Master Plan
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Recent emphasis on recreation, open space, and beautification by the enactment of several important bills and the fact that the responsibility for the implementation of the provisions of those acts cuts across Federal, State, and local lines makes regional concern and support of park planning essential. Specifically, in the case of Nez Perce, interpretation and protection of historically significant sites in the Nez Perce country and the unusual and unique manner in which this is to be accomplished calls for cooperation between the various agencies involved. Nearly two dozen sites along Federal, State, and local roads extend over an area 100 miles long and 60 miles wide. Administration and development, although principally the responsibility of the National Park Service, will be shared with other agencies and with private individuals and corporations.

The Nez Perce Country was cut by swift streams creating steeply banked canyons. The Lochsa River, near Powell Ranger Station, is representative of the free-flowing streams of sublime beauty.


Idaho is a land of magnificent coniferous forests, mountains, deserts, and rivers. Here, in a State which is over 65 percent federally owned, are outstanding opportunities for a variety of quality recreational pursuits. Camping, hunting, sightseeing, mountaineering, and winter sports, such as those at the world famous Sun Valley, can be enjoyed in any of Idaho's 16 national forests, her state parks, or on land administered by the Bureau of Reclamation or the Bureau of Land Management. Several thousand miles of stream, numerous natural lakes, and public or privately owned reservoirs offer boating, fishing, swimming, and other water-orientated recreational opportunities. Over 3 million acres of wilderness, many of which contain outstanding white water rivers such as the famous 'River of No Return'—the Salmon—offer almost unlimited opportunities for wilderness experiences.

Nestled in the north-central portion of this magnificent land on the broad flat plain formed by the Snake River, protected by the formidable mountain ranges along the east and southeast sides as if to form a cul-de-sac, lies the Nez Perce country. The Bitterroot Range, the Seven Devils Mountains, Hells Canyon of the Snake River (deeper than the Grand Canyon), the Snake, Salmon, and Clearwater Rivers are examples of scenic and natural wonders which have remained relatively undiscovered.

Regional Recreation Map. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Regional Map. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Until recently, only one highway, U.S. 95, passed through the Nez Perce country. Now U.S. 12, an all weather route through the Bitterroot Range to Missoula, also runs through the area. However, because of the insulation provided by the formidable mountain mass to the east, west-bound traffic flowing from population centers of the eastern United States are routed around the Nez Perce country by way of the Snake River Valley via Interstate 80 (U.S. 30), and through the natural mountain pass to the north via Interstate 90 (U.S. 20). Therefore, access to the area is principally over two mountainous routes—U.S. 95 and U.S. 12—and traffic flowing through the area is considerably less than that which might be expected on a major 'tourist path'. Although U.S. 95 is presently an important north-south route to Western Canada and her famous national parks such as Banff, Interstate 15 (U.S. 91), a similar high speed route to the east, will probably siphon off much of this Canadian-bound traffic upon its completion.

Interstate Highways 80 and 90 carry nearly four times the volume of traffic respectively as U.S. 95 and twelve times that of U.S. 12, the Lewis and Clark Scenic Highway. People using circuitous Interstate 80 and Interstate 90, are mainly vacationers from the population centers of the east who are traveling to the famous vacation spots of California, Oregon, and Washington. The recreational reputation of these states for areas of outstanding interest such as Olympic, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake and Yosemite National Parks and Disneyland is more widespread than that of Idaho.

A view from the Lolo Trail shows the rugged character of the Bitterroot Mountains. Over this trail passed generations of Nez Perce; Lewis and Clark; and General Howard's troops in pursuit of Chief Joseph.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, on the other hand, will probably not influence travel to Nez Perce significantly since they are destination points and eastern visitors are not required to pass through the Nez Perce country enroute. Again it seems reasonable to expect visitors to these parks from the West Coast to by-pass the area over Interstates 80 and 90, the routes of least resistance.

Realignment of U.S. 95 from Boise to Moscow and its redesign to higher standards is in progress. When completed this will be a limited access 70 miles per hour route. Work under the Federal Highway program will continue on Interstate Routes 80, 90, and 15 with project completion dates about mid-1970's.

Regional Population Data. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Idaho is one of the last remaining States officially classified as rural by the U.S. Bureau of Census. Montana, immediately to the east, is a second. Counties in and immediately adjacent to the area are rural and have reflected a steady population decrease for the last two or three decades. The notable exception is Lewiston in Nez Perce County, where about 4 percent of Idaho's population resides. There has been a steady increase due mainly to the lumbering industry. Kootenai County, along the northern edge of the area, is a recreation center providing abundant quality water-oriented recreational opportunities for residents of northern Idaho and western Washington.

The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission recognizes three types of recreationist: local people within the 0-2 hours driving zone; the week end vacationers living within 2- to 4-hours driving time; and those on extended vacations who live beyond the 4-hour driving time of the attraction.

Since Nez Perce is a day-use area it is reasonable to expect the majority of the visitation to the park will come from areas within the 0- to 2-hour zone. Singularly, these people constitute the largest percent of the potential visitor—nearly 180,000 people. They will be looking for things to do for the day and will return to their homes after the day's outing. Picnicking, sightseeing, and similar passive endeavors will be their main interest. People engaging in these activities will likely include Nez Perce National Historical Park on their list of places to visit; but again, since there are many other interesting day-use activities readily available in and around the Nez Perce county, the historical park will be placed in a position of competing for the visitor's time. This should be particularly true at Kamiah and White Bird where Service-furnished picnicking is not available.

An additional 600,000 people are living in the second zone, 2- to 4-hour-travel distance, and constitute the week-end vacationer looking for activities such as camping, boating, swimming, and fishing—all of which are readily available. There are outstanding water-oriented recreation opportunities at Pend Oreille Lake, Coeur d'Alene Lake, and Priest Lake for residents of north-central Idaho and western Washington, and their use has been firmly established. Camping, picnicking, and the ever popular water-orientated recreation is available in quality and quantity at Farragut State Park, a World War II Naval Training Base on Pend Oreille Lake (near Coeur d'Alene) which has been developed for public recreation. Popularity of these areas should remain high because of their accessibility from population centers. Proposed dams, such as Dworshak Dam and Asotin Dam, and the recreation which their reservoirs will create will not have a significant effect upon this group of recreationists.

The third type of vacationer comes from eastern population centers and the West Coast. This travel should show a marked increase when there is high-speed access and the reputation of the area's recreational opportunities spreads. At the present rate of increase, highway travel to the Nez Perce country by 1985 will be about 80 percent greater than today.

Use and development should not be adversely affected by climate, which is moderate, nor by the topography. Tourists will come primarily during the summer quarter, as is traditional elsewhere, although recreational pursuits are available in quantity and quality during all seasons of the year. Significantly, the summer quarter increase of visitors to Nez Perce National Historical Park will probably not increase tremendously over the 'off season' visitation as is typical for so many Service areas, but is expected to increase at a more reasonable rate because of local visitation throughout the year. This will be especially true if off-season use of the visitor facilities is promoted. The economy of the Nez Perce country will continue to improve agriculture, lumbering, and tourism—in this order—are the leading industries of the state. The outlook for tourism is especially optimistic, since leisure time and the economy in our affluent society continue to expand and more people are living in an urban environment.

Idaho's history, although in its incipiency, is as moving as her natural beauty and its very core is in the Nez Perce country. Nez Perce National Historical Park can be an important adjunct to the recreational opportunities in a state abundantly blessed with natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.

Visitors to the region will seek historical sites much as the receationist seeks lakes, rivers, and campsites. The Lewis and Clark Trail enters the region at Lolo Pass and traverses the entire width of the park from east to west. Two important missions are within a 2-hour drive—Whitman Mission at Walla Walla, Washington and the Cataldo Mission east of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. For the Visitors interested in the Nez Perce War, the route of the retreat (from Weippe across the Lolo Trail to Big Hole National Battlefield in Montana and to the Bear Paw Mountain) is an interesting journey in history. Fur trade sites extend from Fort Hall on the Snake River near the Tetons to Fort Vancouver and Astoria. A registered national landmark of the 20th century is located in southeastern Idaho, the Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1, National Reactor Testing Station at Arco.

1964—Average Daily Travel. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Comparative traffic studies conducted by the State Highway Commission were reviewed to determine traffic patterns in the Nez Perce country. Considering all passenger cars, both state and out-of-state, as being potential visitors, the average daily traffic count ranged from 205 vehicles on the Lewis and Clark Highway (U.S. 12) to 2,910 vehicles on U.S. 95 near Spalding. Counts at Kamiah and White Bird were 940 and 490 respectively. Although these figures are significant, they do not tell the whole story. Peak counts must be considered. The peak count basis for this study is the 30th highest hour; a maximum traffic flow figure which is a basis for determining the amount of traffic a highway should be designed to accommodate. Estimated traffic for the three federally owned areas was found to be:

Spalding540 vehicles
Kamiah230 vehicles
White Bird130 vehicles

These figures represent the maximum passenger car traffic which it is reasonable to expect will use the highway in the immediate vicinity of the areas listed in a given hour.

Proportionately, Kamiah and White Bird will probably have a higher out-of-state ratio than Spalding, since picnic facilities in the latter city are popular with residents of Lewiston. It is not unusual for more than one thousand people to visit Spalding to picnic on a weekend and although a $50,000 matching fund grant for development of recreational facilities was awarded to the City of Lewiston recently, the trend at Spalding will probably continue since picnicking will undoubtedly increase in excess of the facilities.

The East Kamiah site showing the Heart of the Monster, arrow, right, above the rodeo track and the McBeth House, arrow, left. The interpretive facility will be located in the open area, center.


The eastern part of the Nez Perce country consists of forests, mostly federally owned, with little private land, and is quite sparsely populated; the western one-third supports all but a small fraction of the residents and is used primarily for beef production and dry farming. The Nez Perce Indian reservation is within the western segment of the Nez Perce country. Most of the land is privately owned non-Indian land. Tribal lands within the boundaries are limited to fragmented, scattered tracts intermingled with Indian trust allotments and private non-Indian lands.

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Last Updated: 10-May-2007