Nez Perce National Historic Trail

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The Nee-Me-Poo, or Nez Perce Indians of America’s scenic Northwest were praised as the most peace-loving of the western Natives, yet their fate was to be pursued relentlessly across 1,170 miles of mountainous terrain and eventual exile from the land they loved.

Follow the trail of the Chief Joseph band of Nez Perce as they conducted an honorable retreat across four states, pausing to fight only when attacked.

Begins in Lewiston, ID and ends in Billings, MT

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Tour highlights:

  • Wallowa Lake State Park
  • Chief Joseph Monument
  • Nez Perce National Historic Park
  • Spaulding Mission
  • Fort Lapwai
  • White Bird Battlefield
  • Clearwater Battlefield
  • Heart of the Monster
  • Bitterroot Mountains
  • Lewis & Clark sites
  • Big Hole Battlefield
  • Virginia City
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Beartooth Highway
  • Canyon Creek Battle Monument
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Tour Itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrivals

Passengers arrive at the Lewiston, ID, municipal airport and are transported to our home for the next two nights. This evening we’ll enjoy a festive welcome dinner and get acquainted with our fellow tour participants. (D)

 

Day 2 – Oregon Homeland

Wallawa Lake State Park and Chief Joseph Monument now commemorate the traditional homeland of Old Chief Joseph’s band of Nez Perce on the Oregon side of the Snake River. The tribe camped here in August and September each year to catch and dry salmon for winter. We will have a very special lunch in the Park, ride the gondola for a stunning view of the valley and canyon which represent the official start of the trail, and hear about the tribe’s lifestyle before the arrival of the white man. America’s deepest gorge, Hell’s Canyon, provides the backdrop for our jetboat ride this evening on the Snake River and dinner at Heller Bar. (L,D)

Day 3 – Nez Perce National Historic Park

This very unique park includes 24 of the 38 sites of historic significance to the Nez Perce, and is the present-day tribal headquarters. We will visit the site of the Spalding Mission and Fort Lapwai, as well as the Native American sites as we follow the interpretive exhibits and various battlefields along the trail. Our orientation to the trail will include a video, exhibits, trail talks, and interpretive cultural presentations. Today’s highlight is the White Bird Battlefield, the so-called war’s first confrontation. Park rangers and tribal members will lend interpretation throughout our two-day visit. Our overnight is in the tribal town of Kamiah. (B)

Day 4 –  Heart of the Monster

The Nez Perce traditionally wintered in Kamiah, where hunting and fishing were abundant and their origin story Heart of the Monster, remains.  We’ll visit the very source of the legend at East Kamiah.   Lewis & Clark sites are also found all along the Trail and we’ll learn how their paths crossed those of the peace-loving Nez Perce long before their final tragedy played out.  Tonight we will be hosted to a traditional Nez Perce dinner, and enjoy a cultural interpretative program consisting of tribal music, dances, costumes and storytelling. Overnight again in Kamiah. (B,D)

Day 5  – Lolo Pass

Today we will be joined by a Forest Service interpreter as we explore historically significant Wieppe Prairie and follow the trail into Montana over historic Lolo Pass, the traditional Nez Perce route through the mountains to their buffalo hunting grounds. We’ll visit the historic Lochsa Ranger Station which today sits mid-way on the trail, and learn about the facetiously-named Fort Fizzle, one of the army’s many failed attempts to stop the retreating Nez Perce. The scenic Lochsa River parallels our route, as did the traditional Nez Perce route through the mountains to their buffalo hunting grounds. Tonight we’ll overnight in Hamilton, MT. (B)

Day 6 – Big Hole National Battlefield

This morning we’ll visit the only nationally-recognized battlefield of the Nez Perce campaign of 1877. The repeated bungling of the US Cavalry is retold at the visitors center here and we will learn just how the Nez Perce were allowed to elude their pursuers time after time although greatly outnumbered. The historic mining town of Virginia City is also on the agenda as we follow the trail through the Continental Divide and the scenic Bitterroot Mountains ending in West Yellowstone. Lunch will be at the charismatic Jackson Hot Springs Resort. Overnight:  West Yellowstone.  (B, L)


Day 7 – Yellowstone National Park

Already a national park when the Nez Perce fled eastward, this familiar hunting ground produced white tourists to complicate their journey with tragic results. We’ll view Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone before heading north over what has been proclaimed the most scenic highway in America: the Beartooth Highway. Our overnight and dinner will be in the historic Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge, MT. (B, D)

 

Day 8 – End of the Trail

The actual trail ended far to the north, only 40 miles from the Canadian border and freedom. The Crow, to whom the fugitives had looked for sanctuary in this area had betrayed them, so their journey continued northward. Unfortunately, trail sites on this end have not been developed, but by ending our journey in the city of Billings, we will have a rare opportunity to hear “the other side of the story”. We will visit the Canyon Creek Battlesite before our special reception at the Western Heritage Center, hosted by a guest speaker from the Crow Tribe who will lend insight into the reasons behind the Crow refusal to help their allies. Our farewell dinner will crown a memorable excursion to the past as we say good-by to new friends and a better understanding of our nation’s original inhabitants. (B,D)

Day 9 – Departures

Airport transfers included.  (B)

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Happy Trails!