Oct. 12, 2016
99. St. Joe Scenic River Byway
To be honest, I accidently ended up on the St. Joe Scenic River Byway. I was leaving Paul Bunyan days in St. Marie late in the afternoon. My goal was to find a camping spot before it got completely dark. I misjudged the time a bit and just started following directions on my GPS. By the time I found a campground with a spot available darkness had arrived, so I slid into my spot, lit a fire and got my tent set up. I could hear the river on the other side of the trees right beside my camp spot, but I couldn’t see anything. However, the next morning the morning sun brought me a beautiful surprise….
My camp spot was literally right next to the St. Joe River. I stood right on the river bank, drinking my coffee while the sun came up over the mountain. Beautiful is not a big enough word for what I saw. I strongly suggest you find the time to travel this Byway. There are a lot of camping spots along the way, several fantastic points of historical interest, a great many outdoor adventures to be had and there is always fishing!
Location: From Boise take I-84 approximately 46 miles west to US-95 Exit 3 toward Fruitland/Payette. Take a left. Stay on US-95 for 218 miles. Then take the ramp to the right for US-12 Missoula/Orofino. Keep straight on US-12 for 4 miles and take a left on ID-3. Stay on ID-3 for about 85 miles. It will turn into ID-5 and take you into St. Maries. From there at the junction of Idaho 3 and Forest Hwy 50 (FS 50), east along the St. Joe river for 75 miles. At the junction with Road 218, FS 50 heads north (left) and climbs 14 miles to the Idaho-Montana border. The Byway follows FS 50 from St. Maries to the Idaho-Montana border for 89 miles.
** I took the Byway into Wallace, Idaho to continue my adventures, but next time I hope to be able to follow it straight into Montana. ** Outside of Avery the road turns to gravel. It is well maintained so you can take a car along it, but it is not paved.**
Dates: The Byway is open year round, however, during the winter, the section from Avery to the Idaho border is used as a snowmobile route.
Cabins by the Joe / Email Jody@cabinsbythejoe.com / Cabins start at $120 a night / Located 45 miles outside of St. Maries in the town of Avery.
St. Joe’s River Retreat / 208-660-8898 / Vacation Rental / Located in Avery
St. Joe Bunkhouse / 208-245-3996 / Vacation Rental / Located in Avery
Spring Creek Cabins / 208-245-5268 / Cabins / Contact for pricing / Located in Calder
Drifters Western Bar and Grill / RV Park / 208-245-1301 / Contact for pricing / Located in Emida
The Corskie House B&B / 208-689-9265 / $115 a night / Located in Harrison
St. Joe Riverfront B&B / 208-245-8687 / Starts at $129 a night / Located in St. Maries
River Front Suites / 208-582-1724 / $85 a night / Located in St. Maries
There are a lot of camping places along the Byway. You can contact these two websites for information on the campgrounds. I found two really nice ones that enjoyed. They were clean and well maintained and right along the river. Most of the campgrounds are along the river.
Dining: There aren’t a lot of restaurants along the byway, but you can eat in St. Maries or there is a nice spot in Avery that has very good food. If you are camping I would stock up in St. Maries. There is a small store in Avery also.
Special Notes: You will definitely want to visit the Marble Creek Interpretive site half-way down the byway — it's a monument to the logging industry. It gives a great overview of the logging history of the region.
This is a river so take your fishing pole. The fishing looks fantastic. I didn’t actually get to fish, but there were plenty of people out there fishing as we drove along.
Take the kids – there are many spots to stop and go hiking, several historical places along the way, there is a biking trail and many small towns to explore. The kids will love it and never be bored!
Take the pets too. They love a long drive – especially if they are with their humans.
This is a great way to spend a weekend – heck a whole week.