History & Culture

  • The spectacular landscape of the Kootenai National Forest was shaped by continental and alpine glaciers. Valleys and their drainages were carved out and lakes were left behind. This created the land that the early American Indians inhabited, adapting to the mountains.

    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. There is a tremendous amount of evidence of their occupation, that not only provides valuable information about their land use but also is considered by the Kootenai Tribe as a vital link to their heritage. The historical period of the Forest began with the arrival of the early explorer, David Thompson. Fur trading, railroad construction, mining and logging activities flourished in this vast land rich in resources. Evidence of these sites are also scattered throughout the forest.

    Historic Site Protection

    Sites, 100 years old and older, are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and violation of this law is a felony. Historic sites that are younger than 100 years old are protected by Federal Regulations. These laws are intended to protect these sites for current and future generations to learn about our past. A protected or properly excavated site offers opportunities for historic presentations in our community and for becoming an interpretive site with remnants of the past. When understood in the historic and prehistoric context of a preserved site, the rich story of our past emerges.

  • Celebrating 100 Years of History

    Thumbnail graphic of a map showing fire boundaries.

    The Kootenai National Forest celebrated its 100 year birthday in August 2006. "The Future of Our Past" is a comprehensive look at the history of the Kootenai National Forest over the past 100 years and is filled with stories, historical photos, and placenames from across the Kootenai. Hardcopy newsprint versions of this document are also available at all Forest offices.


  • Source of Local Landmark Names [PDF, 255K]
    Ever wonder how local landmarks got their name?
  • 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. 

  • National Heritage Program OffSite Link

    The Heritage Program protects and shares significant cultural resources on public lands, ensuring that future generations can understand the human stories present on the landscapes of our national forests and grasslands.