Help Save Idaho’s Historic Hwy 12 with Revolution Tourism

by Joanne Steele on February 22, 2011

Highway 12 Idaho

Great rural tourism desination, yes! Great road for 240ft long, 600,000lb megaloads, not so much…

I’m angry and incredulous! A historic rural highway in Idaho is being threatened by Big Oil just because it doesn’t have any overpasses, it’s extremely rural so has few strong local advocates, and using it could help create a precedent for oil companies having their own industrial corridor for the future.

I’m over being helplessly angry when remote rural areas become a target for exploitation.

Let’s do something – how about Revolution Tourism!

This summer I suggest that everyone looking for a wonderful car trip, plan to spend a week on the Lewis & Clark Highway, Hwy 12, from Lewiston, ID to Missoula, MT. Let’s show people in power in these states and in multinational corporations that rural tourism is not only economically viable, it’s a sustainable force for good for a region and its residents.

Here are some great links to help you plan that trip:

Highway 12: A Long and Winding Road

Visit the Idaho State Tourism site for an interactive map of things to do along The Lewis and Clark Highway. You can easily spend a week or more.

I spent a day along this route in the fall of 2009 on a trip that took us to 5 states and two Canadian provinces. We were heading home from Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana.

We chose Highway 12 through Idaho because it was a convenient country highway, not realizing that it would be the only place on that whole incredible trip that would stay on our “must explore further” list!

We pulled off the highway regularly to take in the breathtaking beauty. We regretfully passed by hiking trails, historic landmarks, picturesque camping spots and guide service companies that had already closed for the season. We stopped and talked to locals running private lodging, restaurants and guide services. These people love their area and don’t deserve to have their businesses ruined to make life more convenient for multinational corporations.

Let’s all show up this summer and support rural tourism along the Lewis and Clark Highway, and have ourselves the best vacation ever!

2011 seems to be the year of revolution, with revolutions breaking out all over the Middle East and even in the US in Wisconsin. It may be a good time for a little Rural Tourism Revolution too.

Have fun in Idaho! And, when you return, be sure to email the governor and let him know how many Revolution Tourism Dollars you left in rural Idaho!

Photo on Flickr by Mitch LaClair

1 Justin Walsh February 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Sounds Great Joanne- Just give me a call anytime you are in the region and we can get you on a trip! Our season is April- June (the spring run-off). Just so you know, the Lochsa River is a wild one. You should check my website ( and see just how exciting it is – it is not necessarily for everybody!

2 Borg Hendrickson February 23, 2011 at 11:22 am

There is also a growing interest in what is called “heritage tourism” whereby people travel to learn about the history of the place. The U.S.12 corridor through Idaho is a rich nexus of the history of the West — the Nez Perces, the mountain men, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, missionaries, gold miners, townspeople meeting the miners’ supply needs, outlaws, settlers, cowboys & cowgirls, and more. Lindblad/National Geographic, for example, brings groups of guests to travel and learn along the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, and the Nez Perce National Historic Park, which is a multi-site and multi-state national park. U.S.12 is the nationally designated route for tourists seeking to learn about these national historic treasures.

3 Joanne Steele February 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm

You’re absolutely right! Now, let’s use a little Revolution Tourism to save this national historic treasure!

4 Tina Peterson February 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

Sounds like a great idea! We need to preserve the open lands and respect it. And let generations to come enjoy and appreciate the beauty that is our country!

5 Joanne Steele February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thanks Tina. There is a growing interest in what a friend in Kansas calls Explorer Tourism. It’s all about enjoying open spaces and small towns exactly the way they are. No need to add to them or change them to fit the needs of visitors. That’s how we all need to learn to travel. When I drove Highway 12 I was naive enough to think all that road work was to improve access for visitors. Silly me! Better to have left the winding road alone and encourage people like you and me to slow down and enjoy it!

6 Justin Walsh February 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm

THANK YOU Ms. Steele for your post and passion regarding this issue. I am the owner of one of those rural HWY 12 tourism related businesses… Bearpaw River Expeditions hosts exciting whitewater river trips on the Lochsa River… I, and so many others, have been opposing this idiotic mega-load proposal from day one. Thank you for furthering the opposition and together I think we can chalk up some victories on this – in fact we already have. Lets keep it up!

Tourism is this region’s largest asset. This is a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR, renewable and sustainable industry. In Montana alone there are over 25,000 tourism jobs! In Montana, tourists contributed 153 million in local and state tax revenue (2009)… Why would we sacrifice some of this for the sake of monster trucks that bring nothing but liabilities?

Come on the river with us Joanne, its on me!

7 Joanne Steele February 23, 2011 at 9:51 am

What a fantastic offer! I’m off to Arkansas for a month to help rural tourism businesses learn how to rock the internet. Actually have a nibble for coming to Idaho for the same purpose and a rafting trip on your beautiful river would be #1 on my to do list.

8 lafemmeartiste February 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Great post!! Keep going with this idea! As an artist, I thrive on these hideaway resources in our world to quench my inspiration quotient and to restore my soul!

9 Joanne Steele February 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

Thanks Kerrie. I’m convinced that artists are the answer to saving the world!! I facilitated a meeting of artists last night in the tiny town of Dunsmuir, California, US to organize the local arts community to fill the empty storefronts with glorious art, and open a small cooperative gallery to encourage visitors to buy. It’s going to work! And all because of artists. Your art restores more than your own soul.

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