St. Joe Ranger District

Photo of the St. Joe River at Red IvesThe St. Joe Ranger District originated as the St. Joe National Forest. In 1973 the Forest Service consolidated the St. Joe National Forest with the Kaniksu and Coeur d'Alene National Forests under the administrative title "Idaho Panhandle National Forests". One of its' original Ranger Districts, the Palouse R.D., is still considered part of the St. Joe National Forest but is administered by the Clearwater National Forest. The remaining Ranger Districts of the original St. Joe N.F. were ultimately combined to form a single Ranger District under its' current title.

The Ranger District is headquartered in St. Maries, Idaho with a Work Center up the St. Joe River at Hoyt Flat.

An ownership map of the District displays a checkerboard pattern of private land mixed with Forest Service land on either side of the St. Joe River. This is a remnant of the days of railroad construction when the U.S. Government granted alternate sections of land to railroads to encourage the development of the transcontinental rail network. The rail line that extended up the St. Joe River has now been abandoned, but a portion the right-of-way lives on as the Hiawatha Trail, a rails-to-trail project that attracts thousands of visitors yearly to its' 13 miles of tunnels, trestles, and scenic vistas.

The history of the St. Joe Ranger District centers around its' rich timber resources and the 1910 fire that still shows its' impact on area. Remnants of early to mid 20th century logging operations including steam donkeys an flumes can still be viewed in the Marble Creek drainage. The 15 roadless areas that account for 50 percent of the land area of the St. Joe Ranger District are a legacy of the 1910 fire. In scattered areas it is still possible to see a few snags that remain standing 100 years after the fire roared through the area, destroying over 3 million acres of timber in Idaho and Montana.

Given the scope and intensity of the 1910 fire it is remarkable that there were no more than the recorded 78 fatalities. Many of these occured on the St. Joe District when fire crews found themselves hemmed in on all sides as the fire blew up the afternoon of August 20th. Crews sought shelter in clearings, caves, streams, and mine adits. Trainloads of fire refugees from Avery and other settlements escaped into tunnels as wooden trestles burned. These stories and others can be found in our online publication When the Mountains Roared - Stories of the 1910 Fire.

Following the fire, logging continued and still occurs in areas that escaped the worst effects of the fire. Today, the St. Joe District has acquired a reputation as a premier recreation area. The Hiawatha Trail, Wild and Scenic St. Joe River, blue ribbon trout fisheries in the upper St. Joe, Emerald Creek Garnet Area, trophy elk hunting, and the remote backcountry experience of the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area are recreational gems that attract visitors from around the world.