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Old White Bird Hill Rd s(u)

In America the names of many of the best roads for cycling start with the word "Old". They date back to a time when roads had a more harmonic relationship with the landscape. I think this road is a good example. While the new White Bird Hill Rd slices along the mountain with a roadcut, obliterating a good part of it, this road climbs up in many switchbacks, offering a multitude of vantage points onto the scenery. This is one of the few cases when the "Old" road is still (or again) completely paved.

The other major interest along this road is the White Bird battlefield, from the war between the Nez Perce Indians and the US army.

1.(00.0m,1600ft) START-END SOUTH: White Bird (village)
2.(02.9m,2060ft)jct with Chapman Creek Rd on right
3.(09.6m,3800ft)Old White Bird Hill Rd merges with new White Bird Rd at Poe Saddle
4.(10.6m,4110ft)Old White Bird Hill Rd diverges again from new Rd, just before summmit of new road.
6.(15.9m,3630ft)route turns left, away from Old White Bird Rd towards new Hiway
7.(17.1m,1380ft)START-END NORTH:START-END NORTH: jct US95 - connection road to Old White Bird Rd


From South.
The old US95 diverges from the new road, as soon as new US95 starts climbing a small distance above the Salmon river. This first turnoff onto the old road is not signed and fairly easy to miss. The signed turnoff to the village White Bird comes a little later later.

The profile takes that first turnoff. It follows the river's edge more closely than the new road, then passing a one land bridge across the Salmon, old US95 enters the village White Bird from below, while new US95 sweeps over the top on a bridge. There is a small general store in town.

The road enters a wide grassy bowl, crosses the White Bird battlefield trail at least twice, and then gets to work on the grassy slopes. There are two separate sets of switchbacks. As the climb progresses, the view reaches further and further up the chasm carved by the Salmon River, with the peaks in the Seven Devils area forming tiny triangles that seem to punctuate the scenery. The Clearwater Mountains appear as a set ot straight angular lines culminating in a plateau.

Old US95 joins the new road for a short distance below the new road summit, but then diverges from it again immediately below the summit. The old road climbs another 200ft higher, but it seemed like more than that to me, maybe because of the additional views. At the top stands quiet in the lodge in the forest. It may be open, or it may not be.

From North. (described downwards). This side is a peaceful, gentle roll in the forest. Several large houses on large land allotments are scattered along the way. When the forest thins out and the valley appears like a plain below, unpaved "Lake Drive" gives an opportunity to cut off some distance toward southbound new US95. Heading towards Grangeville the old road lasts to within 3 miles of the village

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Banner Ridge Rd s(u)

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

Historical Notes:

The Nez Perce War:
The first battle in the Nez Perce War was fought at the bottom of northern approach. On June16, 1877, Captain David Perry planned to stop Indians from crossing the Salmon River to safety. The next morning he approached the valley from where now the New White Bird Road runs. The Nez Perce wiped out a third of the Colonel's contingent without suffering any casualties themselves.

The Highway: The road over White Bird Hill came into existence because a parallel route through the canyon carved by the Salmon River would be too expensive as a traffic route. That was the conclusion of a railway survey in 1872. The wagon road across the ridge was turned into a highway in 1921, which was part of the road building period following WW1. It was not until 1975 that this road was replaced by the new grade on the other side of the valley.