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Yaak Falls, Montana

Yaak Falls is a series of pristine waterfalls within the Kootenai National Forest in Lincoln County, Montana. These falls are along the Yaak River, approximately 16 miles northwest of the town of Troy.

Visitors to the Yaak Valley explore the Yaak Falls during spring and early summer when snowmelt finds its way down and over these falls.

The Yaak Valley is one of Montana’s most biologically diverse landscapes. It’s commonly referred to as Montana’s only rainforest. It harbors a wide variety of wildlife such as black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, deer, mountain goats, lynx, and owls.

The high precipitation and low elevation create a “modified Pacific maritime” climate. This climate supports pockets of the old-growth rainforest with western hemlock and western red cedar as the dominant trees.

Yaak is a Kootenai name that means a “bow” to describe the Kootenai River or an “arrow” to describe the Yaak River, a tributary of the Kootenai River.

The southern part of the Kootenai River (beginning from Canada towards the United States and back to Canada) is said to look like a bow, while the Yaak River looks like an arrow. The entire Yaak Valley derives its name from the Yaak River.

Yaak Falls was formed by a shift of the Pacific plate that exposed some old rocks dating between 800 million and 1.5 billion years old.

Yaak Valley was a significant mining region in northwestern Montana in the 1880s. There’s an old bridge below the Yaak Falls that miners used to get to Sylvanite (a mining town) from Troy.

Several other placer mining camps, such as ‘Snipe Town’, operated near the falls. In 1910, mining operations ended around the waterfalls when a devastating fire destroyed mining camps.

How To Get to the Yaak Falls, Lincoln County

yaak falls
Image: Keith Ewing

Visitors from Kalispell can take route 2, which takes them past Libby towards Troy. The Yaak Falls are about 16 miles from Troy.

Visitors should drive west from Troy for a few miles before turning right on Yaak Highway 508. The falls are visible from route 508, and the Yaak Falls Campground provides spacious parking, picnic area, and camping sites.

The Yaak Valley is a remote region in Montana, so visitors should expect peace and tranquility in the campground and around the falls.

However, weekends attract more tourists and locals. Visit early in the day or during weekdays if you want to avoid crowds.

Attractions

Yaak River

yaak river
Image: Troy Smith

The Yaak River is a major tributary of the Kootenai River. The river has clear rushing water that attracts visitors during summer for swimming and fishing. It flows over several stone ledges that form the Yaak Falls.

The river comes from the Yahk Mountain, southeast of British Columbia. It flows south past a forested valley receiving numerous tributaries such as East Fork Yaak River, South Fork Yaak River, Spread Creek, and Burnt Creek.

The Yaak River boasts clean and clear water with several swimming spots near the Yaak Falls. Locals and tourists visit the Yaak River to fish and float downstream.

Anglers can catch brook, rainbow trout, and cutthroats above and below the Yaak Falls. The lower part of the river allows daring floaters to enjoy kayaking and rafting.

Yaak Falls Campground

yaak falls campground
Image: Keith Ewing

Visitors who wish to explore the falls, river, and valley can camp at Yaak Falls Campground. The campground is adjacent to the river, allowing visitors to spend 14 days getting the best of the region.

There are seven campsites, picnic tables, vault toilets, campfire rings, RV parking sites, and tent sites. Visitors with pets should ensure they are kept on leashes.

Camping here offers an excellent opportunity to fish, sightsee, swim, and hike. The forested areas in the Yaak Valley provide ideal habitat for over 20 grizzly bears surviving in the Yaak area.

Visiting during summer allows visitors to pick plenty of berries in the valley.

Kootenai National Forest

kootenai national forest
Image: Tony Webster

Kootenai National Forest contains over 2.2 million acres of forest and mountains ideal for hunting, camping, wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing, skiing, and mountain biking.

The forest is home to over 190 bird species and numerous wild animals such as mountain goats, lions, black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bighorn sheep, coyotes, mule deer, and whitetail deer.

Numerous plant species, such as cactus, orchids, columbine, phlox, Indian paintbrush, and violets, grow in this area.

The Kootenai and Clark Fork Rivers dominate this forest. Other smaller rivers such as Yaak, Bull, Tobacco, Fisher, and Vermillion are worth seeing.

Milnor Lake

Visitors to Yaak Falls, Montana, who wish to try more water activities can visit the nearby Milnor Lake. The Lake has family-friendly trails and several spots for bank fishing.

Anglers looking for a variety of fish can catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, and yellow perch.

 

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