McKay’s Bend Campground – Lewiston, Idaho

After 7 glorious fun-filled days in Wallowa, Oregon, it was time to raise the levelers and continue our onward push toward Glacier National Park. Lewiston is 88 miles from Enterprise, Oregon, and we were about 22 miles north of Enterprise. So, we had about a 110 mile drive.

When we left Wallowa River RV Park, we were not sure where we would be staying next. We knew we would be heading north to Lewiston, Idaho. And we thought we would head even further north up Highway 95 through Moscow and then on to Couer D’Alene. But we didn’t want to make that entire drive all in one day. We also were in the mood for some boondocking, or at least inexpensive camping. So, I did some research while in Wallowa, and while we still had internet.

One place I found was a campground known as McKay’s Bend. It was located about 17 miles east of Lewiston on Highway 12, right on the Clearwater River. This campground is a partnership of Idaho Fish & Game and BLM. It has 15 sites on a first-come-first-serve basis only. No reservations. All sites are full hook-up at $18 per day. With a Federal Senior Pass, it’s $9 per day. 14 day limit.

McKay's Bend

Because this campground seemed like a sweet deal, we were concerned whether any sites would be available. We would be arriving in mid-to-late afternoon on a Monday before the Labor Day weekend. Because of this, we actually had considered not driving the 17 miles in a direction we would not be going otherwise, only to possibly have to return the same 17 miles if the campground was full.

We had had a strenuous day in that, although Highway 3 took us due north over terrain that could be described as high plains and forest, mostly farms and ranches, everything changed once we reached Rattlesnake Canyon. We had heard about this canyon beforehand. Even so, we were not prepared for the extreme grades, curves and depths that the road took into the canyon, and then once at the bottom, the unbelievable climb back up and out. Putting the transmission in 2nd gear still allowed too much speed to be built up while descending. So, I slowed everything down and left the transmission in 1st gear with my flashers on. I’m not one to over use the brakes so we just let the transmission do the work. It was a slow go, but nothing was abused or overheated.

Once we reached the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon, we could see that the road was switchbacking up the other side all the way back up as far as we had just come down. We immediately started looking for a turnout before the climb so that we could unhitch the Jeep. It’s tough enough asking a 36 foot motorhome to make such a climb. We don’t need to add an additional 4,000 pound Jeep. So, Sharon drove the Jeep and I motored up and out of the canyon in the Pace Arrow Vision. Frankly, I was impressed. The motorhome was like a billy goat the way it made the climb. Not a fast billy goat, mind you, but it was no slug either.

Once we got to Lewiston, it was decision time. Ultimately, we decided to take a chance on McKay’s Bend Campground. And as it turned out, we need not have worried about sites being available. Half the campground was empty.Our site 4 at McKay's Bend

The entire campground is along the Clearwater River and is beautifully tree covered with spacious lawn between sites, with asphalt pads with concrete patios. And throughout the campground the healthy lawn continues except for pads, roads and parking areas. It is absolutely park like.

Unfortunately, there is no internet and no cell service. At least not for ATT users, which we are. But even Verizon customers were having some issues. And, in trying to use our DISH Tailgater, there were just too many trees and steep hillsides to get a signal. So, no TV. But, as it turned out, we were fine without TV. And internet and phone were available when we went to Lewiston.

So now as I write this, it is hard to believe we will have stayed here for 8 days. That’s how much we like it. We originally had reservations for another Forest Service campsite at Hayden Lake, north of Couer D’Alene for the Labor Day weekend. The plan had been to stay at Mckay’s Bend for 4 days, and stay at the other campground for the holiday weekend. But on Friday it rained here. We want to try and avoid driving in rain as we travel so we made the decision to cancel the other reservation and stay here for the holiday weekend since we already had a great campsite.

As we have been traveling, we try to get out and get the lay of the land, so to speak, in those areas we are staying. Such was the case while staying at McKay’s Bend. Aside from the requisite resupply trips to Costco and Walmart, we had new brakes put on the front of the Jeep at one of the local Les Schwab’s in town and even caught a movie (Jason Bourne). On another trip, we took a long walk along the levee that overlooks the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Did you know that Lewiston, Idaho is a seaport? Through a series of dams and locks, some ocean-going vessels are capable of reaching Lewiston from the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon some 465 miles away. Here is a photo of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. They would probably be one town except for the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, and the resultant drawing of state boundaries. Lewiston is on the left, Clarkston on the right. The Snake River is in the center of the photo. Lewiston_Clarkston from Above

Since visiting the Wallowas of northeastern Oregon, the home of the Joseph Band of Nez Perce and the burial site of Chief Joseph the Elder, and now traveling through north central Idaho and eventually to Montana, we have been under the influence of important elements of American History, that pertaining to Nez Perce native Americans, and also to the explorations of Lewis and Clark, both histories of which have crossed paths in the Lewiston area.Nez Perce Museum So, it was fitting that we should visit the Nez Perce National Historic Park and Museum while here. It is located just east of Lewiston along the Clearwater River, one of the ancestral homes of the Nez Perce.

At the precise location of the museum and park, a particular band of the Nez Perce lived, fished, hunted, farmed and raised and trained stock for a thousand years. The Clearwater River is below the bench just beyond the treeline. Spaulding Site

Horse Regalia






Pictures will not do the museum justice. It is a treasure trove of items that serve to show how the Nez Perce lived, fought and died for there land and their culture.

Nez Perce Women








But, although we have really enjoyed our stay here, and have even developed some new friendships among fellow campers,  moving day is upon us once again. We’ll be retracting our levelers and getting back on the road.  Next stop Missoula, Montana and then on to Kalispell. Glacier National Park is calling.

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