Northwest Passage
America's Byways
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In 1803, President Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find the Northwest Passage – the link between the Missouri River and the Columbia River through the unexplored Rocky Mountains. This 202-mile byway, stretching across north-central Idaho, follows the explorers' route through the ancestral homeland of the Nez Perce people.

From the west, this beautiful route begins on U.S. 12 at Lewiston, and traverses the winding Clearwater River Canyon, passing through the Nez Perce National Historical Park areas of Spalding and Kamiah and the towns of Orofino and Kooskia. At Kamiah is the Heart of the Monster, a geologic formation and legendary Nez Perce site.

At Kooskia the byway splits. One segment turns south on Idaho Highway 13 toward the Camas Prairie and the town of Grangeville. Another segment continues east on U.S. 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River, through a magnificent wilderness culminating at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center.

  • Location

    Begins in Lewiston and follows U.S. 12 northeast to the Idaho– Montana border; also follows Idaho 13 from Kooskia to Grangeville and the junction of U.S. 95.
  • Length

    202 miles. Lewiston to Montana, 175.5 miles, allow 4 hours. Kooskia to Grangeville, 27 miles, allow 40 minutes.
  • Roadway

    Idaho 13 and U.S. 12 above Kooskia are winding, two-lane roads with occasional passing lanes and slow vehicle turnouts. Winter driving conditions may include black ice in the canyons and snow-covered roads at higher elevations.
  • When to see it

    Boating, fishing, heritage sites,wildlife viewing year-round. Whitewater opportunities in spring and summer.
  • Special attractions

    U.S. 12 parallels the Lewis & Clark and Nez Perce national historic trails. Sites include Tsceminicum sculpture, Lewiston; Nez Perce National Historical Park Visitor Center, Spalding; Canoe Camp, Orofino; Heart of the Monster, Kamiah; mammoth exhibit, Grangeville; Fenn & Lochsa historic ranger stations; DeVoto Grove; and Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Other attractions include summer community festivals and powwows.
  • Camping

    Campgrounds at Lewiston, Myrtle, Orofino, Kamiah, Kooskia, Grangeville, and Lowell. Forest Service and BLM campsites along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.
  • Services

    Full services in Lewiston, Orofino, Kamiah, Kooskia, Grangeville; partial services at Stites, Syringa, Lowell, and Powell. Rest areas at Lenore and Lolo Pass.
  • Whom to call

    North Central Idaho Travel Association
    (877) 364-3246
    Nez Perce National Historical Park
    (208) 843-2261
    Orofino Chamber
    (208) 476-4335
    Kamiah Chamber
    (208) 935-2290
    Kooskia Chamber
    (208) 926-4362
    Chambers of Commerce
    Lewiston (208) 743-3531
    Orofino (208) 476-4335
    Kamiah (208) 935-2290
    Kooskia (208) 926-4362
    Grangeville (208) 983-0460
    Clearwater National Forest
    (208) 476-4541
    Nez Perce National Forest
    (208) 983-1950
    Nez Perce Tribe
    (208) 843-2253