About the Forest

Location & Geography

The Kootenai National Forest is located in the extreme Northwest corner of Montana and Northeast Idaho and encompasses over 2.2 million acres, an area nearly three times the size of Rhode Island. The Forest is bordered on the north by British Columbia, Canada, and on the west by Idaho. Of the total acres, 50,384 are within the State of Idaho. Access into the Forest is via U.S. Highways 2 and 93 and Montana State Highways 37, 56, 200 and 508.


The prehistory of the Forest goes back at least 8,000 years, when people moved across the landscape hunting and gathering. Through the use of geological, biological, sociological, and archaeological evidence, archaeologists have been piecing together how the natives used this land called Kootenai.  Learn more on our History and Culture webpage.


Before leaving office President Grover Cleveland set aside millions of acres of Forest Reserves in Western North America.  The Kootenai Forest Reserve was established in August 1906 and management was transferred from the Department of the Interior General Land Office to the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Forestry, which was soon renamed the Forest Service. Fremont N. Haines was the first Supervisor and was in charge of the Kootenai Forest Reserve. Eventually, the Kootenai Forest would encompass parts of three reserves.  Adjacent forests that would later become a part of the Kootenai National Forest included: the Flathead Forest Reserve (established in 1897), the Lewis & Clark Reserve (established in 1903), and the Cabinet Forest Reserve (established in 1907).  Learn more in our 2006 publication The Future of our Past [PDF, 10.9MB].

Forest Administration

All National Forests are administrated by the US Forest Service which is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture.  The Forest Service is comprised of administrative units known as Regions. The Kootenai is part of the Forest Service Northern Region.  The Northern Region is comprised of 12 National Forests spread across North Idaho, Montana, and a sliver of northeastern Washington. 4 National Grasslands of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands are in North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota.

Adjacent National Forests

National forests adjacent to the Kootenai include the Flathead National Forest towards the east, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests to the west, and the Lolo National Forest to the south.

Ranger Districts

Under the jurisdiction of a Forest Supervisor, the Forest is divided into five areas known as Ranger Districts. Each district has its own management staff led by the District Ranger located at the Ranger District office. The Forest Supervisor's office, located in Libby, MT, houses various program managers and resources utilized by Districts in managing the forest.

Kootenai National Forest Ranger Districts include:

  • Rexford Ranger District - Eureka Ranger Station
  • Fortine Ranger District - Murphy Lake Ranger Station (office is closed)
  • Three Rivers Ranger District - Troy Ranger Station
  • Libby Ranger District - Canoe Gulch Ranger Station
  • Cabinet Ranger District - Trout Creek Ranger Station

For contact information visit our forest offices webpage.


  • US Forest Service History OffSite Link

    Federal forest management dates back to 1876 when Congress created the office of Special Agent in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. 

  • US Forest Service Northern Region OffSite Link

    Visit the Forest Service Northern Region website to learn more about the Forests and Grassland within the region.

  • Kootenai Special Places
    The Kootenai National Forest is home to some special places that are popular with visitors
  • Kootenai Forest Plan
    Forest Plans set desired conditions, standards, and guidelines for management, protection, and use of the Forest.