Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
For as far back as their collective memories can take them, the people of the Coeur
d'Alene Tribe remember the surrounding mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and wetlands
that provided everything which was necessary to fashion a material as well as a
spiritual existence. They were true stewards of their natural environment. Knowledge
was passed down through the generations, change and adaptation where necessary for
Trail of the Coeur 'D Alenes: The Recreation Trail
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One day strangers from the East appeared, people with whom the Tribe had no prior
relations, bringing with them a strong desire to settle this new land to create
wealth by extracting valuable resources from the natural environment. The early
Fur trade provided the means to co-exist with these new people and created opportunities
for the Tribe to practice their trading skills. The name, Coeur d'Alene, was given
to the Tribe by these early fur trappers, as a compliment to their sharp trading
skills, and the name Coeur d'Alene remains with the Tribe today. Soon after the
fur trade was established, the discovery of precious minerals in the Tribes aboriginal
homeland created a mining industry with agriculture and timber harvesting not far
behind. The need for transportation of extracted minerals, lumber and agricultural
goods attracted the early railroad companies to the region. Within a relatively
short period of time a branch line of the Union Pacific Railroad was constructed
through the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's aboriginal territory to service the transportation
needs of the new resource industries. During this approximately 50 year time period
the Tribe was constantly adapting to the changes forced on them as land ownership
and development and resource extraction became issues. Ultimately the Coeur d'Alene
Reservation was set aside for the Tribe and a gradual movement away from the Coeur
d'Alene and St. Joe Rivers and Lake Coeur d'Alene, as they were named, occurred.
Trail running along North side of Plummer.
The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes was formally recognized as a regional recreational
asset during the grand opening ceremonies on June 5th, 2004. In attendance were
representatives of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, State of Idaho, Federal Government,
Union Pacific Railroad as well as numerous supporters of the trail. They came to
celebrate not only the grand opening but the successful relationships and cooperative
spirit established among the participating government agencies, the trail-side communities
and the railroad in providing a creative and responsible solution to an environmental
dilemma. The grand opening festivities represented the culmination of four years
of environmental remediation and trail construction in converting the Union Pacific
Railroad's historic Wallace-Mullan Branch into a 72-mile non-motorized paved trail.
Today the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the State of Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
(IDP&R) are the recognized managers of this recently completed trail located
in the Panhandle region of North Idaho. (See Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes brochure.)
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has recently developed a Recreation Management Program within
their Lake Management Department that is responsible for the overall management
and the day- to- day operations and maintenance on approximately 15 miles of this
Trail crossing active rail line, Plummer Junction.
The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes begins in Plummer, Idaho where the Tribe has recently
completed work on their new trailhead facility located adjacent to State Highway
95. Visitors are welcome and will find access off of State Highway 95 via Annie
Antelope Road to the trailhead parking areas with capacity for
80 Vehicles. The trail is accessible from the parking areas as they are connected
by a short stretch of road. The trailhead facility has restrooms, drinking water,
picnic tables, benches and trail information brochures to accommodate trail users
as they begin their journey East. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe maintains this area and
has constructed a trailhead monument at this location. To provide for safe and continuous
trail access a pedestrian tunnel was constructed underneath State Highway 95 for
trail use. Trail users are encouraged to stay on the trail and respect private property
as they travel through the farmland North of Plummer. Approximately 0.5 mile East
of the Plummer trailhead, visitors will cross Union Pacific Railroad's active line
at what is locally referred to as the Plummer Junction, and begin a gradual descent
into Plummer Creek Canyon that drains into Lake Chatcolet. The trail essentially
parallels Plummer Creek for approximately 5 miles as it winds through a mixed coniferous
forest of pine, fir, larch and cedar with numerous basalt rock outcroppings. The
trail crosses Plummer Creek via a retrofitted railroad bridge at milepost 2 where
visitors have access to a restroom and picnic facility. The view over Plummer Creek
from the bridge is spectacular.
Trail entering Plummer Creek canyon.
At milepost 4 visitors are entering Heyburn Park where the State of Idaho Department
of Parks and Recreation and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe have a unique management agreement
to co-manage the Railroad Right-of-Way through the Park.
Restroom and bridge at Mile Post 2.
At milepost 5 is another
restroom and picnic facility for trail use. At mile 5.8 the trail crosses Chatcolet
Road where there is a parking area and link to other trails in Heyburn Park. The
Park Headquarters is just 300 yards north of this intersection.
Trail crossing Chatcolet Road in Heyburn State Park.
As visitors pass through the Plummer Creek drainage they will find themselves near
the mouth of Plummer Creek in lush marshland habitat and will be looking East toward
the mountainous St. Joe River drainage where it enters Lake Chatcolet. At milepost
6 the trail parallels the shoreline of Lake Chatcolet as it continues through Heyburn
Trail running along Chatcolet Lake just north of Plummer Point.
Access is provided to the trail from State Highway 5 and Chatcolet Road through
Heyburn Park to the lakeside Chatcolet day use area where there is parking, drinking
water, group picnic and restroom facilities.
Trail approaching Chatcolet Bridge from south.
Just north of the Chatcolet use area is the historic Chatcolet Swing Span Bridge.
Trail users will climb up and over this bridge, which has been raised and fixed
in place to accommodate both trail and boat traffic, and complete a 3,178 foot crossing
of the St Joe River channel and Round Lake at this location to reach the East shore
before continuing their journey.
Prior to the construction of the Post Falls Dam in 1906, the area surrounding the
Chatcolet Bridge was lush marshland and wetland habitat lying adjacent to the St
Joe River channel before it emptied into Lake Coeur d'Alene. Several lakes lay alongside
the St Joe River channel in this area, which are currently part of Lake Coeur d'Alene.
These lakes continue to retain their names to this day. They are Hidden, Round,
Benewah and Chatcolet Lakes. These Lakes and the St Joe River as well as the marshes
and wetlands were, and continue to be, culturally significant to the Coeur d'Alene
Tribe. It was in this area that the Tribe spent a great deal of their daily existence
living along the shores of these lakes and rivers sharing amongst themselves the
bounty of natures abundant resources. For generation after generation the Coeur d'Alene
people lived here hunting waterfowl and deer, fishing for the Westslope Cutthroat
Trout, gathering water potatoes and other wild plants, making clothing and footwear,
building shelters and making necessary implements, raising their young and burying
their old. There was time for singing, dancing, gaming, story telling and trading
as well as working and preparing for the change in seasons. Life itself was sacred
and time passed with the seasons. Their ancestors were always around them and continue
to be today.
Upon reaching the East shore of the Lake visitors will travel North following the
lakeshore for approximately 7 miles on their way to Harrison, Idaho, located near
the mouth of the Coeur d'Alene River.
Restroom facility at milepost 12
The City of Harrison provides another trail access point for trail users as there
is a large parking area adjacent to the trail within city limits. Visitors can find
their way to Harrison via State Highway 97 accessible from Interstate 90. Along
this section of the trail we remind visitors to respect private property that lies
adjacent to the trail as they enjoy the rare public access to the Lake that this
trail system provides. The natural beauty of this section of trail is accentuated
by the ease of travel, as the old railroad grade is essentially flat where it runs
along the lake and only a 2% grade for the first 6 miles between Plummer and the
lake. Wildlife sightings are abundant with an enormous array of waterfowl, birds
of prey, otter, muskrat, beaver, turkey, ruffed grouse, black bear, whitetail deer,
moose, coyotes and the elusive cougar visit this area.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe welcomes you to their ancestral homeland and shares with
you the beauty and abundance of this land of their forebears that continues to sustain
their people and neighbors today.