Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Finding Fern Falls–Always at Least One Dirt Road -

Monday August 26th – In getting ready for this trip, I had ordered a book,  “Backcountry Roads – Idaho”. The pictures in  this book are gorgeous, and the road descriptions to get there seemed pretty detailed. We pulled out this book and decided on the drive out to Fern Falls. We chose this drive because it seemed fairly accessible, including only about 4 miles on gravel, and the picture of the falls was beautiful.

After touring the Old Mission at Cataldo, we turned north at exit 43 off of  I-90. According to the book, we had about 25 miles to drive to get to Fern Falls. It was afternoon, and we were in no big hurry……So, we took the road less traveled….in this case Forest Route 9 then road 208.

Fred was driving….I was trying to be a good ‘navigator’, following the directions in the book. The book would give odometer mileage readings that should correspond to landmarks along the way.As we passed each noted campground, picnic area or intersection, I felt reassured that we were on the right track. However, soon the descriptions in the book just did not seem to match the road.

At mile 8.1, we decided that perhaps the road had just been changed. At mile 14, 17.2 and 20.2 we began to get concerned. Our turn off on the gravel road to Fern Falls was supposed to be located at mile 21.8 and signed as Beetle Creek Rd. Mile 21 came and went and no  gravel road intersections appeared.

I got on our GPS to just look. Scanning the smaller back roads I found Beetle Creek Rd. It looked like a crazy, winding road that was 15 or so miles further on down 208 than we had expected. But…it WAS there…..We set the GPS on that elusive Beetle Creek Rd and kept on. As we continued on Rd 208, we began to see the landmarks noted in the book….Kit Price Campground….Devil’s Elbow Campground…..It seems that we had been on the right track, the book’s mileages had just been off.


Sure enough, when we finally did get to that gravel road intersection, it had a sign – “Fern Falls 4 miles”. With an act of faith, we turned onto Beetle Creek Rd…….


A NARROW, single lane dirt road, not much wider than our truck. As we drove, brush scrapped along both sides of our truck. We kept driving, and, as promised in the book, the few turns we had to make were well signed. At mile 3 on this road, the sign to Fern Falls directed us another 1.5 miles. Well….that was just a little bit further than the book said….something that we had now come to expect!


I thought that the narrow dirt road had been bad enough, until we got to THIS…..a very narrow corrugated concrete overflow ‘bridge’ for the creek. We kept on driving……crossing 3 of these along the way.

I need to add here…..this dirt road  had VERY  few, if any turnouts where another car could pass, or you could turn around. So….we were committed.


Finally, we came to this….A rock so large that we could not drive on.


Fortunately, there was what looked like a parking area with space to turn around. No signs at this point directing us on to Fern Falls. We got out and walked on down the even narrower dirt road…..


Within 1/4 mile, we came upon this bridge……and Fern Falls!


Lovely…….cool… green and lush.


We paused….enjoyed…and took some photos, but it was about 5:30 pm and we knew that we needed to start the long drive back. What we had planned for about an extra 40 minute (one way) drive turned out to be 1.5 hours each way.

We set our GPS for our campsite at Heyburn State Park and it predicted our arrival to be about 8:30 pm. It was OK…..we really were not feeling in a hurry….but we WERE hungry. We stopped for dinner back in Cataldo at the Mission Inn restaurant and enjoyed a nice steak and celebrated the “road less traveled”.

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