Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway

Much of the scenic beauty in America was created naturally, resulting in lush landscapes, majestic mountains, shimmering lakes, and rushing rivers. Lake Koocanusa was not. It is man-made and took an extraordinary amount of effort to get completed. The journey began over 60 years ago, when a treaty between the U.S. and Canada coordinated control of the massive flooding that occurred every year during snow melt. Construction of the Libby Dam took 12 years and more than 2,000 workers. To accommodate all these new people, the Corps of Engineers built three new schools, added to other schools, and built the Libby airport. The entire town of Rexford was moved to higher ground which required another new school, water system, sewerage system, fire station, and roads. Montana Highway 37 was also relocated to higher ground and Koocanusa Bridge, the longest and highest in Montana, was constructed to provide access across the northern end of the lake. Relocating the Great Northern Railroad line proved to be one of the most complex projects, requiring a seven mile tunnel through Elk Mountain. The Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway runs along the eastern edge of the lake, through a narrow fjord-like gorge between the Purcell Mountains and the Salish Mountains. Fortunately, even though a much larger plan for the lake was considered, the result was very useful flood control, a water system, and amazing scenic beauty. The reservoir starts rising in March as the snows melt and starts slowly retreating in mid-summer. All this time, the lake remains an ever changing, enchanting, and marvelous place to be.

Crafted By Man and Nature

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