Koocanusa Bridge The Kootenay or Kootenai River Basin is an international watershed encompassing about 18,000 square miles of British Columbia, Northwest Montana and Northern Idaho. The Kootenai River originates just North of Kootenay National Park. From there is flows 485 miles through Montana and Idaho, eventually returning to Canada and Kootenay Lake. Basin topography is dominated by steep mountainous country, 90% of which is forested or above tree-line. It drops nearly 1,805 metres (5,914 feet) in elevation as it flows through the basin.

Rainfall is relatively plentiful throughout the basin, making it the second largest tributary of the Columbia River system in terms of runoff volume, though it is only the third largest in terms of drainage area. Only the Snake River contributes more volume, and does so from a much larger watershed area.


Recreation: Natural amenities and a wide variety of recreational opportunities support a significant and steadily growing tourism industry.

Forest Products: With nearly 90% of the basin forested, logging is the central source of employment and development. Logging and associated road building has historically occurred throughout the basin.

Mining: Coal and hard rock placer and lode mining have occurred within the system since the late 1800's.

Hydroelectric Energy Production: The Libby Dam/Lake Koocanusa area is the largest human-made structure in the basin. There are many other hydro and storage dams in the basin, including a series of five downstream of Kootenay Lake.

Agriculture: Agricultural development is limited to a small percentage of the basin's area. The largest area of agricultural activity is in northern Idaho from Bonner's Ferry to where the river flows into Kootenay Lake in BC.

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