 11 chain lakes. Rentals and guided trips are available with reservations. Whether you want whitewater or a quiet sightseeing trip through a nature preserve, TMI Tours can deliver the adventure you are looking for.
  • ATV riding and rentals: we have miles and miles of old logging trails literally criss-crossing our backwoods. Rentals are available for all ages and there are several riding clubs locally that would love to have you join them for a day. Many of our small communities are ATV friendly and you can ride from your door to your destination, stopping at a local sandwich shop for lunch.
  • Rock climbing: Tubbs Hill is surrounded by huge boulders and rock cliffs dropping right into the lake. Favorite local spots are Q’emilin Park in Post Falls or Castle Rock on the Coeur d’Alene River.
  • Biking trails: the Centennial Trail, 37 miles of paved trail, shadows the banks of the Spokane River from Washington into Idaho. The Route of the Hiawatha follows the old railroad lines through 10 rock tunnels and 7 high train trestles. It covers 15 miles through the Bitteroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. Bicycle rentals are available for a small fee, as well as shuttle transportation. Take your bicycle up the high-speed chair at Schweitzer or the gondola at Silver Mountain and ride along the top of the mountains.
  • Horseback riding: Whether you are looking for a real Dude Ranch experience or just a day with the kids, TMI Tours can arrange a great Wild West vacation for you. With several ranches to choose from, you can enjoy a real campfire cookout, backcountry pack-in for hunting or fishing or guided trail rides over miles of mountains and streams.
  • Golf in Coeur d’Alene: We have it all; public courses, private country clubs, and beautiful mountain courses overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. TMI Tours has an exclusive golf package featuring several private golf courses. With 13 courses to choose from, a golf vacation to Coeur d’Alene will keep you busy.
  • Hiking trails will immerse you into the pristine scenery that makes North Idaho such a great destination. There isn’t a better way to observe wildlife and learn about local history. There are interpretive trails as well as miles of logging roads and back country lakes and streams to hike into and explore. Several local clubs have hosted hikes to some of our most popular attractions and they welcome everyone.
  • Fishing, whether it be lake or stream, is one of our most popular sports, and with good reason. Our lakes and streams provide the kind of fishing most anglers dream about. With over 10 world class, blue ribbon wild trout streams and 1,500 high mountain lakes, Idaho offers a challenge for every class of fisherman. TMI Tours can arrange your vacation to include guides, fishing lodges, back country camp outs or just a day on the lake.

See our website for North Idaho adventure ideas, or contact us at [email protected] for information on these or other vacations plans.

Wild West River Experiences

The Snake River is a major tributary of the Columbia, traveling 1,040 miles from its source in Yellowstone National Park through Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. It joins up with the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities area in Eastern Washington (near Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). People have been living along the Snake River for thousands of years. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 explored the lower portion of the river. Portions of the Snake River flow through some of the most unspoiled wilderness areas in the continental United States (Hells Canyon National Recreation Area). The river also forms a major portion of Idaho’s western border between it and the state of Oregon.

The Snake and Columbia Rivers are much wilder rivers than most others cruised by riverboats today. Cruises along them are well suited to adventurous clientele. Most Columbia and Snake River cruises operate between Lewiston, Idaho and Astoria, Oregon (near Portland). Itineraries on both rivers generally include visits to Washington wineries, exploration of the region’s spectacular scenery and wildlife and usually offer optional jetboat rides to see the dramatic vertical cliffs of Hells Canyon (a highly recommended excursion). Cruising through locks and canyons, these luxurious river cruise ships generally anchor in strategic spots. These areas are easily explored by kayak which allows people to get up close to the beauty and wonder of the area. Other attractions include shopping, microbreweries, visiting the world’s windsurfing capital (Hood River, Oregon), and seeing the unforgettable Columbia Gorge and the Bonneville Lock and Dam. Local historians, Native American storytellers, local musicians, and artists come on board or entertain on shore as well. Continue reading

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon is a ten-mile wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon and western Idaho. It’s North America’s deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet (2436 m) and the most spectacular feature of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The canyon was carved and created by the waters of the Snake River which plunges more than a mile below the canyon’s west rim on the Oregon side and 8,000 feet below the peaks of Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains range to the east. The area is inaccessible by road and a true wilderness paradise.

Artifacts from prehistoric inhabitants as well as the ruins of early 19th century miners and settlers are visible along the Snake River. The earliest known settlers in Hells Canyon were the Nez Perce tribe. Others tribes such as the Shoshone-Bannock, Northern Paiute, and Cayuse Indians frequented the area as well–the mild winters along with ample plant and wildlife were the primary attractions. Pictographs and petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon are a record of the Native American settlements and life in the area.

Three members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered Hells Canyon along the Salmon River in 1806. Unfortunately, they turned back without reaching the canyon. It wasn’t until 1811 that the Wilson Price Hunt expedition explored Hells Canyon while seeking a shortcut to the Columbia River. Hunger and cold forced them to turn back, as did many explorers who were defeated by the canyon’s inaccessibility.

Early miners with visions of wealth were next to follow. In the 1860s gold was discovered in river bars near the present-day Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and miners soon penetrated Hells Canyon to seek their mother lode. As well as being difficult to access, gold mining was not profitable here. Evidence of their failed endeavors remains visible along the corridor of the Snake River. Continue reading

American River Cruising-Part 4

The Northwest Passage Cruise

Summer departures:  May 15 – September 11

Mighty Columbia River

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is characterized by long, warm days with clear blue skies and gentle breezes.  Nowhere is more beautiful this time of year  than the Columbia River Gorge.  This “Summer Celebration” cruise will celebrate the  traditions of the past, the fantastic wineries of the present while exploring the indigenous culture and history of the Columbia River Basin.   Beginning with your visit to the Bonneville Dam Visitors center, you will transit 8 locks and dams on your way to the northwest “seaport” of Clarkston, Washington.  An exhilirating jet-boat ride up the famous Hells Canyon, on the Snake River, reveals elk, bighorn sheep and 7,000 year old petroglyphs.    An underground tour at Pendleton explores tunnels built in the late 1800’s by Chinese immigrants for illicit purposes and a visit to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute immerses you in a living cultural village of Native America.  In Walla Walla, you will be treated to tasting and touring of two unique Columbia River wineries. 

Join a special sailing, June 19th, with the Chairman of the cruise line and his family.  Guests will be treated to exclusive amenities at the chairman’s reception, an exciting Raptor exhibition, guest speakers on the Lewis & Clark expedition and the chairman’s farewell dinner.  Come enjoy a cruise on the Columbia River at a time of year when the temperatures are pleasant, the wildlife abundant and the scenery dramatic.

Spring in North Idaho

Lake Pend Oreille in the Spring

Lake Pend Oreille in the Spring

It’s almost here! Spring is just around the corner and it’s time to get out and enjoy being outside. North Idaho offers pristine wilderness, quaint communities, old west appeal and great wildlife viewing opportunities. Unspoiled, yet luxurious. Remote, yet close enough to wonderful art galleries, shops, wineries, and restaurants with incredible cuisine. North Idaho is a great destination! With spring on its way, now is the time to book your vacation here. Spring is a great time to visit. Flowers blooming, trees leaving out, wildlife getting out to enjoy the warm sunshine…all combine to create an opportune time for exploring our area.

TMI Tours offers great pre-planned and fully customizable itineraries for visitors to North Idaho. Let us help you plan your getaway. This is where we live and where we play! One of our popular itineraries may be viewed by clicking here.

If this itinerary is of interest to you or if you’d like to speak to one of our trip designers please feel to call our office at 1-800-975-7775 for more information. We would enjoy the opportunity to discuss your vacation ideas with you and create a memorable North Idaho experience for you! You may also contact us via email at [email protected].