When I saw the 2003 film “Off the Map” that explores the life of an eccentric family that lives an extremely remote, back-to-the-land existence far away from the clamor of urban American, I couldn’t help but think of northeast Washington’s Ferry County.
Butted up against the Canadian border, Ferry County is a vast and sparsely-populated wild place of unfathomable beauty that has its share of eccentric, modern-day homesteaders. It also happens to be chock-full of mind-blowing outdoor recreation opportunities: hiking, road biking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, floating, cross-country and backcountry skiing, rock climbing, hunting, back road touring, and more.
I own a chunk of remote, feral land there and am a bit biased, but the place is fantastically bursting with outdoor adventure potential. Yet, somehow, it’s still, for the most part, off the radar of the forces that have pushed more and more soulful chasers of undiscovered mountainous places out of other more well-known and down-right crowded outdoor adventure destinations.
With all of the incredible outdoor activities at your doorstep in Ferry County and its biggest town, Republic, one piece of evolving, super accessible recreational infrastructure stands out as having the potential for giving the region at least some of the tourism destination notoriety it deserves: the 28-mile Ferry County Rail Trail, a hiking, biking, and equestrian pathway that connects from Republic (via the multi-use 5-mile Golden Tiger Pathway) north to Curlew along the Kettle River all the way to Canada.
Local trail advocates organized under the banner of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners have waged a hardscrabble grassroots effort to secure non-motorized status and funding for the trail in recent years, and their dedication has slowly attracted the attention of rail trail fans and funders and seems to have paid off. A recent $500,000 Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office grant to finish the trail was ranked #1 in the state. That grant, if all goes as planned, means that funding should soon be flowing to complete resurfacing of the entire 28-mile trail, making the full length accessible to everyone from day hikers and packs of kids on Striders to bike packers doing the whole thing with the option to connect to additional rail trails north of the border.
“This project was made possible because of the volunteers,” says Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers some of the grants going to the trail project. “The volunteers have developed and maintained the trail, cutting the costs to a fraction of other trails in the region. The dedicated, unwavering effort of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners is an example of a small community doing really, really, big things for recreation in Washington State.” One of the priorities is to equitably distribute grants across the state, to both large and small, urban and rural communities, says Cottingham. “This project in Ferry County is a great of example of just that. An enthusiastic community that came together with a top-notch project.”
Check out this article to begin planning your own fall trip on the Ferry County Rail Trail. //