Idaho’s Almost Secret and Isolated Rain Forest
A spokesman for Idaho Fish and Game once told me Idaho is like four states in one. He was speaking about the varied geography, and also because of differences in climate. The Snake River Plain and high desert are notoriously dry. I don’t mind because dry conditions mean I don’t need to spend hours shoveling snow. Brushing snow and scraping frost are also quick jobs when I’m getting ready for the drive to work on winter mornings. You can make outdoor plans for summer in January and generally get a sunny day six months out.
But you drive into the mountains and the snow is measured by feet instead of inches. If you keep going north into the panhandle, you’ll find signs where it’s almost like being in a rainforest. More in common with Vancouver than Boise.
Lightning Creek gets as much as four to five times the moisture over a year than many places in the high desert. There are often floods along its course. It may be the most pristine place in the state.
While many people never experience the backcountry, you can get a glimpse of the difference in climate from the roads. If you’re doing a sail-through on Interstate 90, you’ll be impressed by how much green you can see. Early explorers may have believed there was no end to the tall trees before their eyes.
It was probably similar to what Lewis and Clark experienced. I’ve read that they crossed one mountain range and believed they were free of climbing. They were disappointed when they found they had one more before the coast!
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Gallery Credit: Jessica Norton