Hidden in the 406

April 2023

article & photos by tessa eliason

Giants in the Forest  

Nestled deep in the Kootenai forest lies a hidden treasure to most. A place not known by many hides away in its aging existence, only revealing its refreshing environment and enveloping wonder to those searching for it. Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area is a place where nature thrives, and solitude returns to one’s soul upon entering the forest—a place where its biodiversity needs to be protected at all costs. Massive cedar trees, hundreds of years old, stand guard as protectors of those who need peace within. Lush grasses of many species, fresh with morning dew and mist, hover near your feet. The environment displays a vibrant hue of green that signifies the life within. Crossing bridges over the swampy terrain, the trails feel ethereal, wet, and humid, yet cool and breezy. I traveled to this area looking for a photo opportunity of the cedar trees, but the refreshing experience I came out with was worth much more.  

Visitors Share the Novelty of the Cedars 

Ross Creek Cedars scenic area is not one of the major attractions when people think of Montana scenery. I joined a social media page dedicated to our state region and asked anyone who had traveled there about their experiences. I received a response from Tricia Lake, who has visited the Cedars, “I always love walking through the Ross Creek Cedars; the smell of fresh air and moss all around you is so calming. If you listen, you can hear the trees whisper, and I encourage you to wrap your arms around one of these ancient trees as far as your arms can go and feel the vibration of their wisdom pass through you; it’s truly a magical place.” 

Is it Family-Friendly? 

As this area gains popularity, some like to capture their experience in photo shoots and family outings. The scenic area allows families to reconnect while enjoying the breathtaking scenery. There are a few picnic tables for families to share a meal, a small nature loop trail with little to no elevation increase, and a diverse natural landscape for everyone to explore. As someone from the Northwest region in Montana who has visited the Cedars, Nolan Futrell states, “It is a great place to visit with the family and kids. From the large trees, ferns growing below, and the creek that runs through it. Great place to have a picnic.” The scenic area also provides a small parking lot and outdoor restrooms on-site.  

Some Hidden Facts 

Only noticeable once within, the cedar trees house a fairyland of microorganisms. Some are unforeseen by the human eye; others are in view and placed in varying areas throughout the forest, all beneficial to the tree’s survival. Wild mushrooms grow throughout the forest, predominantly at the tree's roots or on fallen and dead trees. Their existence helps to prolong the survival of the trees. So many different species of mushrooms add to the novelty of the experience at Ross Creek Cedars.  

Many types of lichens and moss grow throughout the forest. Moss can grow on the forest floor or the tree's bark. Lichen can also grow on the forest floor, though it can also be seen hanging from tree branches. These natural occurrences give the forest an otherworldly experience.  

Protecting the Grove 

Most of us who grew up around wilderness or natural places have heard the phrase, “Leave it better than you found it.” This can mean more than just picking up and taking your trash with you when you leave. It is obeying the guidelines and preserving what we can so that future generations can enjoy what we have enjoyed. I had an anonymous comment written to me on the current situation of Ross Creek Cedars. They stated, “I grew up not far from the Cedars, and went there often, and still visit when possible. The grove feels dry now, soft trails beaten to dust from so much traffic, wildflowers and ferns floundering. So many giants have fallen, mother trees dissolving into their children. Back then, the creek overflowed, swift, cold, fast; we crossed on logs wider than we were tall. Some years forests of mushrooms delighted us with their outrageous colors and shapes. A sacred place.” For those who have become interested in visiting Ross Creek Cedars after reading my article, I ask that you remember that any place you visit can be a special and sacred place to someone. To enjoy these places in the future, we must protect and preserve what we have now.  

What You Can Do to Help 

Some ways that you can protect and preserve our forests are to respect the nature that grows in these wild places. It is their home, not yours. So, I ask you, the reader, to stay on the trails, pick up your trash, and leave no trace. Leave our state's wild places as you found them. And lastly, preserve the wild nature that we have left. We will all do our best to keep our state’s finest places hidden in the 406.  

How to Locate the Cedars 

If you are trying to locate the Ross Creek Cedar area from Libby or Troy, Montana, you will turn off Highway 2 and then follow Highway 56 past the Bad Medicine Campground. From there, turn left at the sign and follow the road until you reach the parking lot. Enjoy your visit!  

Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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