We departed Farragut State Park and headed north to Sandpoint and then east on Highway 200. This is one of our favorite roads to drive as it follows along the Clark Fork River and through some magnificent scenery. There are a few pull offs along the river which worked out perfectly for us to stop and have our lunch, then pass the marinas in Hope (no ice cream for us today) and on into Montana.
Thompson Falls is along The Road to the Buffalo which is a historic travel route along Highway 200 though Sanders County which follows a network of trails used by the native people to reach buffalo hunting grounds. Points of interest are highlighted in an accompanying travel brochure (downloadable online).
Thompson Falls State Park is just north of the town of Thompson Falls on the east side of the Clark Fork River. There are only 18 campsites at this campground with most being dry camping. Site 5 had electric and was situated right along the Clark Fork Rive with terrific views. I think we would have been happy with any site there.
Campground: Thompson Falls State Park
Location: Thompson Falls, Montana (just a few miles north of town along the Clark Fork River)
Site: 8 (pull along)
Services: dry camping
Comments: A terrific small campground, in the forest, right along the east side of the Clark Fork River. We loved this campground as it was small, peaceful, quiet, and had nice shade yet views of the river.
The park has a boat launch and a community trail which leads to a pond to the north and to the town of Thompson Falls to the south. The trail to town is around 2 or 3 miles each way.
The small pond at the north end of the campground has a fishing pier and is stocked with fish.
While at the pond we met the Montana State Park campground host, Larry. Since we had just left that afternoon from Farragut from working as an Idaho State Park campground host, Norm had not yet taken off his work clothes so he had his Idaho State Park shirt on. Montana State Park campground host meets Idaho State Park campground host!! We chatted to him for quite awhile and learned a bit about the differences with the two state parks. It was very interesting.
Island Park is a a park on an island in the middle of the Clark Fork River right in town. It is easily accessible, with parking, on either the east of west side. There is a pedestrian bridge on both sides of the island for access to the trails and views of the dam. There are also a variety of hiking trails and picnic tables on the island. The island offers great views of the surrounding area along with the dam and the falls. The Gallatin Street Bridge (AKA Island Park Bridge) is on the east side and the Historic High bridge is on the west side.
The main dam can be viewed from an overlook whereby you can view the fish ladder also. The fish ladder consists of about 48 steps which allow the fish to go up about 50 ft from the river below the dam to the reservoir above. There is a board with a count of the fish passing through the ladder which is updated periodically.
The Historic High bridge is 588 feet long and 80 feet high and was constructed in 1911. It is the longest bridge of its kind still standing in Montana (Parker/Pratt Deck Truss). It was reconstructed in 2010 and gives you excellent views of the Clark Fork River.
Thompson Falls is a great little town to visit and explore. There is also the Old Jail Museum and Minnie’s Montana Cafe that should not be missed!