America's Scenic Byways

Sherman Pass Scenic Byway

40 miles - Allow at least an hour and a half to tour this byway.

The Sherman Pass Scenic Byway exemplifies an exceptional corner of the country--a point where the Columbia River Plateau meets the Northern Rocky Mountains and where the Inland Empire matches up against the British Columbia Interior. The sites and stories found along the route showcase the history of the west, but with a distinct Canadian flavor. Here, the culture of the Plains Indians intersects with that of the Columbia Plateau Salmon Culture. Here, the paths of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers cross with those of the Hudson Bay Company and famed northern explorer David Thompson. Here, the rural settings and rolling mountains and ridgelines allow visitors to imagine a Northwest of times past.

Celilo Falls on the Lower Columbia River is famed as a regional gathering place for Native Americans since time immemorial. Kettle Falls, though lesser-known, is considered by archaeologists as an equally important gathering place for Native Americans in the region covered by northern Washington and Idaho, and southern Alberta and British Columbia. Early travel routes flowed west and south down out of the Rockies and east from the Cascades and Okanogan Highlands over present-day Sherman Pass, all leading to this critical aboriginal hub. Today the "People of the Falls Interpretive Center" and nearby large sharpening stone share a history dating back 9,000 years.

As the tide of non-Native Americans to the region increased, these routes attracted trappers, explorers, prospectors, and later settlers into the area. Communities sprang up along the travel-ways that ignored present-day international boundaries.

Initially, David Thompson and a party of Canadian fur traders reached the Kettle Falls during June of 1811. Soon the Falls was home to a Hudson’s Bay Trading Post, named Fort Colville, in honor of Mr. Andrew Colville, a committee member of the Hudson’s Bay Company at the time the fort was established in 1825. Eventually a large area of land west of the mighty Columbia River reaching from the Canadian Border south to the Okanogan River was set aside for the Confederated Tribes of The Colville Reservation. When gold was discovered in Eureka Creek at the present-day town of Republic in 1892, the north half of the Colville Reservation was purchased for 1.5 million dollars and opened for gold exploration.

The economy of the area changed to emphasize timber and recreation resources contained in the now designated Colville National Forest. This history is captured along the byway in sites such as Log Flume that speaks to logging operations, Camp Growden that highlights the role the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played during the depression era, and White Mountain that details the history of fire-fighting in these "borderlands."

The history of this corner of the Northwest is much bigger than the byway, but the collection of sites along Sherman Pass Scenic Byway serve as the perfect introduction to all facets of this grand history with the added benefits of beautiful scenery, varied recreation opportunities, and serene settings that leave room for self-discovery.