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To see and touch the Belt rocks made me happy.

View from my camp site on the Kootenai River looking at the Belt rocks.

I’m from Washington where we mostly don’t have old rocks.  We have basalt.  Basalt from the Cascade volcanoes and basalt in eastern Washington from the Columbia River Flood Basalts.  Washington knows basalt.  Years ago I investigated a camping trip to NE Washington.  That was when I first learned about the Belt rocks – old rocks.  There is a small exposure in Washington.  Then a few years later I planned a trip to Montana, that would include a visit to an area that had Belt rocks by Helena.  But both trips didn’t happen leaving the Belt rocks illusive to me.  This trip I decided to head to the Kootenai River area – the land of Belt rocks.

In the world not part of my universe, the Belt rocks are not that special.  But to me they were almost legendary after reading about them at various times.  The Belts were formed about 1.6 to 1 billion years ago.  That was before oxygen was in the air.  The only life form was blue-green algae. They were formed by erosion depositing silt and mud into a large fresh water lake/sea for 600,000 years.  Ripples and water drops can be seen in the rock, all frozen in time.

The Belt rocks are everywhere including at the Kootenai Falls, a major tourist site. Although I generally don’t enjoy tourist sites, there was a good view of a portion of the Belt rocks.

Kootenai Falls

And the Libby dam is anchored onto Belt rocks.  Located a few miles from my campsite, I make a pilgrimage to the dam.  I had heard stories during my childhood of my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Alan living in Libby while he was an engineer working on the project.  I wish I had heard him tell stories of the design and construction but I was young when Uncle Alan passed and he didn’t talk about his work to me.  As I looked at the dam; as a retired civil engineer, I imaged the type of stories he could have told.

Libby Dam
Belt rocks along Hwy 37
Kootenai Lake looking north from Hwy 37.

The Facts:

  • I camped at Dunn Creek Flat Campground where there were only 4-5 of us each night.  It was wonderfully quite and peaceful. The sites are spread out and most are located on the river.  I was told that during the summer it is different.  Most sites don’t have shade and it can be sweltering hot.
Kootenai River at the campground
Dunn Creek Campground. There I am camped on the river bank with no one camping close to me.
  • There is an active rail line in the area that I think could be annoying at the Blackwell Flats campground, about a mile down river from the Dunn Creek Flat Campground.