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Lower San Poil River

SR 21 follows the west shore of the San Poil Arm of Lake Roosevelt and the lower San Poil River near Keller, on the Colville Indian Reservation. Turnouts along this quiet highway and a stop at the Keller Park Campground beside the lake allow birding of a variety of habitats, including the large open water of Lake Roosevelt, rolling shrub steppe, riparian forest along the river, and ponderosa pine forest extending from the waterline to mountain slopes.

Access and Logistics

From the South: From US 2 at the west end of Wilbur, turn north onto Highway 21. Stay right on SR 21 at 0.5 miles. Travel through rolling wheat fields, then down a winding grade 14 miles to Keller Ferry (no services). Ride the Washington State ferry (free) across Lake Roosevelt to the beginning of this birding trail. An outdoor toilet is located atop the initial hill from the ferry terminal.

From the West: Turn east off SR 155 on the Peter Dan Creek Road several miles north of Coulee Dam. This paved county and BIA road traverses ranch and forest land, winding through the mountains 15.7 miles. A vista at the summit provides a panorama of Swawilla Basin, Lake Roosevelt, and the Columbia Basin. At the county line, the name of the road changes to Manila Creek Road. It intersects SR 21 5 miles north of the ferry landing and 5 miles south of Keller. The Keller Community Store at Keller sells gas.

From the North: Drive south on SR 21 down the beautiful San Poil River Valley from the south end of Republic 43 miles to the community of Keller, 10.2 miles north of the ferry landing.

Major Habitats along Route
  • Shrub steppe - a patchwork of sagebrush, bitterbrush, grasses and forbs
  • Ponderosa Pine Woodland and Forest – Ponderosa pine/bitterbrush association, becoming a continuous conifer forest around the mouth of the San Poil River and up mountain slopes.
  • Open water of Lake Roosevelt
  • Riparian forest – a discontinuous stringer of stunted cottonwood along the shoreline of the San Poil Arm widens along the lower San Poil River into a lush corridor of ponderosa pine, cottonwood, alder, aspen, birch, and willow.
  • Burned Areas - from wildfires at various times with grass and forbs, shrubs, pine saplings or aspen, and fire-killed snags may be encountered north of Keller along SR 21, up the Silver Creek and Manila Creek roads.

Birds and Seasons to Visit

Seasons: Best during spring and summer

Birds: Wide variety of passerines, woodpeckers, waterfowl and other waterbirds

Side Trips

Silver Creek Road: Beginning on SR 21 just north of Keller, Silver Creek Road extends east into and through mountainous terrain eventually reaching the Bridge Creek Road a mile west of Inchelium, close to the west shore of Lake Roosevelt. The first part of the Silver Creek Road includes riparian habitat along the San Poil River. Beyond the river valley, the road traverses a variety of forest types and ages. The Silver Creek Rd is a Bureau of Indian Affairs system road, which means it is a public road, but the vast majority of land it crosses is Tribal trust land, which should be treated like private land. For a loop trip, the Bridge Creek Road can be taken back to SR 21, which is reached 11 miles north of Keller.

SR 21 north to Republic: SR 21 can be taken north for 44 miles to reach Republic, the county seat of Ferry County. This side trip extends up the beautiful valley of the San Poil River. The northern part of this side trip leads to the Swan/Ferry Lakes and West Fork San Poil River Trail route.


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