- The Clearwater National Forest is nestled on the west side of the Bitterroot Mountains in north central Idaho. The high mountains on the east descend to the fertile Palouse prairie to the west. Elevations range from 1,600 to nearly 9,000 feet.
Several major tributaries to the Columbia River flow through the forest including the North Fork of the Clearwater, the Lochsa, the Potlatch and the Palouse Rivers. The Clearwater River runs through deep canyons, dramatic "slashes" cut through the mountains. The North Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers provide miles of tumbling white water interspersed with quiet pools for migratory and resident fish.
The excellent wildlife habitat of these mountains provides for large herds of elk, moose and other big game. The ridges between the deep canyons have provided travel corridors across the mountains for centuries of mankind, including Nez Perce Indians and, in 1805-1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Today the main travel route is U.S. Highway 12 following the dramatic canyon of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and its tributary the Lochsa River.
The route Lewis and Clark took across the Bitterroot Mountains was actually north of U.S. Highway 12 (the Lewis and Clark Highway), paralleling the highway for the entire distance across what is now the Clearwater National Forest. Most of it is accessible only by a one-lane dirt road ‹ the Lolo Motorway. The Motorway and the system of historic trails that cross the Forest are called the Lolo Trail Corridor.
Recreation - The Forest's 1.8 million acres of diverse and spectacular mountainous country provide recreation opportunities and an important stimulus to the area's economy. The Clearwater offers opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, backpacking, rafting, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Climate - Weather on the Clearwater National Forest varies with elevation. Summers tend to bring clear days, with afternoon thunderstorms possible. Daytime highs are normally warm to moderate, with relatively cool to cold nights, depending on elevation. Winter can bring cold temperatures with heavy snows, especially at the high elevations. Sunny days are common between winter storms.
The Clearwater National Forest is located in northern Idaho. The Forest is Headquartered in Orofino, Idaho. The forest is divided into three administrative units with ranger district offices in Potlatch, Kooskia and Orofino. There are also forest offices in Kamiah, Pierce and Powell near the Idaho-Montana border.