The new International Selkirk Loop autoroute through the
mountains may draw many more
visitors to this outdoor paradise.
The autoroute takes travelers
through the Idaho panhandle,
south-central British Columbia,
and northeastern Washington.
Developed by local businesses
and chambers of commerce in
both countries, the international
byway covers roughly 280 miles
and has several additional loops
to explore the unique countryside.
The Selkirk Loop links small
towns with long legacies tied to
early exploration and opening of
the wilderness, especially pioneers
and trappers, rough-and-tumble
mining camps, and lumberjacks.
Most of the autoroute follows
lakeshores and rivers, where you’ll
find both isolated wilderness tracts
and sought-after fly-fishing and ski
resorts. It offers a rich collage of
habitats, among them alpine forests
and meadows, agricultural farmland, lakes, and valleys.
Visitors have two options to
explore the scenic route: a 280-
mile loop that reaches northward
in British Columbia to the towns of
Crawford Bay and Nelson, and a
250-mile circuit that cuts westward
on Canada Route 3 from the town
of Creston and south on Route 6 to
the Washington border.
Although the Idaho panhandle
was my boyhood home, I’d never
birded the Selkirk Mountains, so it
was with curiosity and an exhilarating sense of adventure that I joined
the scenic loop at its southern tip
near the town of Newport, Washington, for a mid-May visit.
I used Go Birding, a helpful
booklet developed by local birders
that identifies more than 200 birding spots along the various loops
(see the sidebar on page. 107). On
my first trek around the Selkirks, I
sought out as many of the birding
spots as possible, and by the end,
three clearly stood out as premier
birding sites: Kootenai and Little
Pend Oreille national wildlife ref-