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Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
Bike trail using former railway trestle and swing bridge over Lake Coeur d'Alene.jpg
Crossing Lake Coeur d'Alene on the Chatcolet Bridge, a long wooden trestle bridge with a 1921-built, former-swing-span truss bridge section
Established March 2004 (2004-03)
Length 73 miles (117 km)
Location Northern Idaho, U.S.
Designation Idaho state park
Trailheads Mullan, Idaho; Plummer, Idaho
47°30′35″N 116°32′13″W / 47.50972°N 116.53694°W / 47.50972; -116.53694Coordinates: 47°30′35″N 116°32′13″W / 47.50972°N 116.53694°W / 47.50972; -116.53694
Use Biking, inline skating, hiking
Elevation
Highest point 3,280 ft (1,000 m)
(Mullan)
Lowest point 2,200 ft (670 m)
(Harrison)
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Easy
Season Year-round
Sights Silver Valley, Lake Coeur d'Alene,
Heyburn State Park, Palouse
Surface Asphalt
Website Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a rail trail in the northwest United States, in northern Idaho. It follows the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, westward to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border. Generally following the Coeur d'Alene River, the rail line was abandoned in 1991 and the trail officially opened in March 2004.

Trail route

The trail's 73-mile (117 km) route winds through the mountainous terrain of historic Silver Valley, into the chain lakes region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, over the Chatcolet Bridge to Heyburn State Park, and concludes with a climb to the northern Palouse prairie. Trail users can continue along a bike path in Washington that leads to Spokane. The eastern half of the trail in Shoshone County has Interstate 90 nearby. In Kootenai County, I-90 leaves the river to head over Fourth of July Summit to the lake's north shore and the city of Coeur d'Alene, while the river and trail descends southwest toward Harrison, closer to State Highway 3.

Environmental impact

Looking east on rail-to-trail bridge over Lake Coeur d'Alene from its west end

The trail is not only a recreational facility, but also a solution to environmental problems left behind by Idaho's mining industry. Silver, lead, and zinc were discovered in the valley around 1884, and a rail line was built to access the mines around 1888. Much of the rock in the railbed was either waste rock from mines, or tailings containing heavy metals. The railbed was also contaminated with spillage from passing trains.

To remedy these environmental problems, the Union Pacific Railroad, U.S. government, the State of Idaho, and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe partnered to build a trail. The thick asphalt and the gravel barriers on the sides of the trail serve as a permanent cap to isolate contaminants from the surrounding environment. A portion of the trail is within the Coeur d'Alene Reservation, and an approximately 15-mile (24 km) section of the trail is managed by the Tribe.

Recreational features

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes includes camping facilities and rest areas regularly. The trail leads through protected marsh lands, offering the cyclist a glimpse of eagle and osprey nests, moose, elk, and a variety of ducks and other wildlife, as well as some rare species of wildflowers and accompanying butterflies as a result of the age-old soot from the old railroad.

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