The plan was to stay in Glacier National Park for a few days and then drive down to Missoula. Well, I left Glacier a little early and ended up in Kalispell unexpectedly. When I woke up the next morning, I just didn’t feel like going to Missoula anymore. Instead, I wanted to find a place called Kootenai Falls. So I skipped Missoula.
That’s what I love about road trips: I can go where I want, when I want. No questions asked.
I heard about Kootenai Falls and the swinging bridge while planning my trip. It was the main reason I planned to drive through the northern part of Montana. I really didn’t know what to expect, though–it just sounded like a place I wanted to see.
Kootenai Falls was way out of my way, but I didn’t mind too much. I had some trouble finding it at first, though. A large turnout on the side of the highway was the only indicator of its location, and I never saw any signs for it on the road.
Kootenai Falls & the Swinging Bridge
Cars and people filled the pullout. I walked the paved path through the trees, unsure of what was waiting for me. I came to a big blue sign, one arrow pointing towards the falls and one arrow pointing towards the bridge. A large group in front of me went to the left, so I went to the right–I would see the falls first.
I stepped towards the edge of the cliff and saw what looked, to me, like a truly magical world. Rocks and cliffs and rushing waters, and little waterfalls and pools and nooks everywhere. From far away, I saw little specks of people down on the rocks. I could get closer! I could climb on the rocks! And so I did…
I climbed every inch I could. I found a spot above the falls, away from everyone, and I just sat for a while. Sitting on rocks near water is always peaceful. It makes me feel like nothing else exists in the world. Then I climbed down into the pools, right up against the little trickling falls.
After pulling myself away from falls, knowing I had to get back on the road eventually, I headed towards the swinging bridge. From a distance, I could see the green bridge hanging high above the water. When I got there, I had to wait for the other people to make their way back off the bridge. There’s a 5 person limit for safety. I climbed the stairs, ready to step out onto the boards.
As I slowly walked to the center of the bridge, the swinging part began. While I’m generally not afraid of heights or prone to vertigo, the shakiness of this narrow contraption, combined with looking at the water through the spaces in the boards under my feet, made me a little uneasy. I walked across and back without much lingering (except for a few pictures, of course).
This was one of my favorite stops on my entire two-week road trip. It was definitely out of my way but it was well worth the extra mileage. If you ever find yourself driving around northwestern Montana, take highway 37 north of the small town of Libby. That’s where you’ll find Kootenai Falls and the swinging bridge.
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