Sweeping vistas, magnificent views, peaceful serenity! You’ve reached one of the truly Last Best Places – the Wilds of far Northwest Montana, home to the Yaak River Scenic Byway. It’s also home to the rugged, remote landscape of the Kootenai National Forest, in an area that was a high barren plain when an uplifting mountain range along the Pacific Coast caused the sea to flow into the plains. As the mountains eroded, billions of tons of shells and skeletons of sea creatures that eventually turned to limestone were buried in the icy water. 60 or 70 million years ago, forces began gradually uplifting the Rocky Mountains, which were two miles higher than they currently are. In fact, the oldest rocks on earth are exposed in the Siyeh Formation at the top of northwest Montana’s mountains. Glaciers ultimately reached the mountain tops and formed Glacial Lake Missoula before beginning to retreat 25,000 years ago, releasing water from the lake that left the Rocky Mountains behind. Today, carved out of the Southern Purcell Mountains, the Yaak Valley has a much stronger geographic relationship with the Pacific Northwest than the rest of Montana. The “modified Pacific maritime” climate supports small pockets of rare inland-temperate rainforest dominated by western red cedar and western hemlock, complemented with marshy wetlands. The Wild Yaak, 180,000 acres of undisturbed, rugged, and remote roadless area, acts as a refuge for many threatened plant and animal species within the abundant western larch. The soft, bright green needles of these trees light up the Yaak in spring, deliver a brilliant gold in the fall, and cover the forest floor in winter.