US Capitol Christmas Tree News

Kootenai Falls a treasure

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reposted from Great Falls Tribune, March 30, 2017, Kristen Inbody

 The Kootenai Falls seem different from day to day, moment to moment.

And Linzie Schwindt of Cut Bank would know.

Now a student at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Schwindt has visited the falls the largest undammed falls in Montana more than 20 times.

"I love stopping there," she said. "The falls are very beautiful. The water level is always changing, so the view is always different."

She likes to show the falls and nearby historic swinging bridge to people who have never seen them before.

"The swinging bridge is my favorite," Schwindt said. "There's just something about being on a swinging bridge over a deadly river that is exhilarating."

The falls are a sacred place to the Kootenai, and a popular stop for travelers. A concessions stand is open in the summer.

The Kootenai Falls are a short walk from a well-marked stop with a large parking lot along the U.S. Highway 2 between Troy and Libby.

An overlook is handicapped accessible. A rocky, sometimes steep, dirt trail through the forest leads to a 64-step pedestrian bridge over train tracks and then divides into a path west to the swinging bridge and east to the falls.

Some might recognize the falls as a setting for the 1994 movie "The River Wild," which starred Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon.

Most visitors come in the summer, but the falls trail is open year-round.

"It is one of our more popular spots in the forest," said Willie Sykes, public affairs with the Kootenai National Forest.

Those who cross the swinging bridge often bring a picnic lunch or seek another angle from which to view the falls.

For a taste of the wild away from the popular trail, visit the Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area, which stretches along the north bank of the river.

The WMA's 172 acres begin eight miles downstream from Libby and stretch for three miles along the river. Bighorn sheep, deer, black bears, moose and eagles put in appearances.

Visitors should note the interesting geology of the region, too.

The Kootenai River Gorge rips through sandstone and thin layers of shale, with folds from compression that dates back 50 to 100 million years ago.

The rock was deposited 1.5 million years ago, when much of Montana was covered by water. Ancient ripple marks and large stromatolites (the remains of algae mats) are visible in the canyon.


Original story here.


Christmas at the Huckleberry Festival a Hit

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It was a wonderful weekend at the Huckleberry Festival! Saturday (August 12) was a very busy day with more than 80 new ornaments created by folks young and young at heart. We had a fabulous time talking and laughing with interested people who were very enthusiastic about the Capitol Christmas Tree, ornaments, and the Forest Service. The Cabinet District had displays on Recreation, Timber, Wilderness, Trails, and Fire. Many people took the opportunity to collect Smokey Bear items and to make original design ornaments. Sunday’s weather held down the crowd for a while but the day ended with several visitors and new ornaments. Even the Cabinet District Ranger got in on the ornament making! Thanks to all who participated and to the District people who helped make the weekend a success. -  Post by Stacey Hazen, Forester, Kootenai National Forest




Wild about Huckleberries

Friday, August 11, 2017

The huckleberry, which grows wild in the high mountainous areas of the region, is a tasty purple fruit and is celebrated across the state of Montana, with good reason. 

Huckleberries are edible and quite tasty. The small, round berries resemble blueberries but they are not the same fruit, as any proud Montanans will tell you. The various species of huckleberries range in color from bright red to dark purple to blue. Red huckleberries tend to have a tart flavor, while purple and blue huckleberries taste sweeter. In addition to humans, many animals enjoy huckleberries, including bears!*

July and August offer prime time picking and picking guides offer good advice to find the perfect patch, such as: Scout out your berry patches early, avoid picking on weekends, prepare your gear in advance, avoid early morning and late evening picking and be bear aware.

August 11-13 marks the 38th Annual Huckleberry Festival in Trout Creek, Montana. Trout Creek was proclaimed the "Huckleberry Capitol of Montana" by the state's legislature in 1981. People flock to taste and purchase the berries. Food vendors feature the tasty "purple gold" in huckleberry ice cream cones, on cheesecake, in drinks, and as a variety of desserts. In addition, more than 120 arts and crafts vendors display and sell their wares along with special events including, the Huckleberry Festival Parade, a Huckleberry 5K Run, dancing under the stars, Huckleberry Hounds Dog Agility Performances, Huckleberry Homesteader Pentathlon, Little Miss Huckleberry and Huck Finn Talent Contest, Festival Auction and more.*

During this year's festival, the Kootenai National Forest will host ornament making at the Forest Service booth on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Staff from the Cabinet District will be available to answer questions and to assist with ornament making. Watch for the float in the parade, as some of the ornaments that have been made locally will be on display. Stop by to say hello and make an ornament to send with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Learn more about huckleberries:
Huckleberry Hounds: Sniffing out Montana’s delicious purple gem.
What is a huckleberry?
Recipes: Wild Huckleberry Association

*Excerpts taken from Wonderpolis, Montana Vacation Fun, and The Huckleberry Festival.



Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre: Dancing Among Nature

Friday, July 28, 2017

Among the trees in the Kootenai National Forests sits the one that will travel 2,000+ miles to the West Lawn of the United States Capitol this November. While summer may still be in full bloom, the community in Missoula, Montana is already gearing up with anticipation of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree celebration this fall.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree not only represents the forests of Montana, but the people, culture and communities as well. One of Missoula’s long standing ballet companies, the Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre (RMBT) has been invited to be a part of the celebration as the community around the forest prepares for the tree’s journey. RMBT is celebrating its 20th year in Missoula in 2018.

As a symbol of the American West and Montana, RMBT will share dances and performances that tell stories of the rich heritage and connection to the Kootenai National Forest. RMBT will welcome the tree as it arrives in Missoula with performances including the Intertribal Pow Wow, the Montana Stampede (a kickline of cowgirls), the Timberline tap dance, the Wild Montana Turkey hip hop ballerina, Sugarplum Salsa, which is an RMBT seasonal favorite and H.A.T. which is a special commission by Washington Ballet Principal Dancer Andile Ndlovu for RMBT.

Following the tour, RMBT will head to Washington D.C. to perform as part of the tree lighting festivities, including a finale classical ballet piece that will premiere specifically for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree celebration.

“Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre is honored to share the heritage we passionately have for the American west and specifically Montana this holiday season 2017,” said Charlene Campbell Carey, RMBT Artistic Director. “This series of events honoring nature reflects how deeply we are connected to this place and what it represents. We will present our ballets and cultural footprints that reflect our open land, open hearts, open dances, and open dialogues as an American pioneer in our classical and contemporary ballet nation.

Learn more by visiting RMBT on the website or Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Only a few months left until the celebration begins and we can’t wait!


Christmas in July: Make Ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree on the 4th

Thursday, June 15, 2017

If you're in the area, be sure to stop by the Troy Old Fashion 4th of July Celebration and make an ornament for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Join us at the Morrison Elementary School gym following the parade (around 11:30 a.m.) until 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4. 

For more information, contact the Three Rivers District at 406-295-4693


Get to know the Kootenai National Forest

Friday, June 02, 2017



Just outside of Libby, MT nestled in trees of the northwest corner of Montana sits the Kootenai National Forest. From rugged mountain territory, river valleys to rolling hills, the Kootenai is home to over 2.2 million acres of land and is a playground for thousands of visitors each year. At 8,738 feet, Snowshoe Peak in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is the highest peak of the forest, surrounded by the Purcell Mountains, Bitteroot Range, and Salish Mountains.

Hidden gems within the Kootenai include the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway a highway that stretches along the lake for 67 miles as well as over 100 lakes. The lakes vary in size from small alpine lakes to the 1,240-acre McGregor Lake with two major rivers, the Kootenai and the Clark Fork.

Within the Kootenai the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness stretches 35 miles long among glaciated peaks and valleys with two main ridges both north and south. “Variety best describes the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, ranging from the high, rocky peaks often snowcapped year-round, to groves of huge cedars in the canopied valleys. Hidden in the peaks and ridges are scores of deep blue lakes, feeding clear, cold streams that tumble to moose country below,” explained the U.S. Forest Service.

The Kootenai National Forest has been selected to provide the 2017 US Capitol Christmas Tree. Learn more more about the Capitol Christmas Tree and Kootenai National today.


Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport Team up to Haul the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Monday, May 08, 2017

Billings-based carrier will transport the People’s Tree from Montana to Washington D.C. in a Kenworth T680

The Christmas season will be a little brighter this year with the help of Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport, as the two take on the role of transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree to Washington D.C. An annual gift to the nation, the 2017 tree will make its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana. This is the second time it has come from the Kootenai and third time from the state of Montana.

The tree will be cut in November and prepared for the 2,000-mile expedition, which will include a series of community celebrations and culminate with the official tree lighting in early December. Smaller companion trees also will be provided to decorate offices inside of the U.S. Capitol building and other sites throughout Washington, D.C., along with ornaments created by Montanans.

Whitewood Transport and its Kenworth T680 was chosen as the hauler for this year’s tree at the recommendation of Motor Carriers of Montana and based on Whitewood Transport’s reputation in the trucking industry in Montana, according to Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors. Choose Outdoors is the non-profit partner that assists the U.S. Forest Service with coordinating the annual tour.

Whitewood Transport opened in 1972 in Whitewood, South Dakota before moving to Billings, Montana in 1987. Today, Whitewood Transport is recognized as Montana’s leading motor carrier after having been awarded Montana’s Motor Carrier of the Year for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 by the Motor Carriers of Montana. The company has a fleet of 35 trucks, and the driver selected to haul the tree is Larry Spiekermeier, who has driven a record of 1.6 Million accident free miles.

“It is an honor to be selected to carry the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree and to represent the great state of Montana during the tree’s journey to Washington D.C.”, said Mike Wilson, owner of Whitewood Transport. “You can count on Whitewood Transport to deliver this special gift to the nation safely with the support of our friends at Kenworth.”

Kenworth Truck Company returns as a fourth-year sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program. A specially-decaled Kenworth T680 will transport the 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.

“Kenworth is proud to once again play a part of delivering the ‘People’s Tree’ to our nation’s capitol,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “The cross-country tour offers the opportunity for people to see this national symbol of celebration, and the Kenworth T680 is the right truck for this important job.”

“The Kootenai NF is very excited to have a Montana based company help in delivering the US Capitol Christmas Tree,” said Christopher Savage, Kootenai National Forest Supervisor. “One of our goals for this project is for people to have a sense of Montana as we deliver and host the tree to our Nation’s Capital. Whitewood transport is a great sponsor that will help us achieve this goal”.

“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong partnerships throughout Montana and beyond state lines,” said Bruce Ward, founder of Choose Outdoors. “We’re grateful for the time and resources Kenworth Truck Company and Whitewood Transport are providing to help make this the best tour to date.”


Press release date May 8, 2017

Great ways to get involved in 2017

Thursday, March 02, 2017


The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program is made possible thanks to companies large and small as well as volunteers locally and across America, who provide vital support of time and resources. Here are a few ways to get involved in 2017.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas program would not be possible without the generous support of sponsors and partners providing both cash and in-kind contributions, both large and small. For more information, please contact Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors at

We’re on the hunt for the perfect tree to represent our great state of Montana. The tree needs to come from the Kootenai National Forest, be between 60 and 85 feet in height, a species representative of Montana, and accessible for a crane and semi-truck to remove the tree. If you have a suggestion, please contact Sandi Mason with the Kootenai National Forest at

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program is a year-long celebration. Local communities are invited to get creative and to host holiday-themed events throughout the year, such as ornament making gatherings, fundraiser to help send youth to the Capitol to take part in the lighting celebration in December, Christmas in July picnic, ugly sweater party at a local brewery and more. Ideas welcome!

Local community events will be planned throughout Montana in November beginning with the tree cutting followed by an in-state tour. Once the tour schedule is announced, communities will be invited to help plan local celebrations.

Handmade ornaments representing the state of Montana will be collected to appear on the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree in addition to 70 companion trees in offices throughout Washington D.C. Special ornament making opportunities will take place throughout the year and Montanans will be able to create and send ornaments as a part of the year-long celebration. Details will be announced on the website ( for requested themes and how to submit ornaments, as well as special events.

Follow the story throughout the year online at and in social media: Facebook: USCapitolChristmasTree Twitter: uscapitoltree Instagram: uscapitolchristmastree

For more information, contact Sandi Mason with the Kootenai National Forest at or Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors at


2017 program officially underwary

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Preparations for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree program began with a community event on Saturday, February 18 in conjunction with the District basketball games in Eureka, Mont. Activities included refreshments, music, ornament making to adorn the Christmas Tree, displays highlighting past journeys of Christmas trees, and special appearances by Smokey Bear and school mascots. Thanks to all who attended, made an ornament and learned more about the 2017 program.







Kootenai National Forest Unveils Symbol Representative of Montana

Monday, February 13, 2017


The Kootenai National Forest has designed an accompanying logo to give a visual symbol to its preparations for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Beauty of the Big Sky logo conveys the message that this tree is uniquely Montana. Reminiscent of a snow globe in shape, the logo captures the essence of Montana. The grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, is Montana’s state animal. The tree resembles an Engelmann spruce. The purple and gold colors represent the plains and mountains of the state. Montana’s state outline provides a solid base.