The U.S. Forest Service calls the St. Joe River in North Idaho “…a special place. Its lower reaches at an altitude of 2,128 feet make it the highest navigable river in the world. On this working river, tug boats pull rafts or ‘brailes’ of logs to lumber mills in St. Maries and Coeur d’Alene. The tugs are living history, operating where paddle-wheelers once did. Part of the St. Joe River, which rises in the vast Bitteroot Range, is a Wild and Scenic River. Accessible by road and trail, the river attracts whitewater runners and fishermen.”
I was invited to accompany some friends on a ride in their boat one clear June morning a few years ago. We put in at Rocky Point Marina on the shores of Lake Chatcolet (which is actually the portion of the St. Joe River that runs through Lake Coeur d’Alene) at Heyburn State Park near Plummer, and traveled upriver to St. Maries, a distance of approximately 15 miles, barely ten percent of the river’s total length.
For much of the trip the river’s surface was mirror glass, reflecting the beauty of the landscape on either shore and the mountains in the distance. We passed by homes of various sizes along the way, some of the modest “lake cabin” variety and some approaching mansionhood, as well as old farm buildings, rustic bridges, and many tree-lined sections of unimproved (and unimprovable) shoreline. The pictures really don’t do justice to the place, but perhaps they will whet your appetite for a personal exploration of your own.