by Andy Stepniewski

revised by Randy Robinson

Republic, an old mining town, provides the jumpoff for several birding routes. South along SR-21 through the Sanpoil River valley, one encounters exceptional riparian habitats that support several “eastern” bird species. Near the south end of this route you can go east for 50 miles on the Silver Creek Road, a superb birding trail through a mosaic of habitats. East from Republic, SR-20 crosses the Kettle Range at Sherman Pass, with opportunities for boreal species. The descent of the east slope is also good for birds of riparian habitats. From the Columbia River, other options abound, including the Kettle River valley and Togo Mountain to the north, or east across the Columbia to Colville and the Little Pend Oreille (page 470).



SR-21 runs down the Sanpoil River valley some 50 miles from Republic to Keller Ferry. This relatively lightly-traveled route offers outstanding birding during the breeding season (May–July), when a morning’s effort should net 85 or 90 species. Extensive riparian habitats alternate with dry, open Ponderosa Pine forests and wetter forests of Douglas-fir; short side trips lead to mountain lakes. Some of the northern part of the route lies within the Colville National Forest. The southern four-fifths is in the Colville Indian Reservation, 1.4 million acres of forested mountains, rangeland, and lakes. This reservation is home to 12 different tribes, all shoehorned together in 1872 by President Grant in an executive order. Birders may visit the reservation freely, but Colville regulations forbid using calls or sound recordings to attract birds. Camping, fishing, or hunting require permits.

The Sanpoil River winds through a dramatic valley known in geologic parlance as a graben—an elongate, depressed block between the raised Okanogan Highlands mountain block on the west and the Kettle Dome on the east. In places, tall cliffs loom over the highway. Everywhere, the landscape reveals the recent action of ice-age glaciers that overrode the mountaintops and molded the valleys into broad, U-shaped troughs. This is gold-and silver-mining country. Since the late 1800s, various mines have yielded over 2.5 million ounces of gold and 14 million ounces of silver. A few mines are still producing, and others are  proposed.

Begin at the junction of SR-20 and SR-21 on the southern outskirts of Republic. (Alert: the gas stations and convenience marts at this junction are the last dependable services until Wilbur, nearly 70 miles south.) Go south on SR-21 for 0.4 mile and make a sharp left, then take the first right in a few hundred feet to the Republic sewage ponds, which lie 0.2 mile along this gravel road. You must scope the ponds from the road. Expect dabbling and diving ducks, and sometimes phalaropes.

Return to SR-21, turn left, and go 6.5 miles to Scatter Creek Road (FR-53). Turn right here for a series of small mountain lakes with primitive campgrounds in a forested setting. The rich riparian zone along Scatter Creek is worth checking en route if traffic is not too heavy, especially early in the morning. Swainson’s Thrush is common, and many other birds of the moist coniferous forest should be found. Turn left in 5.6 miles onto FR-400 to reach Fish and Long Lakes. From where the road ends in about a mile, take the hiking trail to look for nesting Barrow’s Goldeneyes on Long Lake. Return to FR-53 and turn left. Turn right in 0.1 mile onto FR-5330. In another 0.3 mile, bear right onto FR-100 to the access to Ferry Lake (1.2 miles), which has hosted nesting Common Loons. These birds are sensitive to human encroachment; please avoid disturbing them. Return again to FR-53 and turn right to Swan Lake (1.6 miles). Here, waterfowl and Osprey can be found, as well as birds of the moist forest. Take time to walk the mile-and-a-half trail that encircles this pretty mountain lake, birding marshy edges, alder thickets, and moist conifer forest. The trail begins a few hundred yards before the boat launch and ends at the far end of the campground.

Return to SR-21, turn right, and go 7.6 miles to Gold Creek Road, on the right. Park here and scan the high cliffs on the east side of the highway for Golden Eagle, White-throated Swift, and Clark’s Nutcracker. A detour along forest roads leads to an old campground known locally as West Fork Sanpoil. To reach it, take Gold Creek Road 2.5 miles to a fork just before a bridge, then go right onto unmarked West Fork Sanpoil Road. In another 6.6 miles, FR-205, on the right, goes into the primitive campground. Look for Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, and other birds of wet-forest habitats in the alder-dominated, boggy terrain along the creek. If you want to head across into the Okanogan country, the West Fork Sanpoil Road connects northwest from here via the Aeneas Valley Road to SR-20 in about 23 miles. The hay field just before the SR-20 intersection is excellent for Bobolinks (June and July). The Bonaparte Lake Road turnoff (page 452) is 7.6 miles east on SR-20 and Tonasket (page 448) about 12 miles west.

The riparian habitat along the Sanpoil River valley for the next 20 miles or so south on SR-21 from the Gold Creek Road intersection is probably unmatched in Eastern Washington for both extent and quality. In the summer of 2014, a wildfire burned large areas of the yellow pine forest in the valley and on the rocky hillsides. However, the riparian habitat was largely spared.

Birding beside the road is a sound strategy to experience this habitat. There are a number of obvious access points on abandoned gravel lanes and on side roads with bridges that cross the river. Traffic is usually light, but do take care to find a safe pullout. Dominated by Black Cottonwood, various willows, and Quaking Aspen as overstory trees, the riparian zone boasts a species-rich shrub-and-herb layer. There is probably more habitat here for “eastern” passerines than anywhere else in the state. Indeed, Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Veery, Gray Catbird, and Northern Waterthrush are all common breeding species. Least Flycatcher and American Redstart, though far less common, can often be found as well. Other interesting species include Red-naped Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, Willow, Hammond’s, and Dusky Flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Clark’s Nutcracker (pines near cliffs), Violet-green Swallow, Pygmy Nuthatch (pines), Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, and Bullock’s Oriole. The forested slopes away from the river have Calliope Hummingbird (easiest at feeders scattered about the residential areas of Republic), Hairy Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, and Townsend’s Warblers, and Western Tanager. Fields of hay along the road have many Savannah Sparrows and Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds. In 19 miles, one area of wet, grassy fields on the left (east) side of the highway may have a few Bobolinks.

From Gold Creek Road, it is about 29 miles to the intersection with Silver Creek Road at the north edge of Keller; birding possibilities along this road are described in the following section. Keeping south on SR-21 will bring you in 3.4 miles to Keller Park Campground in the national recreation area along what used to be the lower reach of the Sanpoil River, but is now an arm of Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. Ospreys nest south of here and can often be seen cruising the shoreline. It is about seven more miles to Keller Ferry (free; operates 6AM to 11:45PM). Bald and Golden Eagles are often noted from the ferry, and a loon or two might be about. Once across the lake, it is about 14 miles on SR-21 to a junction with SR-174. Turn left here to reach Wilbur and US-2 in less than a mile.


This splendid gradient winds for about 50 miles across the Colville Indian Reservation to Inchelium, passing through a variety of habitats: Ponderosa Pine, Douglas-fir, riparian, and mountain meadows. The road surface is good: graveled, sealed, or paved in various sections. There are no services, and you will encounter few if any other vehicles. The starting point is from SR-21 at Keller. For about nine miles, the road climbs out of the Sanpoil River valley, eventually reaching an old burned area near the top of a series of switchbacks. Look for woodpeckers, including Hairy and White-headed, here. Turn right down Ninemile-Hellgate Road (13.7 miles from SR-21). Friedlander Meadows stretch along the east side for more than two miles. Northern Goshawk, Great Gray Owl (two records, May–June), Williamson’s Sapsucker, and Gray Jay are just a few of the tantalizing prospects in and around these beautiful, wet mountain meadows.

Back at Silver Creek Road, turn right and continue the descent into the drainage basin of South Fork Ninemile Creek. Riparian habitats here attract species such as Red-naped Sapsucker, Olive-sided, Hammond’s, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Brown Creeper, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, American Redstart, and Yellow-breasted Chat. In 13.2 miles, stop at the Wilmont Creek Road junction. Ponderosa Pine forest and grasslands around this corner and for a mile or so south have many birds, including Mourning Dove, White-headed Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Cassin’s Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Western Meadowlark, and Cassin’s Finch. Black Swifts have sometimes been seen in June in this general vicinity, suggesting the possibility of nearby nesting.

Continuing along Silver Creek Road, through yet more open Ponderosa Pine forest, where Wild Turkeys should be looked for, you soon come into view of Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. Butler Flat, a large sedge-and-cattail wetland (open water in wet seasons) is visible west of the road at about 22 miles from the Wilmont Creek Road corner. Depending on water levels and the season, look for Tundra Swan, geese, scads of dabbling ducks, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, other raptors, Virginia Rail, Sora, Savannah Sparrow, and blackbirds.

The intersection with Twin Lakes Road is about two miles ahead. If you go left (west), you will reach the turnoff to North and South Twin Lakes in about eight miles. Common Loons nest on these lakes. Turning right onto Twin Lakes Road brings you in 1.6 miles to Inchelium. South from Inchelium, it is 2.7 miles to the free ferry to Gifford and SR-25 on the east shore of Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. Alternatively, one can go north on the Inchelium-Kettle Falls Road to join SR-20 a few miles west of the US-395 junction and the Kettle Falls bridge.



The next route picks up once more in Republic. East from here, SR-20 ascends to Sherman Pass at the crest of the granitic Kettle Range, en route passing an impressive old burn, then winds its way down Sherman Creek toward the Columbia River and Colville. Sherman Pass reaches subalpine elevations and some boreal birding possibilities. Typical species of riparian and coniferous forest are definite attractions of this route. Where SR-20/SR-21 divides, three miles east of Republic, turn right with SR-20 and begin the long climb to Sherman Pass. Somewhat more than halfway to the summit the road enters the 20,000-acre, lightning-caused White Mountain Burn. An interpretive display (12.4 miles) explains the 1988 fire and its aftermath. Willow Flycatcher, Orange-crowned and MacGillivray’s Warblers, and Fox Sparrow are common. Pine Grosbeak might be present in winter.

The road surmounts Sherman Pass (elevation 5,575 feet) in another 1.8 miles amidst a forest of Lodgepole Pine, Subalpine Fir, and Engelmann Spruce. To explore boreal habitats around the pass, continue east downhill 0.8 mile to Sherman Pass Overlook, on the left. In 2013, the Forest Service closed the overlook (and campground) to remove hazard trees that had been killed by pine beetles. As of September, 2014, they did not have a schedule for reopening the facility.

It’s possible to park at the campground gate and walk in to Trail 96 at the west end of the campground loop. Trail 96 contours west from here, reaching a junction with Trail 82 in about a half-mile. Turn right to explore more of this forest, or left to reach the Kettle Crest Trail and Sherman Pass in about another half-mile. These trails, especially Trail 96 near and in the campground, pass through typical boreal plant communities with abundant huckleberries and other members of the heath family and a rich assemblage of forbs. This is prime habitat for Spruce Grouse. However, this species can be maddeningly difficult to find. An early morning or evening walk might be the best strategy to stumble upon one. This habitat is also excellent for Boreal Owl. Sherman Pass provides the only all-year road access to this species’ habitat in Washington, but your best bet for finding one is probably September–October. Other common species here include Hairy Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Pacific Wren, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers, Red and White-winged (erratic) Crossbills, and Pine Siskin. Look for American Three-toed Woodpecker, too. Boreal Chickadee has been noted on Sherman Pass, but is not common.

Headed downhill again on SR-20, in 3.2 miles you reach Albian Hill Road (FR-2030), on the left. If you’ve just struck out on Spruce Grouse at the pass trails and really want to see one, try exploring this high route north along North Fork Sherman Creek, then, about 12 miles in on FR-2030, east onto FR-6110 along South Fork Boulder Creek. (A Colville National Forest map is helpful.) Hens with chicks are often noted at wet areas in July and August. The nearby drier, huckleberry-grown slopes harbor mostly males.

Back on SR-20, continue down another 7.7 miles to Camp Growden CCC on the right, a fine, birdy place with Beaver ponds, wet meadow, riparian vegetation, and nearby conifer stands. Species noted here include Common  Merganser,  Willow  and  Hammond’s  Flycatchers,  Cassin’s   Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, American Dipper, Swainson’s Thrush, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, and Song Sparrow.

From Canyon Creek Campground, on the right in 2.8 miles, an easy, one-mile trail follows Sherman Creek downstream. Cross the creek and look for the trail on the left, emanating from the alders not far from the south bank. Hammond’s Flycatcher (common), Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, and Orange-crowned and Yellow Warblers are to be expected. The other end of the trail is at the parking area for the Log Flume Heritage Site along Sherman Creek (one mile farther east on SR-20). Bangs Mountain Road (FR-136) goes right at a fork at the entrance to Canyon Creek Campground, a short distance past the creek crossing. This road climbs 5.0 miles through moist, mixed-conifer forest with abundant deciduous growth—excellent owl habitat. Great Horned, Northern Pygmy-, Barred, Great Gray, and Northern Saw-whet Owls are recorded here. At a pond at 3.0 miles, look for nesting Hooded Mergansers. Ruffed Grouse are common, from the bottom of the road to the top. The open, brushy terrain where the road ends is reputed to be good for Dusky Grouse.

The road to Inchelium turns off to the right 2.9 miles past the Log Flume Heritage Site, giving access to the Silver Creek Road. It is a further 4.1 miles on SR-20 to US-395. Follow the combined highways across the Columbia to Kettle Falls (USFS district ranger station) and Colville (page 470).


Before crossing the Columbia, you might want to explore birding possibilities to the north, along the Kettle River. A tour through this area offers impressive breeding-bird diversity and opportunities for mountain species, such as Spruce Grouse and crossbills. From the SR-20 intersection, go north on US-395 for 6.2 miles to the Kettle River Campground, on the right along the flooded lower end of the river (now part of Roosevelt Lake). A surprising mix of habitats is found in or adjacent to this campground, including brushy fields, lake and river shore, and Ponderosa Pine woodland. Birds to look for include Spotted Sandpiper, Western Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Cassin’s Vireo, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebird, Chipping Sparrow, and Red Crossbill.

To visit Togo Mountain, long known for Spruce and Dusky Grouse, continue north 16.0 miles on US-395 and turn left onto Little Boulder Road (3.6 miles north of the village of Orient). At 1.1 miles, stay right at a fork, then left at another fork in 2.7 miles (just past a cattle guard). You are on FR-9576. The next main fork is at 3.5 miles, where FR-300 goes straight ahead. Go right here on FR-9576, and make a stop (0.4 mile) in the towering, mixed-conifer forest of Western Larch, Lodgepole Pine, and Engelmann Spruce. This forest provides ample seed for crossbills and other seedeaters. Both Red and White-winged Crossbills have been noted here. Return to the last fork and turn right onto FR-300. In 2.0 miles, just before a cattle guard, FR-320 turns off left, marked by a battered wooden sign indicating Verdant Ridge Road and End of Road 1.5 Miles. Continue straight here on FR-300. In 0.2 mile is another fork. The branch straight ahead is signed FR-450; take the one on the right. This is a rough old mining track that goes north three miles toward the summit of Togo Mountain (elevation 6,043 feet). In the ravines, dense Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir offer good habitat for Spruce Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Pacific Wren, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, and Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers. Boreal Owl might be present. Farther, the track swings out onto exposed, south-facing slopes and a more open forest where Douglas-firs host Townsend’s Solitaires.

Return to US-395. Armed with a Colville National Forest map or DeLorme Washington Atlas (and forewarned that road names and numbers on these maps don’t always match reality), you can explore many roads east of here, across the Kettle River, searching a variety of habitats.

One option after coming back out from Togo Mountain is to cross directly over US-395 onto Rock Cut Road. In 0.3 mile, after crossing the bridge, Rock Cut Road goes right. Stay straight on Sand Creek Road. After passing Taylor Lake, with views from the road of lake and marsh, bend right; the road is now Pierre Lake Road (four miles from the bridge). In a half-mile is the first view of Pierre Lake. This is a picture-perfect scene, with buttressed cliffs, forested slopes, and a marsh-fringed lake. Habitats are diverse, as a sampling of the bird species attests: Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Pileated Woodpecker, Willow Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, and Common Yellowthroat. Farther down the road, you pass the USFS campground, then the marsh at the south end of the lake.

In 9.0 miles from the intersection of Sand Creek Road and Pierre Lake Road, note the intersection where Gallaher-Barrett Road comes in from the left. Keep straight here, then stop to check the aspen grove and riparian habitat on both sides of the road a half-mile ahead. Least Flycatcher is just one possibility, among many other riparian species.

Turn around, drive back north, and turn right onto Gallaher-Barrett Road (which becomes McNitt Road). In 2.2 miles, turn left onto graveled Beardslee Road. Check brush patches along this stretch for Clay-colored Sparrow, especially after the hairpin turn where the road changes names to Hill Loop Road. In three miles, turn right at an aspen grove and follow it around a 90-degree bend; here the road is named Bridgeman-Rettinger Road. In 0.7 mile, the road jogs right. In another 0.3 mile, turn left onto Gilmore Road. You can only glimpse a lake on the right, but roadside birding is good, with dry scrub on the hillsides alternating with riparian habitats. Check for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Western Wood-Pewee, Least and Dusky Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird,  Orange-crowned,  Yellow,  and  Wilson’s  Warblers,  Common Yellowthroat, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting. From this delightful spot the road descends to the Columbia River. Turn right in 2.7 miles onto Northport-Flat Creek Road. In 1.8 miles is Snag Cove Campground. To reach interesting brushy and pine habitats, walk about 1,000 feet north of the camp and hike uphill on a faint track just before (south of) an old fence. Continue along Northport-Flat Creek Road 6.8 miles from the campground, across the Kettle River, to reach US-395. Turn left 3.5 miles to the junction with SR-20.