Priest River Experimental Forest
Some of the most interesting Priest Lake area history can be found south of the lake approximately nine miles. At this location you will discover the headquarters of the Priest River Experimental Forest. The site was established in the early 1900's as the Northern Rocky Mountain Experimental Forest Station and has been in continuous operation ever since.
Administered by the Forest Service Research branch of the USFS, the experimental forest accomplishes very important forest research. The research results derived from the on-the-ground testing enable managers to better conserve and utilize our precious forests. Present activities at the Priest River Experimental Forest - Gisborne Mountain Experimental Forest include silviculture, soil and plant genetics research; weather and stream flow monitoring; snow pack observations; educational seminars; and international residential research projects.
A small museum is located in the headquarters building. Here you can relive some of the history of this important facility. Scientific instruments and old documents that were used at the station during the early years are on display. Note that the original interior cedar planking has remained in mint condition. The headquarters building is open Mon - Fri during normal business hours.
Much of the Priest River Experimental Forest research is accomplished on Gisborne Mountain, a 5,595 foot peak on the southeast edge of the experimental forest property. A trip to the lookout on Gisborne Mountain is well worth the time and effort. The lookout area provides great views of Schweitzer Mountain, Bald Mountain, Priest Lake, and both Priest River and Pend Oreille River valleys - not to mention some fine huckleberry areas enroute to the mountaintop.
To reach the Priest River Experimental Forest/Gisborne Mountain, travel south 9.2 miles from Coolin on the East River Road (State Forest Road #1). At this point, you will find an intersection with USFS Road 597. A large Priest River Experimental Forest sign is located at the intersection. Turn left (east) and follow the signs to the headquarters building, approximately a one-half mile distance. To begin the journey to Gisborne Mountain, continue on the road through the headquarters area until it intersects USFS Road 597A. Turn left and follow the well-marked road approximately eight miles up the mountain. The road narrows considerably as you near the top and reaches a saddle at its highest point. Proceed beyond the saddle until a small gated road leading to the north becomes visible. Park at the gate and hike the 1/2-mile to the lookout.