SELKIRK MOUNTAINS in the USA
Together with the neighbouring Monashee and Purcell Mountains, the Selkirk Mountains are part of a larger grouping known as the Columbia Mountains that lie just to the west of the Rocky Mountains. Their northern boundary is the Big Bend where the Columbia River makes a dramatic 180 degree turn towards the south. They extend approximately 320 km (200 miles) south to Mica Peak between Spokane WA and Coeur d’Alene ID. The range is bounded on its west, northeast and at its northern extremity by the Columbia River, or the reservoir lakes now filling most of that river’s course. From the Columbia’s confluence with the Beaver River, they are bounded on their east from north to south by the Purcell Trench, which contains the Beaver River, Duncan River, Duncan Lake, Kootenay Lake and the Kootenay River in southeastern British Columbia and the Kootenai River in Idaho. In the USA, the Selkirks span the northwestern portion of the Idaho Panhandle and northeastern Washington. The Selkirks are distinct from, and geologically older than, the Rocky Mountains. A scenic highway loop, the International Selkirk Loop, encircles the southern portions of the mountain range.
The Selkirks were named after Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk.
The southern end of these mountains is home to the only extant woodland caribou population in the contiguous United States. This area, some of it protected in Washington’s Salmo-Priest Wilderness, is also home to mule deer and white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, cougars, bobcats, red fox, bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey, great blue heron, porcupine, badgers, coyote, martens, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, grey wolves and moose. Formerly rarely seen, grizzly bears are also known to roam through this region now in abundance.
The Selkirk range in tHe USA runs as far south as Mica Peak between Spokane, WA and Coeur d’Alene, ID. Its east-west boundaries are the same as in Canada – the Columbia River to the west and the Kootenai River to the east.
The mountains of the north panhandle are Precambrian 850 million to 1.5 billion years old, once an extremely shallow sea on the edge of an ancient continental plate. The sea received sediments from the many rivers that emptied into it. These sedimentary rocks are in many areas lightly metamorphosed. 100 million years ago, the North American plate began to move west, overriding the Oceanic Pacific plate. The denser oceanic plate is forced down and under. The resulting pressure and friction liquefied the rocks, forming magma, As magma is lighter than rock, it rose toward the earth’s surface, where it formed massive bodies of granite rock known as batholiths. The resulting uplifting of the earth’s surface resulted in mountains. In the late Mesozoic, in the centre of Idaho, large amounts of granite intruded forming the large Idaho Batholith covering 300 miles (N to S) by 100 miles E to W). The Kanisku Batholith is the foundation of the Selkirk Mountains. This batholith has since eroded into the present-day mountain terrain, but is still covered by extensive amounts of exposed sedimentary and metamorphic rock.
Although the Pleistocene Ice Age began 2.5 million years ago, it was not until the last hundred thousand years that the ice moved out of BC and invaded Idaho to cover the Selkirks, Purcells and Cabinet Mts. The 4000-foot deep ice cut and shaped the mountains and dug out the deep beds of Priest, Pend Orielle and Coeur d’Alene lakes.
While the highest point of the Selkirks reaches only 7,670 feet (Parker Peak), valley to summit elevation differences are nearly 5,000 feet in places and the terrain is extremely rugged.
In Idaho especially, land ownership is a hodgepodge, with the State of Idaho (most of Priest Lake basin) and the Panhandle national Forest being the two larges landowners. The Idaho Constitution says that state lands must be managed to maximize a continuing rate of return. The BLM manages a few small borderline areas and several large timber companies own a good portion of range. Much is managed almost exclusively for logging. Recreational use, while having a very high potential, has a low priority with Selkirk land managers. Only the highest peaks and ridges are protected. But it is safe to say that the roughly 26,000 acres high enough and rocky enough to escape the chainsaw, assures protection of this granite wilderness.
Two areas of significance are the Long Canyon area west of Bonners Ferry and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness area near the Canadian/Washington/Idaho borders. The latter is home to both the grizzly bear and the rare mountain caribou. Both are pristine and worthy of protection on scenic, recreational and wildlife management grounds.
Selkirk peaks offer a wide variety of climbing and hiking opportunities with remote summits and rock climbing.
Access from Boundary Road south of Waneta, BC
Access from Sullivan Lake road
Grassy Top Mt
Grassy Top Mt.
Shedroof Divide Tr.
Idaho Selkirks – Selkirk Crest
Access via Sullivan Lake, WA
Salmo Loop – Snowy Top and Little Snowy Top
Access via Porthill, ID and Smith Creek
West Fork Mountain.
Access via ID-57 (Lion Creek Rd. Two Mouth Creek Rd.)
The Lions Head
Access via West Side Road
Access via Pack River Rd
Silver Dollar Peak
CONTACT INFORMATION – Idaho
Bitterroot National Forest (Bitterroot Mountains, Clearwater Mountains)
316 North Third St, Hamilton, MT 59840 (406) 363-3131
Idaho Department of Lands (Selkirk Mountains)
Route 1 Box 284, Coolin, ID 83821 (208) 443-2516
Panhandle National Forest (Bitterroots, Cabinet, Chilco,, Coeur d’Alene, Purcell, Saint Joe, and Selkirk Mountains)
PO Box 310, Coeur D’Alene, ID 83544 (208) 667-2561
Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor’s Office
3815 Schreiber Way
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
Priest Lake Ranger District
32203 Highway 57
Priest River, ID 83856
Bonners Ferry Ranger District
6286 Main Street
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
Sandpoint Ranger District
1602 Ontario St.
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Idaho. Over 65% of Idaho is mountainous terrain. Elevations range from 12,662 feet on Mount Borah in the Lost River Range to only 736 feet above sea level at Lewiston,Idaho. More than 200 summits reach over 10,000 feet and nine are over 12,000 feet. Due to its formidable mountain barriers, Idaho has always consisted of parts – north, west, east and south.
Trails lead to over 100 Idaho summits. A thousand more are nontechnical climbs. All the trails of interest to Canadians are in the north end of the Idaho Panhandle. Chimney Rock is a fantastic granite shaft that sits square on top of the Selkirk Range east of Priest Lake, is visible from Spokane and has been of interest to local climbers.