White Bird Hill Summit

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White Bird Hill Summit
White Bird Hill Summit is located in the United States
White Bird Hill Summit
White Bird Hill Summit is located in Idaho
White Bird Hill Summit
Elevation4,245 ft (1,294 m)
Traversed by US-95
LocationIdaho County, Idaho, U.S.
RangeClearwater Mountains
Coordinates45°50′38″N 116°14′13″W / 45.844°N 116.237°W / 45.844; -116.237Coordinates: 45°50′38″N 116°14′13″W / 45.844°N 116.237°W / 45.844; -116.237

White Bird Hill Summit is a mountain pass in the northwest United States, located in north central Idaho on U.S. Highway 95. In Idaho County, it is midway between White Bird and Grangeville. The summit elevation of the highway is 4,245 feet (1,294 m) above sea level, through a substantial cut.

The modern multi-lane highway was completed 44 years ago,[1] following ten years of construction which concluded with the opening of the bridge at the base over White Bird Creek in June 1975.[2][3][4][5][6] The treeless northbound grade climbs 2,700 feet (825 m) in seven miles (11 km), an average gradient of over 7%.[5]

The contract for the original road, 22 miles (35 km) from the mouth of White Bird Creek at the Salmon River to Grangeville, was awarded in late 1918.[7] Completed in 1921 and first paved in 1938, it rose slightly higher to 4,429 feet (1,350 m), due to the absence of a summit cut. Located to the east, the old road was twice the length and had a multitude of switchbacks ascending a treeless slope. On the present highway, the descent north of the summit is less dramatic as the grade drops less than 850 feet (260 m) in the forest with few curves onto the Camas Prairie towards Grangeville at 3,400 feet (1,035 m).

White Bird Hill Summit marks the divide between the Salmon River and the Camas Prairie. The Battle of White Bird Canyon of the Nez Perce War occurred in the valley south of the summit in 1877. The summit is named after Chief White Bird, a leader of the Nez Perce tribe.[8]

As far back as the early 1950s, alternatives were proposed;[9] one in 1952 bypassed the summit and Grangeville by continuing down the lower Salmon River another fifteen miles (25 km), then climbing up Rock Creek (45°54′18″N 116°23′49″W / 45.905°N 116.397°W / 45.905; -116.397) to Graves Creek to Cottonwood.[10]


  1. ^ "New White Bird to open June 17". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. May 26, 1975. p. 10.
  2. ^ "Bids called on Whitebird trestle job". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. September 24, 1972. p. 16.
  3. ^ "White Bird Hill bypass due". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. November 9, 1974. p. 2.
  4. ^ "White Bird road cracking". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. December 14, 1974. p. 2.
  5. ^ a b Roche, Kevin (June 17, 1975). "'Goat trail' symbol breaks as Whitebird route opens". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 12A.
  6. ^ "Grade links Idaho". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. (photos). June 17, 1975. p. 3.
  7. ^ "Road to rival Lewiston Hill". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). November 24, 1918. p. 1.
  8. ^ "Idaho Highway Historical Marker Guide" (PDF). Idaho Transportation Department. p. 133. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Idaho eyes Whitebird Hill bypass". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 18, 1965. p. 6.
  10. ^ "Whitebird cut-off highway issue is revived in Idaho". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. May 23, 1952. p. 7.

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