Tucked into Montana’s northwest corner is The Kootenai, a valley named for the river that carved it. It’s a land of unexplored opportunity where individuality is championed and people chisel out lives as bold, bright and reflective as the river itself. With the Cabinet Mountains to the south and the Purcells to the north, The Kootenai is just remote enough to keep its secrets — like what an amazing place it is to live.

Beautiful forests, stunning mountains and pristine waters make The Kootenai a world unto itself. Mother Nature feeds this area’s untapped mystique with the Kootenai River. From its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies, the scenic river rushes nearly 500 miles through forested valleys and narrow gorges, down into Lake Koocanusa and straight south into the core of Libby.

Head east from town to see this wild water briefly tamed at Lake Koocanusa, the 90-mile-long man-made reservoir formed by the construction of the Libby Dam in 1970. Or go west where the river surges downstream for an unforgettable sight of power — Kootenai Falls, the largest free-flowing waterfall in Montana. Just like the rest of The Kootenai, the falls offer something different every day as water levels change. And if you think you’re made of sterner stuff, step onto the swinging bridge.

Time off the water means exploring The Kootenai’s lush, green forests. The Kootenai National Forest engulfs you in its 2.2 million acres, presenting limitless opportunity every season for outdoor exploration and solitude. Around here, we wouldn’t call any path “beaten.” But a few are at least well marked.

Beyond Libby, The Kootenai’s largest town, a number of other communities make up the heart of this area — each with its own personality and draws other than outdoor adventures. There’s Rexford, sandwiched between the Purcell and Salish mountains, directly on the northern banks of Lake Koocanusa. And the quaint town of Eureka, once known as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World,” is just 15 minutes east from there. With roots in logging, today Eureka is dedicated to the arts and integrating its preserved history with modern comforts.

Troy is to the west of Libby, just past Kootenai Falls, and Troy is in fact the lowest town in elevation in Montana. To Libby’s north is Yaak, another small town with character. With just a few establishments, Yaak is truly off the grid.

No matter which way you turn, The Kootenai is the place to create your own adventure — one that will be real and remarkable. One where backup gear proves king and cellphones are often useless.

View from the top   falls