A History of the Salmon National Forest



The area of the Salmon National Forest is mountainous, varying in elevation from 2,480 feet at the mouth of Horse Creek in the Salmon River canyon to 11,350 feet at Big Peak near Leadore. Mountains along the Salmon River in this area are largely made up of sedimentary rocks of the Belt Series of the Pre-Cambrian era, laid down more than half a billion years ago in shallow seas. Instances of the Belt Series rock are: the Yellowjacket Formation and Hoodoo Quartzite near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the Lemhi and Swauger Quartzites in the Lemhi Range. There are also remnants of marine rocks (Paleozoic) deposited from one half billion years ago to 180 million years ago in seas that were shallow compared with the depth of the oceans of today. These were probably troughs extending northward to 45° and westward to 115° from larger basins in Utah and adjacent states.1

1Clyde P. Ross, Geology along U.S. Highway 93 in Idaho, U. S. Geological Survey Pamphlet 130 (Moscow: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1963), P. 63.

The Idaho batholith rises in the western part of the Salmon National Forest. Measuring roughly 240 by 70 miles, this huge body of granite is one of the largest of its kind in the world. This batholithic intrusion is dated as occurring over 100 million years ago.2 The Salmon River canyon cuts deeply into the batholith, exposing the inside of this granite mass. There is no sharp dividing line between the batholith and the rocks that enclose it. The surrounding rocks were "soaked" with molten granite for several miles, showing gradations and local differences among the rocks along the contact. These variations are evident through much of the Salmon River canyon from North Fork west to Riggins.3

2Clyde P. Ross and M. Donald Forrester, Outline of the Geology of Idaho Bulletin No. 15 (Moscow: Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, 1958), p. 33.

3Ross, p. 77.

In 1935 geologists on the National Geographic trip down the Salmon River from Salmon to Lewiston made observations in the Idaho batholith as the party traveled through it for 90 miles. They reported that gold is the most important metal in and near the Idaho batholith. Gold veins are numerous near the top of the granite mass, but not in the interior. Gold veins along the river are few. In some places streams of molten rock or "dikes" pushed up from below into fissures in the hardened granite.4

4Philip J. Shenon and John C. Reed, "Down Idaho's River of No Return," National Geographic (July, 1936), 94-136.

The Challis volcanics once covered much or all of the area of the Salmon National Forest, both the mountains and the valleys. This eruption began over 30 million years ago, spread widely, and in some places reached a thickness of more than a mile,1 filling valleys, burying streams, and covering all but the highest summits in Blaine, Butte, Custer and parts of Lemhi and Valley counties.2 These disturbances in the earth's crust occurred intermittently. In the volcanic rocks are some sediments, products of streams and lakes deposited in remaining lowlands. These include some lignitic coal near Salmon.3

1Ross and Forrester, pp. 13-15.

2Ross and Forrester, p. 34.

3Ross, p. 70.

Later changes in drainage have altered the topography. Clyde P. Ross suggests that though the Salmon River now runs north and then west through the mountains to the Snake on the western boundary of Idaho, it has not always done so. Changes resulting in its present route probably occurred less than one million years ago and perhaps much less than this. The modern Salmon River travels a very roundabout course and Ross suggests that possibly at one time some of the valleys around Salmon drained southeast to join the upper Snake River instead of entering the Snake near its mouth as it now does.4

4Ross, p. 71.

The northwest-draining streams are all tributaries of the Salmon; the southeast-draining streams are considered tributary to the Snake, joining it underground after disappearing into lava sinks on the Snake River Plain. Ruppel concludes that the Salmon River could not have existed in its present form until after the reversal.5

5Edward T. Ruppel, "Late Cenozoic Drainage Reversal, East-Central Idaho, and its relation to possible Undiscovered Placer Deposits." Reprinted from Economic Geology, Vol. 62 (1967), 648-663.

Evidence suggesting reversal of the Lemhi River is that placer deposits of gold in streams tributary to the Lemhi River near Salmon have been found to extend into the Lemhi and up the Lemhi rather than extending down the Lemhi from the tributary as would normally be expected. Howard Sims reported this to be true on Kirtley Creek. He followed the gold down the creek and when he got to the Lemhi he started down the river and found there was no gold. He couldn't explain this until he started up the river from the creek mouth and found matching gold in the old channel going up the river instead of down.6

6Interview with Howard Sims, Salmon, Idaho, October 23, 1969.

The physical features of the Salmon National Forest are aptly described in the "Report for Forest Atlas" made by Supervisor George Bentz in 1909.

This Forest is composed of high and very rugged mountains, having no plains, plateaus, or deserts, and containing but few valleys. The mountains are divided into four distinct ranges. Two of them lie on the east side of the Salmon River and are separated by the Lemhi River (the Beaverhead Mountains in the Bitterroot Range of the Continental Divide, and the Lemhi Range.) These two ranges make up the highest and most rugged part of this Forest. They attain an elevation ranging from 9000 to 11000 feet (later surveys reach 11,350 feet), and have a general trend from the northeast to the southwest. The other two ranges are on the west side of the Salmon River and lie between it and the Middle Fork (Salmon River Mountains and the Big Horn Crags.) They are separated by Big Creek (now Panther Creek) which heads near the southern boundary of the Forest and flows north into the Salmon River. These two ranges are not as rugged as the ones on the east side of the Salmon River and have broader summits. The general trend of these two ranges is north and south and their average elevation is about 9000 feet.1

1George Bentz, "Report for Forest Atlas," January 15, 1909, pp. 1-2.

Within and along the boundaries of the Salmon National Forest lie two of the deepest canyons in the United States. The Salmon River canyon between North Fork and Riggins, and the canyon of the Middle Fork of the Salmon are exceeded in depth only by the Hells Canyon of the Snake. They are deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado which is the fourth deepest in the United States.

Williams Lake is a water feature of exceptional interest. The largest lake for miles around, it is held behind a high dam of landslide debris. The lake is over a mile long, over a half-mile wide and several hundred feet deep. The ancient landslide blocks the valley to a height of 480 to 660 feet. The lake has no outlet except underground, the water emerging as a big spring near the bottom of the slide. A gigantic amphitheater-like scar north of the slide debris marks the source of the slide material.2

2Alfred L. Anderson, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Salmon Quadrangle, Lemhi County, Idaho, Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, Pamphlet No. 106 (Moscow: University of Idaho, January, 1956, p. 12.

The entire Salmon Forest is within the drainage of the Salmon River except about six square miles in the southern Lemhi Range south of Long Canyon. The streams in this small area sink, but would be considered as tributary to Birch Creek and the Snake River. The Salmon River does not head in the Salmon National Forest but flows adjacent to and through it for over one hundred miles. Some of the main streams in the Salmon National Forest are Salmon River Lemhi River, Middle Fork of the Salmon, Panther Creek, Horse Creek and North Fork of the Salmon. The two main valleys in this region are the Lemhi Valley and the Salmon River Valley. They are not within the Forest boundaries but their supply streams have their sources in the Forest. These two valleys include the greater part of the agricultural land and most of the population in this area.


The Shoshone Indians can be considered the early, or prehistoric, residents of the upper Salmon River, above the Middle Fork having occupied the area for the past 8000 years or more. Shoshoni Indians are a part of the Great Basin cultures found south and east of the Salmon River. The area of the Mountain Shoshoni, or Sheepeaters, was bounded by the Payette River on the west, Salmon River on the north, and Bear River Valley and Bruneau River on the south. Much of the Great Basin dried up during a climatic change about 7,000 years ago and this changed the way of life of the peoples in the lower areas of the Great Basin. The ancestors of the Northern Shoshoni, known as the Bitterroot Culture, withdrew into the high mountain country of the Salmon River, and retained their big game hunting way of life. The Western Shoshoni and Northern Paiute developed a Desert Culture because of the changes in their environment. This was a marginal way of life dependent upon seed gathering and hunting of small mammals.1

1Earl H. Swanson, Jr., "Idaho Yesteryears," Idaho Yesterdays, Volume 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1965), 17-24.

The Mountain Shoshoni, or Sheepeaters, did not use horses until late, and never in great numbers though other Shoshoni acquired them early. Some authorities think the Shoshone were among the first Indians to have horses, probably trading for them with their relatives the Comanches around the year 1700. The horse gave the Shoshone mobility. Pottery and vegetable fiber utensils and clothing were replaced by bison (buffalo) hide, horn, bone and sinew. The mobility afforded by the horse also caused changes in their political tribal structure. The former loosely knit small groups of families were combined at times of organized bison hunts to give strength in the hunt and protection from their enemies. Archaeological research yields evidence that bison were hunted throughout the 8000 years of Indian occupancy of the Salmon River area, whenever they were available From 3000 years ago into the nineteenth century, bison were available in large and increasing numbers.

The Shoshoni shared their Salmon River fishing grounds with their neighbors. The Flatheads, of the Salish language group, came from the Bitterroot Valley to the north, and the Nez Perce, of the Plateau Culture and Sahaptin language, came from the north and west.2 The Nez Perce and Flatheads often came to the Salmon River for fishing and trade with the Shoshoni. Popular meeting places were the fishing grounds at the junction of the Lemhi and Salmon, and the junction of the North Fork and Salmon River. Groups from these tribes sometimes united for the trip east of the Continental Divide to hunt buffalo. The combined strength made a better hunt and gave more protection against the Blackfeet and other Plains groups who considered their territory invaded by Shoshoni, Nez Perce or Flathead from the west.

2Sven S. Liljeblad, "Indian Peoples in Idaho" (Pocatello: Idaho State University Museum, unpublished manuscript, 1957), p. 20.

Through all this period of change the Mountain Shoshoni (Sheepeaters) remained in their mountain fastness, hunting big game on foot. Their diet included a long list of roots, seeds and berries. They lived in some of the best fishing areas of Idaho and it was their habit to construct weirs and dams to catch the salmon. They were the most skilled hunters on foot of all Idaho Indians, using excellent bows of laminated horn of the bighorn mountain sheep, light snowshoes in winter, and dogs trained for the chase.1

1Liljeblad, p. 96.

The Sheepeaters have been thought to be both isolated and destitute but there is evidence they carried on some trade with other Indians. Their highly perfected laminated sheep horn bows were a coveted trade item. Those Sheepeaters who received horses in trade moved to the Lemhi Valley and joined the bison hunting Shoshoni. Unchallenged by other Indians, the Sheepeater homeland included much of the area now found in the Payette, Salmon, Boise, Challis, Sawtooth and Beaverhead National Forests.2 The greatest density of Sheepeater or Mountain Shoshoni was in the Salmon River Mountains and the Middle Fork area. People who have traveled in the Middle Fork area have seen evidence of Indians of the past, finding tipi rings, Indian writings and ceremonial rings.3

2Liljeblad, pp. 99-100.

3Earl H. Swanson, Jr., "Archaeological Survey of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho."

When Lewis and Clark came through in 1805, they found about 400 Shoshone living in the Lemhi Valley. About 100 were warriors, the rest women and children. Lewis described the Shoshoni as dwelling in security west of the Continental Divide, venturing eastward after buffalo, sometimes in company with the Flatheads, but retreating to the mountain fastness as soon as they had obtained meat, because of their fear of the Indians of the plains. Lewis described the Shoshoni as not only cheerful, but even gay; their character more interesting than that of any Indians he had seen, containing much of the dignity of misfortune. Lewis found the Shoshoni frank and communicative, and fair in their dealings. The Shoshoni shared their small possessions and scant food, but abstained from begging.

These Shoshoni in 1805 had around 700 horses, including about 40 colts and 20 mules. Some of the mules had Spanish brands, and Lewis observed stirrups, a bridle-bit and other articles of Spanish horse-gear. The Shoshoni stated they could reach the Spanish settlements in ten days by way of the Yellowstone River, but complained the Spaniards refused to let them have fire-arms. This left them at the mercy of the Indians on the plains who had guns and used them to get Shoshoni horses. The Lemhi Shoshoni of 1805 fought on horseback, possessed a few hard guns but more commonly used the bow and arrow, shield, lance and poggamoggon, an instrument with a leather-covered wooden handle and a thong at one end tied to a two-pound round stone covered with leather. Shoshoni bows were of cedar or pine, with sinews glued on the outer side. Another type of bow was made of a single piece of elkhorn, but the most prized were bows made of laminated pieces of horn of the bighorn sheep. The armed and mounted Shoshoni was a formidable enemy even with his feeble weapons.

The journals of various trappers such as John Work, W.A. Ferris, Robert Newell, Captain Bonneville and others record that the Lemhi and Salmon River valleys were favorite camping spots for bands of Flatheads and Nez Perce in the 1830's and 1840's. Some of these bands spent winters in this country.

In 1877 Chief Joseph's Nez Perce band came through the Lemhi Valley on their famous retreat toward Canada. The people of Salmon and the Lemhi Valley had word of the Nez Perce flight, and knowing that the Nez Perce were familiar with the country around Salmon, anticipated that Joseph might come that way. A company of men was organized for defense, and stockades were built in Salmon and Junction. There were few guns in Salmon, and very little ammunition. A request was made to the Governor for arms and ammunition. About the time word was received that the Nez Perce had come over Lolo trail and were moving up the Bitterroot Valley, Nez Perce signal fires were seen on the hills around Salmon. The signals were repeated for several days. One signal spot was on the cemetery hill, another was a short distance up the Leesburg hill, and a third was near the present city dump.1

1Shoup, p. 21

Joseph sent messengers to ask help from the Indians under Chief Tendoy, against the soldiers and whites. The Nez Perce and the Lemhis had been friends. Tendoy held a council and the decision was to give no help to the Nez Perce because of the friendship of the Lemhi Indians for the white people of Lemhi Valley.

Following the Battle of the Big Hole, August 9-10, 1877, the Nez Perce traveled south, but did not come to Salmon. Instead, they crossed the Divide farther south, passed near Junction, and camped in a canyon that has since been called Nez Perce Canyon. Orlo Johnson, former Leadore District Ranger, found in 1965 what is believed to be Chief Joseph's campsite, with indications of rifle pits and a breastworks fortification. The pits cover a three-acre area.

Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce continued south, over Gilmore summit. On Birch Creek they came upon freight wagons bound for Salmon. The Indians took over the outfits and some of them got drunk on whiskey found in the cargo. A skirmish followed and five men were killed. Two Chinamen had escaped through the brush along the creek and headed for Junction. The horse herder, Al Lyons, escaped toward Eagle Rock (Idaho Falls) and was later found by some riders. The freighters killed were Albert Green, loaded with merchandise for George L. Shoup and Company, Dan Coombs and James Hayden, loaded for Fred Phillips and Dave Wood of Leesburg and Salmon City, and a stranger. Another stranger was found dead about a mile away.1 Mrs. Nora Whitwell, now living in Salmon (1971) was a child of seven when the Nez Perce came into Lemhi Valley, and can remember the stockade built at that time.

1Shoup, p. 23.

Nez Perce Indians returned to the Salmon Forest in later years after Chief Joseph's retreat of 1877. In August, 1887, an item in the local paper noted that about 50 Nez Perce Indians had been in town, coming to sell horses.2 Their "annual visit" was the occasion for a celebration around 1898. Governor Shoup and M. M. McPherson entertained the Nez Perce and Tendoy's Lemhis in Feinsteur's field, near where the St. Charles Catholic Church is now. Shoup and Mcpherson had a pit dug and roasted a beef for the Indians. The Indians conducted a sham battle between the Nez Perce and the Lemhis, on horseback. Fred Chase remembers this occasion, along with the fact that in the same field there was a camp organizing men to go to the Spanish-American War.3

2The Idaho Recorder, Salmon, Idaho, August 27, 1887.

3Interview with Fred Chase, Boise, Idaho, June 1, 1970

The Bannock Indians under Chief Buffalo Horn were at war against the whites during the summer of 1878. This was another restless summer for the settlers of Salmon and the Lemhi Valley because there were some Bannock among Tendoy's Lemhi Indians. Tendoy's band remained loyal to the settlers and the warring Bannocks did not enter the Lemhi Valley. However, several Salmon area residents were beseiged by Bannock warriors who surrounded their freight outfit north of Mackay, and Jesse McCaleb of Salmon was killed. Joe Skelton, Henry Skelton, Joe Currier, Joe Bush, Daniel D. Wade, and George Dinsmore were freighting toward Challis. A group of men came out from Challis to warn them that the Bannock Indians were in the vicinity. Among those who came out to warn and guard the freighters were Jesse McCaleb, Dave Wood, Billie Trelor, Joe Rainey and Ed Harrington. The Indians kept the party surrounded from August 10 to August 14. Jesse McCaleb was killed August 11. The rest of the party reached Challis August 17.4

4Daniel D. Wade, "Jesse McCaleb and Bannock Indians," Lemhi County Museum, Salmon, Idaho. First published in the Arco Advertiser.

J. W. Snook's freight outfit was also attacked about this time by Bannock Indians, at the Birch Creek springs. Snook and his teamster escaped, and later with help recovered the wagons and some cargo.1

1"From Salmon City, The Indian Situation in the Salmon River Country," The New North-West, Deer Lodge, Montana, September 6, 1978. From E.H.J., Salmon City, I.T., August 24, 1878

Bannock War Chief Buffalo Horn had been killed earlier in the summer of 1878 and Captain Reuben F. Bernard had effectively defeated the Bannock as they pushed westward into Oregon. The battle on Lost River and the attack on Snook apparently were isolated incidents provoked by disgruntled Bannock fleeing from the troops as Army units hunted for stray Bannock bands across southern Idaho and into Montana and Wyoming.

The mountain wilderness of central Idaho where the Sheepeater Indians lived had not often been penetrated except for the Leesburg and Loon Creek miners, and a few borderland ranchers, until the time of the Bannock War in 1878. Fleeing Bannock are thought to have joined the Sheepeaters, and the Bannock may have been responsible for attacks against whites and Chinese which were blamed on the Sheepeaters.

Four white men were killed in Long Valley near Cascade in the summer of 1878, and Chinese were killed at Oro Grande on Loon Creek in February, 1879. Settlers near Warren were attacked in the summer of 1879. Much of the search for the Sheepeaters in 1879 was carried on in what is now the Idaho Primitive Area. The country was largely unexplored, unmapped, and extremely rough. A portion of the Middle Fork below Big Creek was labeled by the soldiers, "Impassable Canyon." The campaign touched the Salmon National Forest on Papoose Creek west of the Middle Fork, along the Middle Fork south of Big Creek, and at Meyers Cove.

Lt. H. Catley and a company of the 2nd Infantry started from Boise with a company of 1st Cavalry, and Lt. E. S. Farrow and Lt. W. C. Brown were sent from Umatilla Indian Agency in Oregon with scouts. All these commands were hunting the Indians, and no command was in communication with any of the others. They forced their way through the wild country slowly and cautiously, like hunters in search of game.

Bernard scouted the country northeast as far as Meyers Cove on Camas Creek, along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the Loon Creek country. John S. Ramey of the Salmon area was a scout for Bernard. Another scout well known in the Salmon area was Uncle Dave Louis ("Cougar Dave").

The Indians had wounded two of Catley's men along Big Creek, and later kept Catley's troops on a hill for 14 hours without water. The place came to be known as Vinegar Hill from the story that the troops drank vinegar from their supplies to quench their thirst.

About August 11, the various military units joined forces and descended Big Creek. Traveling was difficult and the military lost many horses on the precipitous trails. An Indian village was destroyed at Soldier Bar. In a surprise attack there by the Indians, on August 20, Private Harry Eagan was wounded in the thighs, died during an operation to amputate, and was buried on the spot. A monument was later erected to mark his grave and the site of the engagement. Soldier Bar is in the Big Creek drainage west of the Salmon Forest.

By this time the soldiers' rations were running low and many horses and mules were exhausted and had to be shot. Bernard and Catley and their men returned to their bases. Farrow and his scouts continued, sustained by food discovered in Indian food caches. On September 17, Farrow's men captured two squaws, a papoose and a small boy near what is now called Papoose Creek (Middle Fork drainage). An older Indian boy escaped. The squaw with the papoose helped arrange a parley and subsequent surrender of 51 Indians, mostly Sheepeaters, by October 1. Their arms consisted of eight guns: two Henry carbines; one Sharp's carbine; one Springfield carbine, calibre .45; one Springfield breech-loading rifle, calibre .50; two muzzle-loading rifles, and one double-barrelled shot gun. The prisoners were taken to Vancouver barracks, and the following year were sent to the Fort Hall, Idaho, Reservation.1 Other Sheepeaters eluded the Army, and a few families continued to live their ancient way of life in the mountain fastness for a few more years.

1"The Sheepeater Campaign, 1879," Originally Published in The Tenth Biennial Report, Idaho Historical Society, 1926, pp. 5-27.

The Sheepeater Campaign was one of the last "Indian Wars" in the United States.

The Lemhi Indian Reservation consisted of approximately 160 square miles, or roughly the width of the Lemhi River Valley (ridge to ridge) from just below the present Tendoy post office south up the Lemhi River to a line near the Lemhi post office. The Reservation, established in 1875 for Tendoy's mixed band of about 700 Shoshoni, Sheepeater and Bannock, proved impractical. The Government tried to close the Reservation and move the Indians to Fort Hall.

In 1880, Tendoy of the Lemhis, Gibson Jack and Captain Jim of the Fort Hall Shoshoni, and Tyhee of the Bannock were sent to Washington. Tendoy's delegation included Grouse Pete, Jack Tendoy, and Tsidmit. On May 14, 1880, these Indians signed a treaty in Washington which provided among other things for the removal of the Lemhis to Fort Hall. However, "Tendoy's Indians" refused to move. The Indian Commissioner, therefore, recommended to Congress that the portion having to do with the Lemhis be deleted from the treaty. This caused them to forfeit any benefits which they might have received. Thirty-two Lemhis voluntarily moved to Fort Hall two years later, but the benefits specified in the treaty still were not forthcoming.1

1Virginia Cole Trenholm and Maurine Carley, The Shoshonis: Sentinels of the Rockies (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964), pp. 270-271.

George E. Shoup described what was probably the last hunting trip of the Lemhis as a band. In the fall of 1905, when Mr. Shoup was living at the home ranch on the Salmon River near the Shoup bridge a few miles south of Salmon, Tendoy and his people came through and stopped at the ranch. Many of the horses were pulling travois made of teepee poles. Lashed to the poles were bundles of baggage and, in some instances, a papoose. The squaws rode the travois horses. The whole band went into the mountains following an old trail into the Middle Fork country. Many days later they returned, with pack horses laden with meat and skins. Later, Mr. Shoup realized that he had probably witnessed the ending of Chief Tendoy's last organized hunt, and the last organized hunt of the Lemhi tribal Indians.2

2George E. Shoup, "Incidents concerning Chief Tendoy and History of Lemhi Indian Tribe as told at Dedication of Sacajawea Marker," The Recorder-Herald, Salmon, Idaho, August 5, 1936.

On January 2, 1906, the Lemhi Indians signed the treaty for removal to Fort Hall, and in April of 1907, 474 Lemhi Indians moved to the Fort Hall Reservation. Tendoy, who became chief after Chief Snagg was killed in 1863, had been their chief for the entire Lemhi Reservation period 1875-1907. He did not move to Fort Hall, but elected to stay by the Lemhi River. He died in May of 1907. Over 100 people from Salmon attended the funeral at the Indian burying ground on a bench near the present town of Tendoy. His body was placed in a sitting position in a wickiup set in place for the occasion. He was clad in official garb, with war-bonnet and beads, and his right hand held an eagle wing. A medicine man from Ross Fork spoke for the Indians. Rev. Bonner of Salmon also spoke, through an interpreter, to the Indians. Later a monument of native sandstone was erected, with the following inscription:

Chief Tendoy
Died May 10, 1907, aged 73 years
Erected by his White Friends

There are several families of Indians presently living in Salmon, most of them descendants of the Lemhis. For many years they lived together in one area at the south edge of town along Highway 93. The area was called the Indian Village. In the 1940's their homes consisted mainly of wooden platforms and frames with tent coverings. Their homes have been improved or new ones built, and some families live in other parts of Salmon. The tribal backgrounds have become mixed through intermarriage. Their handmade moccasins and gloves are highly sought after. There are presently 18 local Indian students in the Salmon public schools.

In 1971, a group of Lemhi tribal decendants at Fort Hall urged the Indian Claims Commission to award the Lemhi tribal descendants 4.5 million dollars for 5,002,000 acres of land they say was taken by the Federal Government in 1875. Lawyers for the tribal descendants and for the Justice Department have reported agreement on the proposed payment for Lemhi tribal lands which lay west of the Bitterroot Mountains in the Salmon River area, west of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and south to the Sawtooth Mountains, Big Lost River, and Birch Creek.1

1"$4.5 Million for Land Asked by Lemhi Indians," The Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho, March 4, 1971, p. 1-A.


The area of the Salmon National Forest played a critical part in the expedition of Lewis and Clark (1804-1806). On August 12 1805, Meriwether Lewis and three companions reached the summit of the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass and stepped into what is now the state of Idaho and the Salmon National Forest. They were the first white men known to enter Idaho. They could see high mountains, partially covered with snow, still to the west of them. The ridge on which they stood forms the dividing line between waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Ahead would be the westward flowing waters they had traveled so far to discover. Three quarters of a mile down the mountain they found a handsome, bold creek of clear, cold water running westward. This was Horseshoe Bend Creek which runs into Agency Creek, a tributary of the Lemhi River.

As he crossed the summit, Lewis left U.S. territory. By the provisions in the Louisiana Purchase the Continental Divide separated the possessions of the United States from the unclaimed territory to the west. On that day, August 12, 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis, a representative of the United States government, entered into new country and thereby established, by right of exploration, the strongest claim that the United States had to the pacific northwest. That evening, camped on the western slope of the Continental Divide, Lewis wrote in his journal; he was recording the first history written in the state of Idaho.

In the Lemhi River valley for three weeks during the rest of August, 1805, the fate of the expedition hung in the balance, depending entirely upon the ability of Lewis and Clark to deal with the Indians, the mood of the Indians, and their willingness to part with horses which Lewis and Clark desperately needed if they were to continue the expedition.

Lewis had seen one Indian on the Montana side before crossing Lemhi Pass. Later Lewis and his companions found a broad Indian road which led them through the hills to the Lemhi Pass. On the Idaho side they followed the Indian road, camped by it, and the next day found Shoshoni Indians who took them to their chief, Cameahwait. The Chief invited them to the Shoshoni village on the banks of the Lemhi River about 4 miles southeast of present Baker, Idaho. The Indians were friendly and hospitable. They had little food; serviceberry and chokecherry cakes dried in the sun, some salmon and a little antelope meat. This was the first salmon Lewis had seen and gave evidence that they were on Pacific waters. The Shoshoni tribe had been attacked that spring by the Pahkees (Minnetarees) who defeated them, killing or taking prisoner 20 warriors. The Shoshoni had lost their entire camp except for one "leathern lodge", and were living in conical huts of willow brush. There were about 400 Shoshoni in the village.1 They had about 700 horses2 and hunted mostly with bow and arrow, having only a very few old guns.

1Bernard DeVoto (ed.), The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1953) p. 207.

2Elliott Coues (ed.), History of the Expedition under the Command of Lewis and Clark (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1965), II, 558.

Lewis asked Cameahwait to send men with horses back over the divide with him to bring the rest of the party and the baggage. Cameahwait agreed reluctantly, since many of the Indians thought Lewis was in league with their enemies, the Pahkees. Finally most of the village headed for Montana to meet Captain Clark and bring the men and baggage over the divide.

When Clark's party arrived on August 16, Charbonneau's wife, Sacajawea, recognized Chief Cameahwait as her brother. She had been separated from the Shoshoni some years before when the tribe had come over to Montana on a hunting foray. The Minnetarees had attacked and taken Sacajawea as one of the prisoners, later traded her to the Mandans from whom Charbonneau had purchased her for his wife.

Cameahwait agreed to go get more horses from their village in Idaho and on August 19 the Indians set about moving the expedition over the Continental Divide to their home on the Lemhi River. They camped that night on a small stream about 5 miles northeast of Tendoy. On August 20 they reached the Indian village which had been moved upstream 2 or 3 miles since Lewis' visit. Here Clark conferred with the Indians regarding possible routes over the mountains.

A band of Indians who lived to the southwest and who happened to be in the camp described the country in that direction, comprising the Snake River plain, in terms scarsely less gruesome than those in which Cameahwait had represented the country to the west. He said that in order to reach this country the first 7 days of travel would be over steep rocky mountains where there were no game or roots for subsistance and which were occupied by a fierce warlike people. Clark asked Cameahwait by what route the "pierced-nose" Indians who lived west of the mountains crossed over to the Missouri. He was told that the "road" which was toward the north was a very bad one. That during the passage he had been told, the Indians suffered excessively from hunger being obliged to subsist for many days on berries alone there being no game in that part of the mountains which were broken and rocky and so thickly covered with timber that they could scarcely pass. In spite of this description Clark concluded that of all of the passages by land this one seemed the most practical and that if the Indians could make the passage with their women and children no difficulties which they could encounter would be formidable to the expedition. (It has never been explained satisfactorily why the Shoshone Indians did not suggest that the expedition travel to the Nez Perce country by way of the southern Nez Perce trail, a route which would have shortened the journey considerably).

Before making a final recommendation that the expedition proceed by land, Clark decided to determine for himself whether or not it would be feasible to float down the Salmon — or Lewis River as he called it. Therefore he procured an Indian guide and with his party proceeded down the Lemhi River to a campsite near Baker, Idaho.

The next day the party crossed to the east side of the Lemhi, passed over the cliffs by present Salmon to the junction of Carmen Creek and the Salmon and camped on the east side of Salmon River at the foot of a bluff about one mile above the mouth of Tower Creek. On August 22 they struggled over the points of 4 mountains of which Clark remarked "the ascent of the grade was so steep that it was incredible to describe." They camped about three miles below North Fork at the lower point of an island.

The following day they proceeded along the steep side of the mountain for 5 miles at which point across the river and near the mouth of Moose Creek the whole current of the river beat against the right shore on which they were traveling and which was a cliff of solid rock making it inaccessible to horses. Clark then decided to leave the horses and the greater part of the men at this place to hunt and fish and he proceeded on by foot accompanied by his Indian guide and three men. The river was now one continual rapid and he concluded that the baggage would have to be transported along the steep hillsides where it would be impossible to employ horses for the relief of the men. Leaving the river they ascended Squaw Creek about 4 miles, crossed over a ridge and descended again to the river. They then ascended a high and steep point of a mountain about 3 miles upstream from Shoup. From here Tobe, the Indian guide, pointed out the difficulties the party would experience if it attempted to float down this rock filled river which in places flows between nearly perpendicular cliffs. Clark was now convinced that the expedition must cross the mountains by way of what later became known as the Lolo Trail, therefore, he turned back and crossed the flat along the north side of the Salmon, climbed through a saddle on the ridge between the river and Squaw Creek and camped the nite of August 23 on the latter stream, probably near the mouth of Papoose Creek.

August 24 they proceeded down Squaw Creek at the mouth of which Clark "marked my name on a Pine tree." They continued back up the river and rejoined the remainder of the party. From here Clark sent back Colter on horseback to apprise Lewis of the situation. The remainder of the group then worked its way back to an Indian village which was located about 5 miles southeast of Salmon. Here on August 27 and 28 they hunted for game which was scarce. Their only food consisted of a few Salmon obtained by the Indians.

During Clark's expedition down the main Salmon below North Fork, Lewis remained in Montana negotiating with the Indians for horses. On August 26 they crossed Lemhi Pass and encamped at the upper Indian village where they were occupied for the next few days in determining their route and in procuring additional horses from the Indians.

August 28, Sgt. Gass appeared in camp to inquire if Capt. Lewis planned to join Clark's advance party at the lower Indian village. After being informed that Lewis and the main party planned to stay at the upper village another day to purchase additional horses, Gass returned to the lower camp. August 29, Clark and all but 2 of the men in his party joined Capt. Lewis and the main party at the upper Indian camp.

August 30 the explorers loaded the 29 horses that had been purchased from the Indians and proceeded down the Lemhi River and camped at a point about six miles southeast of Salmon near the mouth of Mulkey Creek which was within one mile of where Clark's men were waiting.

August 31 they resumed their journey traveling down the east side of Salmon River to Tower Creek, turned northeastward up this creek where Clark noted "remarkable rock resembling Pirimids on the left side." They camped 4 miles up Tower Creek at the foot of the mountain. The route the next day bypassed the steep bluffs along the Salmon. They climbed through a saddle and continued across several ridges and valleys to a campsite on the North Fork of the Salmon about six miles north of the village of North Fork near the mouth of Hull Creek.

While proceeding up the North Fork on September 2 accompanied by only 2 Indians now, the old guide called me his son, Clark said, "we proceeded on thro thickets in which we were obliged to cut a road over rocky hillsides where our horses were inperpeteal danger of slipping to their certain destruction and up and down steep hills where several horses fell. Some turned over and others slipped down steep hillsides one horse crippled and two gave out with the greatest dificulty and risque. We made five miles and encamped."

The next day the mountains closed in on the river and they were forced to climb out and cross the mountains which here were so steep that several horses slipped and hurt themselves. September 4 after thawing the baggage the expedition ascended a "high snow mountain" which was probably Saddle Mountain, crossed over to the ridge between the east and west forks of Camp Creek and decended to the valley floor in the Bitterroots. Hence the Lewis and Clark expedition left the Salmon on September 4, 1805.


Gold was discovered in the Salmon Forest 61 years after the visit of Lewis and Clark's party and before any permanent settlement in the area. However, it is surprising how many people used the area prior to the development of mining interest. These included British traders and trappers from the Northwest Company and Hudson's Bay Company, rival American trappers and their parties from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and American Fur Company, independent trappers, and missionaries.


Donald McKenzie led the Northwest Company's Snake Country Expedition. They trapped through Lemhi country during the winter of 1819-20.

In 1821 the Northwest Company and the Hudson's Bay Company united as the Hudson's Bay Company.


Michel Bourdon and his Hudson's Bay Company party went through Lemhi country enroute from Spokane House to the Snake River. The route most often used by the British trappers was from Flathead House near Thompson Falls, Montana, past the site of Missoula and through Hell's Gate up to Deer Lodge Pass to Missouri waters, south past Big Hole River and Beaverhead crossing the divide into Idaho at Lemhi Pass. On this trip Bourdon discovered Round Valley, where Challis now is. Part of Round Valley was in the Salmon National Forest for a brief time.


Finan McDonald, with Michel Bourdon and five engages conducted 45 freemen on the Hudson's Bay Company Snake Country Expedition from Flathead Post. Just after crossing Lemhi Pass into Lemhi Valley they were attacked by Blackfeet. McDonald lost Bourdon and five other men, and in the course of the battle set fire to the thicket in which the Blackfeet were hiding, killing at least 68 Indians. McDonald continued on south to the Snake. In the fall he returned from Henry's Fork, went down the Lemhi River and crossed Lemhi pass eastward, bringing 4,339 beaver from the "Snake Country."1

1Dale L. Morgan, Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1953), pp. 122-125.


Alexander Ross led the H.B.C. Snake Country Expedition, including 55 men, 25 women and 64 children, with 392 horses. The women were Indian wives of the trappers. They left Flathead Post in February, 1824, and came south from Missoula up the Bitterroot River and through the Big Hole. From the Big Hole they traveled south and turned west over Lemhi Pass and went down the Lemhi River to the Salmon which they crossed and traveled south up the west side for about ninety miles. There were many buffalo along the way. One valley, possibly the Pahsimeroi Valley or Round Valley near Challis, had an estimated 10,000 buffalo in one herd. After trapping several rivers, they returned to the Salmon River and raised their cache of beaver pelts. They met a party of Americans, Jedediah S. Smith and six men, who continued with Ross's party down the Salmon, up the Lemhi, crossing Lemhi Pass into Montana October 27, 1824, enroute to Flathead Post which they reached late in November with 5,000 beaver besides other pelts.1

1Morgan, p. 130 Alexander Ross, Fur Hunters of the Far West, ed. Kenneth Spaulding (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956), chapters 10, 11, 12, 13.


On February 11, Peter Skene Ogden led the Hudson Bay Company Snake Country Expedition across Bannock Pass2 into Lemhi Valley where they spent seven weeks. They found buffalo by the hundreds, deer, elk, sheep and goat, and grass for their horses. With Ogden was Francois Payette, Charles McKay and William Kittson. The group included 61 men, 30 women and 35 children, with 268 horses, 61 guns and 352 traps. Nine days out of Flathead Post they were joined by the rival Americans, Jedediah Smith and six others, including James Clyman, William Sublette, and Thomas Eddie. The great number of buffalo in the Lemhi Valley indicated that they were penned in by deep snow in the passes to the south. This was discouraging to Ogden who wanted to get on to beaver country. On March 19, Jedediah Smith and the six Americans moved on toward Snake River. The next day Ogden sent six mounted men to explore the pass between the Lemhi and Birch Creek. The last 12 miles they drove about 600 buffalo ahead of them to break out a road through the snow. But the reconnaissance party then ran into a war party of Blood (Blackfeet) Indians. The men escaped back to camp and Ogden decided that if there were Blackfeet on Birch Creek, the Hudson's Bay men should go some other route, and on March 23 they started out over the same route Jedediah Smith's men had taken. There is indication that they crossed the Lemhi Range by a very steep and difficult trail, choked with snow, to the Little Lost River. They reached the Snake on April 6.1

2Morgan, p. 399. Authorities differ on which pass Ogden's party took. Former Salmon Forest Supervisor Glenn A. Thompson is of the opinion Ogden entered Lemhi Valley via Bannock Pass. Morgan believed Ogden came in via Lemhi Pass and later used Bannock Pass.

1Morgan, pp. 134-139


Peter Skene Ogden left Fort Vancouver on September 1 with the Snake Country Expedition, traveling to the Snake River in southern Idaho by way of the Blue Mountains of Oregon. On this trip Thomas McKay and party went to Salmon River to trap and early snowfall prevented their return as scheduled. Ogden on the Snake River near Blackfoot River, sent Payette and two men in February, 1828, to find McKay. They returned March 1, reporting that McKay was camped on the forks of the Salmon River. "The forks" usually referred to the mouth of the Lemhi. Samuel Tulloch and six Americans encountered McKay's group in the Salmon River area in November, 1827.2

2Archie Binns, Peter Skene Ogden: Fur Trader (Portland: Binfords & Mort, Publishers, 1967), pp. 203-215.


Thomas (Broken Hand) Fitzpatrick, Kit Carson and party left Taos, New Mexico in the fall of 1831, traveling north, trapping as they went. They established winter quarters on the Salmon River near the site of Salmon City. Fitzpatrick headed the party on the Salmon River and when winter was over, ordered them to resume trapping enroute to the Snake River.3

3J. Cecil Alter, Jim Bridger (Normal: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), pp. 113-119.

Byron Defenbach, Idaho: The Place and its People (3 vols. Chicago, New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1933), V. 1, p. 149.

Noel B. Gerson Kit Carson: Folk Hero and Man (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1964), pp. 36-37.

DeWitt C. Peters, Carson—Life and Adventures (Hartford: Dustin, Gilman & Co., 1873), p. 56.

Christopher (Kit) Carson, Kit Carson's Autobiography, ed. Milo M. Quaife (Chicago: The Lakeside Press, 1935), pp. 22-23.

The "forks of the Salmon" (mouth of the Lemhi) was a busy place during the winter of 1831-1832. Three different groups wintered there. Jim Bridger and M. G. Sublette led a group of Rocky Mountain Fur men, including Robert Newell, in a fall hunt from Bear River to the Salmon to winter with the Flathead and Nez Perce Indians. When they reached the forks of the Salmon, Warren Angus Ferris' group of American Fur Company men were already there, having come over Lemhi Pass in October.1 In November Henry Fraeb arrived with Rocky Mountain Fur Company supplies. One of his party was Joe Meek.2 John Work, successor to Peter Skene Ogden, came across Lemhi Pass into Idaho in December, 1931, with a party of 56 Hudson Bay men. Francois Payette was second in command. In addition there were a number of Indian and half-breed women and children: squaws and children of the Indian hunters and the white traders and trappers. Upon learning that a large party of Americans had encamped at the forks of the Lemhi and Salmon, Work's group camped farther up the Lemhi Valley.3 In December, Ferris' group separated from the Rocky Mountain Fur men and camped in Little Salmon River (Pahsimeroi) valley, near several lodges of Flatheads. The Ferris party killed over 100 buffalo there. In February, 1832, Ferris and party left their winter camp on Little Salmon (Pahsimeroi), going up the valley and across the pass into Day's Defile (Little Lost River) and on to the Snake.4

1Warren Angus Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains, ed. Paul C. Phillips (Denver: Old West Publishing Co., 1940), p. 120.

2J. Cecil Alter, Jim Bridger (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), p. 116.

3John Work, The Journal of John Work, ed. William S. Lewis and Paul C. Phillips (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1923), pp. 114-117.

4Ferris, pp. 128-130.


In March, 1832, John Work sent four men with one canoe down the Salmon River, to trap to Fort Walla Walla. Their story is told in a later chapter on river travel. The rest of John Work's Hudson's Bay Company men trapped up the Salmon River, through the mountains to the Payette and Weiser Rivers, and back to Fort Walla Walla. W. A. Ferris and two companions returned to the Lemhi River in May, 1832, to persuade Flatheads and Nez Perce camped there to come and trade near Henry's Fork. Again in August, Ferris traveled down the Lemhi River to the Salmon, down the Salmon, and over to the Big Hole.5

5Ferris, pp. 145-162.

Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville came to Idaho in 1832. He obtained a leave a absence from the army and led a trapping expedition of over 100 men into the Rocky Mountains. They were not connected with the American Fur Company or Rocky Mountains. They were not connected with the American Fur Company or Rocky Mountain Fur Company, but comprised an independent group. There is strong indication that Bonneville was on reconnaissance work for the Federal Government. Among his party were David Adams, Joseph Reddeford Walker, J. M. Cerre, and the clerk Mr. Hodgkiss. Bonneville built a fort on Green River in Wyoming but trappers warned him of deep snow and severe winters in that area so he took their advice and traveled toward the Salmon River, having sent Mathieu and a party of about 20 men to the Snake with the horses that were too weak for the trip to the Salmon. He reached the upper waters of the Salmon (the Lemhi River) on September 19. Here he met friendly Nez Perce who shared their meager food with the party. Bonneville sent Cerre and a few men with the Nez Perce to hunt and trade with them for meat for the winter. Bonneville proceeded down the Lemhi and three to five miles below the forks, near Carmen, Idaho, he started to build winter quarters, September 26. Some authorities believe his camp was on the east side of Salmon River, near the mouth of Carmen Creek. The notes of W. A. Ferris, who visited Bonneville's camp around November 1, 1832, place the camp on the west side of the Salmon River. Samuel Parker traveled down the east side of the Salmon River three years later and mentions stopping at Bonneville's camp. Bonneville built a pen for the horses, and several log cabins. Bonneville and 20 men remained to protect the place and the rest of the party was divided into three brigades and sent off in different directions to hunt. Flathead and Nez Perce Indians camped in the vicinity. W. A. Ferris of the American Fur Company came west from Horse Prairie country and visited Bonneville's camp around November 1, 1832. A group of Rocky Mountain Fur Company men also spent several days in Bonneville's camp, then left to winter on the Pahsimeroi.1

1 Ferris, pp. 184-187

The large numbers of people and horses around Bonneville's winter camp soon used up the available horse forage and the game for both Indians and white men. Bonneville sent 50 men, under Joseph R. Walker, south to trap and winter on the Snake River. Ferris accompanied Walker's group, on an Indian trail, possibly along the Salmon to the Pahsimeroi, up this river and down Day's Creek (Little Lost River) and on to Snake River. The Indians left the forks of the Salmon for better pasture. Bonneville cached his valuables, and on November 19 or 20, followed the Indians with 13 of his party. Here historians disagree on which direction he took. Edgeley W. Todd, one editor of Washington Irving's account of Bonneville's travels, sends Bonneville north from Carmen to the North Fork to spend Christmas there before leaving for the Snake.2

2Washington Irving, The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A. In the Rocky Mountains and the Far West, ed. Edgeley W. Todd (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961), p. 111.

Chittenden, Rees and Brosnan describe his route as up the Lemhi, spending Christmas probably in Swan Basin on Timber Creek, then continuing up over a pass into Little Lost River and on to the Snake.1 Glenn Thompson, former Salmon Supervisor, thinks it probable that Bonneville followed the Indian trail from Salmon to the Pahsimeroi, camping with the Nez Perce chief at an Indian campground in the vicinity of McKim Creek.2

1Cornelius J. Brosnan, History of the State of Idaho (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935), p. 76.

Hiram M. Chittenden, The History of the American Fur Trade of the Far West (2 vols. New York: The Press of the Pioneers, Inc., 1935), pp. 401-403.

John E. Rees, Idaho, Chronology, Nomenclature, Bibliography (Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1918), p. 57.

2Interview with Glenn Thompson, Caldwell, Idaho, March 10, 1971


After finding Mathieu and the horses on the Snake, Bonneville returned in March 1833, to his caches on the Salmon. He brought a party of 16 men, including Robert Newell who had been working with Joe Meek and William Craig, but who had transferred to Bonneville's party. From his caches Bonneville furnished the free traders for a trapping trip to the Malad (now Big Wood) River. Before leaving the Salmon he sent Cerre with a few men to purchase horses from the nearby Indians and left his clerk Hodgkiss with trading goods. After a poor hunt on the Malad, and competition from Milton Sublette and Jean B. Gervais who had with them 20 hunters of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Bonneville returned to the Salmon at the appointed time, June 15, and then set out for the Green River Rendezvous.3

3Washington Irving, The Fur Traders of the Columbia River and the Rocky Mountains, as described by Washington Irving, ed. F.L.O. (New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1903), pp. 131-132.


Reverend Samuel Parker, a Presbyterian missionary came west to establish missions in the Nez Perce country. Leaving Pierre's Hole on August 29, he traveled with a group of Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce and Parker came through Lemhi valley camped near Bonneville's abandoned fort, left the Salmon River to follow the old trail up Tower Creek and across the ridges and valleys, dropping into the North Fork about four miles north of its junction with the Salmon. A mile farther up the North Fork they took a southern Nez Perce Trail up Hughes Creek. This is the junction which "Old Toby" missed when he took Lewis and Clark on up the North Fork over Lost Trail Pass, to travel west on the Northern Nez Perce Trail one hundred miles farther north.

The southern trail follows the east-west ridge between the Salmon and the Bitterroot drainages. Pine trees along the trail were peeled by Indians for food. The Indians did not kill the trees, but scaled off a part of the inner bark to eat, particularly in the spring when food was scarce. Accurate dating in the Forest Service Laboratory showed the trees had been peeled in 1833 — excellent evidence that this trail was used by Indians at that time. The trail can be traced past the headwaters of McConn Creek (a branch of Indian Creek), Marlin Springs, past Blue Nose Mountain and through Horse Creek Pass. Samuel Parker was 56 years old and in poor health when he made this trip, yet he kept up with the Indians and wrote regularly in his journal. He was the first white man to describe this area, and relatively few have traveled it since. The Indian trails remained untraveled by the trappers because trappers followed the water courses where the beaver were, while the Indians followed the ridges where traveling was easier. This southern Nez Perce trail was a logical one for the Nez Perce to take to join the Flathead and Shoshoni for buffalo hunts across the Divide to the east. A peak on the boundary line between the Salmon and Bitterroot National Forests was officially designated in 1965 as Parker Mountain. Reverend Parker reached the Snake River October 1, 1835. It took Lewis and Clark 39 days from Tower Creek to this spot on the Snake River, following the Northern Nez Perce Trail. Samuel Parker and the Nez Perce Indians made it in 16 days by taking a southern Nez Perce trail.1

1Ernst Peterson and H. E. Anderson, "Rev. Samuel Parker and the Southern Nez Perce Trail," Montana the Magazine of Western History, XVI, No. 4 (October, 1966), 12-27.


About September 1, Joe Meek, "Cotton" Mansfield and Caleb Wilkins left Fort Hall for Flathead country where Wilkins had a wife. From Godin's Fork (Big Lost) they crossed over to the Salmon River (a favorite route was up Little Lost River and across into Lemhi Valley, probably the route used by Ogden in 1824), struck the Nez Perce trail which led from the Salmon River over to the Beaverhead country.2 A probable route for this trail is up Hughes Creek from the North Fork, and down Montana's Hughes Creek to the Bitterroot. This trail was used in later years (1890's) by the Nez Perce.

2Frances Fuller Victor, The River of the West (Hartford, Conn., and Toledo, Ohio: R. W. Bliss & Co., 1870), pp. 94-95.


John Larison and seven other trappers including Joe Meek, left Pierre's Hole for the Salmon River. They stayed with the Nez Perce village at the forks of the Salmon. Joe Meek married a daughter of chief Kowesote (Irving's Kowsoter). Joe Meek called her Virginia. They remained together many years, and had seven children. He later took her to Oregon. Robert Newell's wife was a sister of Virginia Meek.1

1Victor, p. 256.


In August, Kit Carson and five others joined a party of men who trapped on the Salmon River.2

2Quaife, p. 59.

By 1840 most of the trapping was over and soon the great migration of settlers to Oregon began. Father Pierre Jean DeSmet founded St. Mary's Mission in Bitterroot Valley in 1840. In 1850 he moved the mission and leased the site to Major John Owen who had been a sutler at Cantonment Loring, near Fort Hall Idaho. During the next few years many of the Fort Owen men traveled through the Salmon area.

Emanuel Martin, also known as "Old Manwell the Spaniard," made a trip to the Salmon River for Major Owen in 1852.3

3George F. Weisel (ed.). Men and Trade on the Northwest Frontier as Shown by the Fort Owen Ledger (Missoula: Montana State University, 1955), p. 38.

In October, 1854, Major Owen organized an expedition to the Salmon River, to trade with the Indians. Frederick H. Burr was in charge of the expedition. Emanuel Martin was guide and interpreter. Another of Owen's men on this trip was Charles Jackson. They left Fort Owen October 31, and were gone three weeks. They traveled up Nez Perce Fork, over the mountains and down to the Salmon. About ten miles up the Lemhi they found seven lodges. One of the lodges belonged to John Grant, son of Captain Richard Grant. The Fort Owen men traded with the Indians then moved down to the Salmon River November 14. Learning that these Indians would not be arriving until Christmas, they started for Fort Owen, going up a creek (probably Dahlonega), over the mountain and down a creek to the Big Hole, thence to Ross's Hole, reaching Fort Owen November 22.4

4John Owen, The Letters and Journals of Major John Owen, ed. Seymour Dunbar with notes by Paul C. Phillips. (2 vols.; New York: Edward Eberstadt, 1927) Vol. 1, pp. 93-95.

Several men spent the winter of 1854-1855 on the Salmon River. Among them were Neil McArthur, Robert Dempsey, Louis Maillet, Thomas Irvine and Richard Grant.1 Some of these men had taken up trading on the emigrant road in southern Idaho and were probably wintering their cattle on the Lemhi.

1Weisel, p. 166.

Mormon Mission: Fort Lemhi 1855-1858

In 1855 Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sent 27 men to conduct missionary work among the buffalo-hunting Indians. The men were to select a place among the Shoshoni, Bannock or Flathead, found a settlement, teach the Indians civilized ways, convert them to Mormonism and promote peace among the tribes.2

2Bringham D. Madsen, The Bannock of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, ltd., 1958), pp. 86-87.

The men left Farmington, Utah, May 15, 1855, with provisions for a year, including cattle. Thomas S. Smith was in charge. At Fort Hall they met Neil McArthur who described to the Mormons the valley where he and several companions had spent the winter. The mormons reached the place around June 12, and noted "McArthur's old corral."3 They settled here near the present town of Tendoy, on land which today (1973) is part of the Steve Mahaffey ranch. This area was one where the Shoshoni, Bannock and Nez Perce often met in early summer to fish. The Indians were friendly and allowed the men to use the land and to cut timber for houses and corrals, with the understanding that they were not to kill game or fish in excess of their needs.4

3John D. Nash, "Salmon River Mission of 1855: a Reappraisal," Idaho Yesterdays, Idaho Historical Society, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), 22-31.

4Kate B. Carter, The Salmon River Mission (Utah Printing Company, 1963), p. 7.

Though it was late in the season, the men planted a crop and brought water in a ditch from a nearby creek. They started construction of a fort. Fort Lemhi was named for Limhi, a character in the Book of Mormon. It was not a military post, but a fortification erected to protect the Mormon people who settle there. A stockade was built by digging trenches around a sixteen rod square. Twelve-foot logs were placed upright in the three-foot trenches, making palisades about nine feet high. Log houses were built inside the fort. Lumber for doors windows and floors was sawed by hand.

Next to the stockade the men built a mud fort the same dimensions as the stockade. The walls were built by making forms approximately four feet wide at the bottom, tapering to two feet at the top and about seven feet high. Mud and straw were tramped into the forms. The mud fort was used as an enclosure for cattle.

Their crops in 1855 and 1856 were eaten down by grasshoppers, and trips were made to Utah for more supplies and seed. Additional missionaries and their families came to Fort Lemhi. Some of the mormons learned to speak some Shoshoni, and preached to the Indians, but had little success in teaching new ways of living to the Indians.

Brigham Young visited Fort Lemhi in May, 1857.

A crop was harvested in 1857, including vegetables and 2500 bushels of wheat.

In February 1858, Indians drove off 250 cattle and 20 horses belonging to the Mormons of Fort Lemhi. In the resulting skirmish, two Mormons were killed and five wounded. Brigham Young sent permission to abandon their mission and on April 1, 1858, all who remained at Fort Lemhi left for Salt Lake.1

1 Madsen, pp. 100-101

Other Migrators and Travelers

Around 1861-1862, many people from the south and east tried to get to the new gold fields in Pierce, Elk City and Florence by way of the Salmon River. They were deluded by a map available in Salt Lake City showing a wagon road north into Idaho, up Birch Creek and down the Lemhi River, then following the Salmon River downstream, across the North Fork and west along the north side of the river to Florence. Such a wagon "trace" did exist as far as the abandoned Mormon Fort Lemhi, near present Tendoy, but beyond that, travel became difficult and wagon travel impossible. This problem of travel contributed to the gold discoveries in Montana. Of the gold seekers attempting to reach the Florence diggings, nearly one thousand were caught in the Lemhi Valley in the summer of 1862.1 Some went back to the Snake River and around by Walla Walla. Others abandoned their wagons, make pack saddles, and crossed the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass into present Montana to go by way of Deer Lodge and west to Florence. Some of them found gold enroute, at Grasshopper Gulch, near Bannack, resulting in stampedes to Bannack, Alder Gulch and Virginia City, Montana.

1Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making (Idaho Falls, Idaho: Published by Author, 1941), p. 4

George L. Shoup tells of one party that brought three wagons from Utah, and attempted to continue north of Carmen via the old mountain trail across the heads of the creeks. They had great difficulty with the wagons, using ropes to let them down from some of the ridges. They finally changed their plans, part of the group headed back to Utah with the lightest wagon, the others making pack saddles from the remaining wagons to continue on west. Later a wagon hammer was found near their camp, giving the name to Wagonhammer Creek.2 (Wagonhammer was a wrench used to remove wheels from wagons).

2George Elmo Shoup, History of Lemhi County (Boise, Idaho: Idaho State Library, 1969), p. 4

John McGarvey was one who came to the Lemhi Valley about this time and stayed to build a fish trap and cabin. He was located near the mouth of the Lemhi River when the Leesburg discovery party came through in 1866.

During the 61 years after Lewis and Clark visited the area of the Salmon National Forest, well over one thousand people of record visited the region, in addition to the Indian residents and the miners who passed through in 1862. Most of these visitors were just traveling through trapping, or camping through the bad winter months. Some of the Mormon Missionaries were here for nearly three years before abandoning Fort Lemhi. In 1866, the land was much as it had been when Lewis and Clark came in 1805. Discovery of gold in 1866 brought great changes. Large numbers of people came, and many stayed to start businesses and ranches which have continued to the present.


Gold Discovery, Mines and Mine Settlements

In the summer of 1866 a party of five men outfitted in Montana with horses, pack animals and provisions, came through the Big Hole, over the Divide, down the North Fork and up the Salmon River, prospecting as they traveled. About July 1, they reached the site of present day Salmon, crossed the river and continued south to and up Williams Creek, over the ridge and down Phelan Creek. July 16 they made their strike on Napias Creek. Napias is an Indian word meaning gold. Members of the discovery party were: Frank B. Sharkey, Elijah Mulkey, Joseph Rapp, Ward Girton and William Smith. A stampede followed to this new placer gold field. The place was named Leesburg after General Robert E. Lee. Most of the prospectors were from the South, having come west to escape the devastation of the Civil War. There were enough northerners to establish a rival camp nearby named Grantsville. Other towns which sprang up in the basin were Summit City and Smithville, but the largest was Leesburg. 1867 and 1868 were the years of the highest population and greatest production in the Leesburg basin. Population of the basin has been estimated at 3000 to 7000 people. There was no official census until 1870, and by that time many prospectors had moved on to new fields such as Loon Creek and Yellowjacket. The official census of 1870 found only 180 people left in the Leesburg area. Approximately one-fourth of these were Chinese.

A total production of gold from Leesburg basin has been estimated at five million dollars upwards to sixteen million or more.1 There was no railroad in the west at that time. Supplies were brought in to Leesburg by pack string from Fort Benton, Montana, the head of navigation on the Missouri, a distance of about 375 miles; or from Walla Walla via the southern Nez Perce Trail. The town of Salmon started as a farming service center for Leesburg.

1O. E. Kirkpatrick, History of the Leesburg Pioneers (Salt Lake City: Pyramid Press, 1934), p. 24. ($16,000,000. estimate).

Joseph B. Umpleby, Geology and Ore Deposits of Lemhi County, Idaho (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1913). ($8,000,000. estimate).

Other mining discoveries in the area soon followed Leesburg. In 1869 gold was found at Oro Grande on Loon Creek. Claim locators on Loon Creek were mainly from Lemhi County and Boise Basin. The Idaho Statesman in September, 1869, carried a report of the rush to Loon Creek: "The new Salmon river diggings are creating a great excitement in Boise Country. From several parties down from Idaho City, we learn that a real stampede is setting in, that horses sell readily, and almost everybody is going. One packer started last Saturday with a seventy mule load of merchandise."

Prospectors for gold fanned out over the mountains and many placer camps became the sites of later discoveries of gold quartz, which led to mills and "hard-rock" mining, and the discovery of other valuable ores.

Yellowjacket and Silver Creek placers were found in 1869; their quartz mines were developed later. In 1895 two lode properties were being mined in the Yellowjacket district: The Columbia Consolidated Gold Mining Company and the Yellow Jacket Mining Company. Each of the two companies started mills early in 1895. The Yellow Jacket Company's mill was 20-stamp.1 At one time there was a 60-stamp mill at Yellow Jacket. The cables and materials for the mill were packed in from Challis by Hank Smith. It took 26 mules to carry the cable. In 1923 the mine was reactivated. A large hotel was built then, with all materials brought in with horse and team.2

1George H. Eldridge, "A Geological Reconnaissance Across Idaho," Department of the Interior-U. S. Geological Survey, Extract From The Sixteenth Annual Report of the Director, 1894-95, Part II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895), p. 49.

2Interview with William and Adele Wilson of Hall, Montana, June 12, 1969.

John Ramey acquired the Silver Creek placers and in later years his son Lee was manager of the Rabbit Foot Mine on Silver Creek. At one time there were over 30 buildings at this camp.3

3Interview with Fred and Thelma Ramey, Salmon, Idaho, April 30, 1969.

The quartz mines of Gibbonsville were discovered in 1877 by George D. Anderson, who built an arrastra there. The settlement was called Andersonville at first, but Mrs. George Anderson's father had been a Civil War prisoner in Andersonville prison, so because of her unpleasant memories the name was changed to honor General Gibbon who fought Chief Joseph's Nez Perce in nearby Big Hole, Montana, August 9, 1877. It is not known that General Gibbon ever saw the site of Gibbonsville. Mines there were "Twin Brother," "Hughes and Hunt," "Keystone," and "Huron." In 1895 the American Development and Mining Company (A. D. & M.) built a 30-stamp mill with accessory cyanide and Chlorination plants.4 At one time an estimated 500 men were working under ground in the Gibbonsville area. Most of these miners came from Butte. There was a four-teacher school, and in 1896 Gibbonsville claimed the largest population of any settlement in Lemhi County, though a typhoid epidemic swept through about 1895. The A. D. & M. went into receivership in 1898 after a serious accident in which five men were killed. Many of the people left at this time but some stayed to placer mine and Gibbonsville has never become a ghost town. During the depression in the 1930's the number of residents increased again as people returned to placering for a livelihood. An elementary school was maintained until 1965. Gibbonsville school children are now taken by bus to Salmon. Today the Gibbonsville area is becoming popular for summer home sites.

4Lena Dellen Heidt, "Gay Times in Gibbonsville," Old West (Spring, 1968), 26-28.

Near Shoup, gold quartz discoveries were made in 1882 when Pat O'Hara discovered the Grunter mine; the Kentuck was found by Sam James. Some later mines in the area were the Big Lead, Humming Bird, Lost Miner, True Fissure, Spring Lode, Clipper Bullion and Monolith. There was no road down the river and supplies were brought in by packstring or floated down the river from Salmon on barges or scows. Stamp mills, and heavy machinery were floated down. The boats could not return upstream, so the boats were taken apart and the material used in construction in Shoup and at the mines. The mills used water power. The Grunter had an overshot wooden wheel. The water was out of Boulder Creek and flumed around the rock bluffs. The flume rested on iron pins in the bluff, put in with hand drilling.

Shoup was mostly hard-rock mining, and placering only on small bars along the river, and there was very little mining below Shoup except on Pine Creek. Shoup had an elementary school, a store, and several saloons. There were fruit trees by the late 1890's. William Wallace Slavin and William E. Taylor came to Shoup in 1886. Taylor had been a mechanic in the California gold fields. He ran the 10-stamp mill for the Kentuck mine; later he ran mills in Gibbonsville and Ulysses. He also built most of the coffins used in the Shoup cemetery, not because he was a carpenter but because there was no one else to do it.1

1Interview with William (Billy ) Taylor, Jr., Salmon, Idaho, October 23, 1969.

Slavin packed for the Shoup mines in partnership with Charles Spinney. There was no stage coach or wagon road; the gold brick had to be taken out by pack string. It was a two-day trip from Shoup to Salmon; the first night's camp from the Grunter was usually on the North Fork. From there they went up Trail Creek, across the ridges to Tower Creek, down along the river to Carmen, then through the hills to Salmon. When Slavin and Spinney terminated their partnership, Slavin kept a ranch on Carmen Creek, which is still in the Slavin family, and Spinney took the pack string. Later Dodge was a partner packing with Spinney.2

2Interview with Ted and Leitha Slavin, Salmon, Idaho, February 20, 1969. Interview with Otis and Virginia Slavin, Boise, Idaho, March 22, 1970.

In 1895 development began on Indian Creek with the sale of the Kitty Burton and Ulysses claims. A lively community developed around one of the biggest quartz-mining enterprises in Lemhi County. About 1901, a rough road up Indian Creek was built by the county and by subscription, to carry equipment from the river to the mines. The 30-stamp mill burned around 1904. It was rebuilt as a 15-stamp mill. A tram was used to get the ore down to the mill from the mine. It was close to a mile long, with 22 buckets. The cable traveled continuously. The loaded buckets coming down kept it running.1

1Billy Taylor

Other Mining: Copper, Lead, Cobalt, etc.

Silver and lead veins were discovered in 1879 at Nicholia in the "Texas District," and smelters were soon operating. When the Utah and Northern narrow gauge railroad reached Camas Station in 1879, it became the largest shipping point on the line because of shipments from Viola Mine employed 200 men mining, smelting, freighting and preparing fuel for the smelter. The daily output was 100 tons of ore.2 The Viola was one of the larger lead producers in the United States at that time. In the 1890's the enterprise was abandoned when the ore was cut off by a fault. Other mines at Nicholia were Shear Brothers, Kaufman, and Lemhi Lead. Discoveries were made in the area of Gilmore but development there came later.

2The Idaho Recorder, Salmon, Idaho, May 5, 1888.

The town of Gilmore was named for Jack Gilmer of the Gilmer and Salisbury Stage Company. The change in spelling from Gilmer to Gilmore apparently happened in the post office department in Washington when the Post Office was established in Gilmore in 1903.

Ralph Nichol acquired lead and silver prospects at Gilmore about 1883 when he was manager of the Viola mine at Nicholia. He called the mine The Latest Out. Other claims came under the ownership of the Gilmore Mining Company, which later became the Deleware Idaho Company. Ore was shipped as early as 1903 by wagon, over 70 miles to Dubois. The large ore shipments encouraged the building of the Gilmore and Pittsburg railroad by the Northern Pacific from Armstead, Montana, to Gilmore and to Salmon in 1910. The town of Gilmore once had seven saloons, three stores, two hotels, two dance halls, two trucking companies, a two-room school, and a bank. Around the time of the first World War there was a two-bed, two-room hospital in Gilmore.3 The town is now a ghost town.

3Carl E. Hayden, "Gilmore Was Real Town Many Long Years Ago," The Salt Lake Tribune, January 26, 1947, p. 5. Elizabeth M. Reed, "The Gilmore Story," Lemhy County Museum, Salmon, Idaho. Interview with Fay Brunk, Salmon, Idaho, April 30, 1969.

The 1907 report of Idaho Mine Inspector Robert N. Bell gives the following information:

Gilmore mine: the most important mineral producer in this county this year, shipped 1500 tons of lead and silver ore. J.E. Walker, Supt.

Oriole mine in the same vicinity employs 10 men.

Lemhi Union: recently equipped with a 60 horsepower hoist. Two cars shipped this summer with big values in gold and silver.

Bruce-Stone: near Lemhi Union. A copper property, with magnetic oxide of iron, together with gold and silver values.

Viola and Shear group: idle at present.

Lemhi Lead: 8 miles south east of Viola, 10 men developing lead carbonate ore associated with iron oxide.

Weimer Copper: 4 miles southeast of Lemhi Lead, in Lemhi and Fremont counties, employs 30 to 40 men until recent copper slump slowed them down.

Leadville mine: three miles northeast of the Junction post office; fine ore showing at present; 5 men employed.

Copper Queen mine on Agency Creek now being actively developed by a Duluth, Minnesota company. Has a small concentrating mill and has shipped several cars of rich concentrates this season, S.S. Mitchell, supt.

Virginia Mining Company: a large group of claims on Sandy Creek; have several hundred feet of tunnel showing some gold bearing quartz and a mixture of iron, lead and copper sulphide minerals.

Climax mine: north of Sandy Creek, now employs 15 men; has a 10 stamp mill. F. C. Miller, manager; Richard Gies of Great Falls is owner. Wages: miners, $3.50 per day, laborers, $3.00 per day, eight-hour shift.

U.P. Mine: near a small glacier lake at the head of Moore Creek, only seven miles from, and in sight of, Salmon City. Recently purchased by Hon. Frank R. Gooding. R. W. McBride, Manager.... Mill being increased to 15-stamp...

Kitty Burton Co.: operating the Kitty Burton and Ulysses mines on Indian Creek, has been producing steadily for several years. Its 30 stamp mill burned in 1905, now operating a 15 stamp mill, J. Urn, manager. Crew: 35-45 men, 8 hour shift, excepting engineers, who work 12 hours. Water power is used during spring flood, with steam power and cord wood fuel the rest of the year. Wood is $4.50 a cord; stull timbers at the mine cost 4¢ per running foot and lagging 15¢ each. Lumber: $18. per thousand, and freight from the railway, $40. per ton.

Mineral Hill District: The old Kentuck and Grunter practically idle the past year. Clipper Bullion mine across the river operated a 5 stamp mill. Owner, E. S. Suydam. Big Lead Gold Mining Company's group of mines at Pine Creek sold to a Denver company and is operating with a force of 14 men, and a 10 stamp mill.

Gibbonsville. The old A.D.&M Mines were sold to eastern capitalists who are working a small crew.

Rabbit's Foot: Stamp mill run by steam power, sampling 30 tons a day. Manager, S. P. Burr; 30 men employed.

Singiser mine: employing 40 men. 50 ton daily capacity milling plant, consisting of 6 Hendy quadruple discharge stamps in separate mortars, and 2 Bryan mills for fine grinding.

Yellow Jacket District: Black Eagle group and the Red Jacket group have 10 to 20 men employed in developmental work.

Blackbird District: Contain copper sulphide ore, associated values in cobalt and nickel as well as important gold and silver values. Several mines have been developed and large group of claims patented, but the properties have been practically idle for several years waiting better transportation facilities. The nickel and cobalt have attracted heavy metallurgical interest and the Rose brothers' group of claims is now being developed with a force of 10 men.

Leesburg District: Now operating are the old Garretson mine on Arnett creek, under Newton Hibbs, and Gold Ridge mine, recently equipped with a 10 stamp mill and cyanide plant.

Moose Creek: dredge operating under Mullen on the old McNutt diggings.

Pollard Coal mine: near Salmon, recently purchased by H. G. King, produces lignite, selling locally at $6. per ton.

Queen of the Hills: seven miles northwest of Salmon, lost their compressor plant during the year. Work has been resumed and mine now employs four men.

The mines in this county are now employing fully 300 men, mostly in developmental work.1

1The Lemhi Herald, Salmon, Idaho, February 21, 1907 and November 28, 1907.

Copper mines developed later than gold mines. There were few shipments from Lemhi County before 1911 of ore mined primarily for copper, though copper was present in some gold and lead-silver ores shipped earlier. From 1911 to 1922 the three highest copper producers in Lemhi county were Harmony mine on Withington Creek, Copper Queen on Agency Creek, and Pope Shenon on Sal Mountain. Other copper producers were Patton, Tormey, Ruby, Royal Gold, Gold Point, Castle Rock, Blue Bird, Ranger.2 At the Harmony mine little development work was done before 1916. It flourished in the 1920's and in 1923 it boasted the largest building in Lemhi County, 175 feet long, 56 feet wide, and 40 feet high, built to house the great concentrator.

2Clyde P. Ross, The Copper Deposits Near Salmon, Idaho, U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin No. 774 (Washington, D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1925), p. 31

The Copper Queen dates from 1883. In 1899 it was owned by T.E.G. Lynch of Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada, and included five claims, two patented. The mine was first operated in 1905 and has been under lease by several different groups since then. The mine has been flooded since 1949 and the mill has fallen into ruins. It produced copper, silver and gold.1

1William N. Sharp and Wayne S. Cavender, Geology and Thorium-Bearing Deposits of the Lemhi Pass Area, Lemhi County, Idaho, and Beaverhead County, Montana, U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin No. 1126 (Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962), p. 51

In the early 1890's Lige Stroud and James Fenning located gold claims in the Pope-Shenon area and later Thomas Pope, Red McDonald, Thomas Andrews and Richard Clark located two copper claims. A two-third interest was acquired later by Philip Shenon.2 By the year 1956 the Pope Shenon had produced over 2,600,000 pounds of copper.3

2Clyde P. Ross, The Copper Deposits Near Salmon, Idaho, pp. 34-35.

3Alfred L. Anderson, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Salmon Quadrangle, Lemhi County, Idaho, p. 79.

At Blackbird, gold claims were located about 1888, however production for cobalt didn't get going until the period from 1902-1908. James G. Sims and J. P. Clough had later claims for copper. There was interest in the area during World War I because of the cobalt and nickel prospects there.

The Calera Mining Company, a division of Howe Sound Company, acquired interest in the Blackbird property in 1943 and conducted surface and underground exploration. By 1949 sufficient ore had been blocked out by their exploration program to justify a mining operation. A mill was constructed and mining operations were started in that year. Mining continued until 1959 when the Government ceased purchase of cobalt at a supported price Calera could not then compete with foreign competition. They sold their interest in the properties to Machinery Center, Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah, which operated the property on a limited scale for copper only until the fall of 1967. When they discontinued operations the Idaho Mining Company a subsidiary of Hanna Mining Company acquired Machinery Center's interest in the property; since then they have been conducting an exploration program and are contemplating resuming mining of the remaining ore bodies.

The town of Cobalt on Panther Creek, established in conjunction with the cobalt operations in the Blackbird mine, grew to over 1000 people, with a four-room school during the 1950's. The mine at one time supplied one-fourth of the nation's cobalt needs and employed over 400 men. It was the only cobalt-producing mine in the United States and the largest copper-producing mine in Idaho.1 The Howe Sound Company and the Forest Service worked cooperatively to insure that there would be no pollution of water from the settling ponds or from the townsite. In spite of the efforts made, some residues or wastes from the milling process did create a serious pollution problem. In one instance the pollution was aggravated when a truckload of acid from the mill tipped over below the mine, spilling into Blackbird Creek and flowing into Panther Creek. This acid solution virtually eliminated the anadromous and native fishing in Panther Creek below the mouth of Blackbird Creek.

1Information from Salmon National Forest Map, 1956.

Tungsten mines, including the Ima mine, near Patterson, gave Lemhi County the distinction during World War II of being one of the leading producers of tungsten in the United States.

Lemhi County has deposits of cobalt ore, monazite, thorite and other comparatively rare metals of present commercial value. An unusual mining claim is that of A. B. Cutler on Mackinaw Creek. It is a huge trunk of a petrified Sequoia tree buried in volcanic debris. The Salmon National Forest contains quantities of petrified trees, but this one is of unusual size, the stump measuring 62 feet in circumstance and standing about 12 feet high. The wood has been replaced by opal and agate of commercial value. Mr. Cutler has given it the name "Jureano Wood." It is estimated to be 25 million years old.

In 1970, Seaforth Mining Company announced plans to mine flourspar on patented claims at Meyers Cove, near Camas Creek. Ore from the underground mine would be reduced at the site and shipped to Mackay via Challis.

Prospectors have covered a large portion of the Salmon Forest thoroughly, and there are few creeks that have not had a mineral operation of some kind. Charles R. Hubbard, in 1955, mapped 54 different mineral resources of the state of Idaho, and 23 of these are found in the vicinity of the Salmon National Forest.2

2Ross and Forrester, Figure 2.

The depression of the 1930's increased the production of gold. It was one commodity whose price remained stable. People turned to panning streams and rivers to earn enough for food. In 1933, Pelton's grocery store in Salmon installed a new set of gold scales as a convenience to the prospectors and miners who brought in gold to trade for supplies.

See appendix for description of various mining methods used in the Salmon area.


Chinese followed the gold rush to the Leesburg country. The Chinese were able and dependable miners. They sometimes worked for white miners, but more often worked over the ground when the white men were through. They were hard workers, lived frugally, and sometimes gleaned a good harvest of gold from the worked-over claims. The "hurry" of the white miners usually left plenty of gold for the careful chinamen. The placer ground along Bohannon Creek was worked by Chinese as far back as the early seventies.1 Some Chinese became business men in Leesburg and in Salmon, running restaurants, laundries, raising produce, and selling Oriental merchandise. Others were hired as domestic help. The official census of 1870 showed 42 Chinese in Leesburg and 70 in Salmon. At that time the population of Idaho was listed as 14,999, and of that number, 4,247 were Chinese.2

1Alfred L. Anderson, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Baker Quadrang,le, Lemhi County, Idaho, Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology, Pamphlet No. 112 (Moscow: University of Idaho, January, 1957), p. 65.

2Sister M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Idaho Chinese Lore (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1970), p. 15.

Salmon had its own Chinatown. It occupied the area on both sides of Main street near the Salmon River bridge. Later Chinatown was confined to the North side of Main Street, near the river. The Chinese kept mostly to themselves, but were usually quiet, orderly and friendly. Wah Sing, one of the established merchants, owned his own pack string, operated by Chinese under one known as "Florence." Another Chinese, known as "Boise Sam," operated a wagon freight outfit. He was a good horse handler and an expert roper.3 Other Chinese names in Salmon included Fong Kee, Yan Kee, Wing Lee, Ah Yen, and Sing Lee.4

3Shoup, p. 10.

4Allen Merritt, "Salmon Main Street Changes with Time," The Recorder Herald, Diamond Jubilee Edition, 1961, Section Three, P. 4.

Bu Kee and Mary Kee were two well remembered Chinese in Leesburg.5

5Fred Ramey.

The name "small boy" was often used for a Chinaman, undoubtedly because of the small stature of the Chinese.

The Chinese cabins in Salmon were built low to the ground, and on occasion, boys used to climb up and put cans over their chimneys. There was some racial discrimination. Some help-wanted ads mentioned "no Chinese wanted;" but others hired Chinese readily.6

6Interview with Marjorie Sims, Salmon, Idaho, October 23, 1969.

A local item in the newspaper in 1887 reported, "Boys made two raids on Chinatown last week."1

1The Idaho Recorder, August 13, 1887.

The Chinese did not always get along among themselves. They belonged to various tongs or associations which sometimes feuded with each other.

It was important to a Chinese person to be buried in China. If he was unable to return to China before he died, usually his bones were sent back by others. Various Chinamen were selected periodically to check the different areas in the United States where Chinese had lived and to retrieve the bones of all those who had died during that time. In 1887 the Idaho Recorder reported that the skeletons of two Chinamen were shipped on Thursday's coach, accompanied by four "Celestials," enroute for China. It had cost the Chinese companies to whom these two belonged, in the neighborhood of $1500. to gather their bones and have them shipped.2

2The Idaho Recorder, September 3, 1887.

In February of 1888 the Recorder reported on the local Chinese New Year celebration. Firecrackers and bombs were fired off every few minutes, keeping up a continuous noise for about 48 hours. It was fun for the "small boy" and delighted the Indians.3

3The Idaho Recorder, September 3, 1887.

There were still Chinese living in Salmon as late as the 1940's.


The Charcoal Kilns in the southern part of Lemhi County were part of the Salmon National Forest from 1938 to 1948, and though they are now in the Targhee Forest, their history is part of the history of the Salmon National Forest area.

The charcoal kilns were used from about 1880 to 1889 to produce charcoal for the smelters of the lead mines at Nicholia. C. H. McDonald, Salmon Forest Ranger on the Medicine Lodge District from 1941-1944, located the foundations of at least 42 kilns and from old timers in the area determined their period of use and average capacity, and calculated that about one and one-half billion feet of timber had been cut and used. At the time McDonald was district ranger there were four brick kilns left, which he tried to preserve by fencing and keeping the farmers from hauling off the bricks for building in the valley. Charcoal six to eight feet deep remained in two of the kilns. Almost the entire stand of old growth timber had been cut for charcoal. McDonald was surprised to find such a good stand of timber in its place, sixty years later.1

1Letter from C.H. McDonald, Stevensville, Montana, September 14, 1970.

Val Gibbs, a recent Targhee Forest Ranger for that district reported that 16 charcoal kilns were installed on the west side of the valley. and there were also 40 open pit type kilns scattered in the canyons and creeks of Italian, Irish, Scott, Eidleman and Willow on the east side of Birch Creek, and Bell, Mammoth, Coal Kiln, Davis and Meadow on the west side. Most of the work was done by Chinese, Italians and Irish people.

The kilns, constructed of bricks made locally, were shaped like beehives, about twenty feet in diameter and about twenty feet high. They were loaded through a door at ground level, and also through an opening in the top. A kiln would hold 40 to 50 cords of wood. The fire was allowed air for a short time only, so that the wood would not be entirely burned. The complete process often took seven days, with some time needed for cooling. Douglas fir timber was preferred, though mountain mahogany was sometimes used.

The brick kilns were built under the direction of the Viola and Nicholia mining companies. Hundreds of woodsmen were employed in cutting and hauling wood for the kilns. An estimated 3,000 people lived in the area and were engaged in making charcoal. Nearly 2,000 mules, oxen and horses were used in handling the timber and hauling the charcoal, ore and supplies.

Charcoal, production ceased when the smelters shut down.2

2"Historic Kilns Draw Interest," The Recorder-Hera1d, November 1968.


Salmon Area, Junction Area, and Other Settlements

Following the miners came farmers, stockmen and businessmen. The town of Salmon began in 1866 at the foot of Leesburg hill, west of the Salmon River, where prospectors crossed the river enroute to the new gold fields. A ferry was started and later a toll pack-bridge was built by Chris Darnutzer and Charles Chamberlain. After this the town spread to both sides of the river: a collection of tents, log cabins and 'dobe buildings, some with dirt roofs. Mr. Van Dreft had a ranch where the business section of Salmon now is. George L. Shoup, later governor and then senator for Idaho, started a store in 1866. The first school, started in 1867 with Fannie Price as teacher, had nine pupils enrolled.

Some of the early business establishments in Salmon were:1

George L. ShoupStore
Michael SpahnBrewery
B. F. PriceRestaurant
Peter Amonson & M.M. McPhersonShoemakers
Wilson EllisButcher Shop
Robert DunlapGoldsmith and Watchmaker
Lew and John SnookLivery Stable
Fred Phillips & David McNuttStore, Pack String
John WheelerFreighter
Chester WillisSaloon
Haines AndrewsHotel, later owned by Elijah Mulkey, then by E. S. Edwards
Wm. OrcotSaloon
George Wentz & Jacob FeinsteurStable

1Shoup, pp. 10-11

In 1868, George Barber and R. H. Johns built a wagon bridge across the Salmon River, and sold it to Jesse McCaleb who ran it as a toll bridge. John Ramey, grandfather of Fred and John Ramey of Salmon, was sent in to collect taxes in 1867. He became the first elected sheriff of Lemhi County in 1869. In the first county election, held June 14, 1869, the following election districts were named: Salmon City; North Fork; Sierra (on Moose Creek); and Smithville, Arnett and Leesburg in Napias Creek basin. Lemhi County has been created in January of 1869, from the southeastern part of Idaho County.

John Ramey took the first census of Lemhi County in 1870. By that time the majority of miners in the Leesburg basin had moved on to newer fields and the total for Lemhi County was 988 people, distributed as follows:1

AreaTotalMales FemalesComments
Leesburg180 1728 42 were Chinese,
1 Spaniard from Peru
1 Negro
Salmon City and Vicinity187 1632470 Chinese
Salmon River Mining Dist.7667 91 Chinese
Fort Lemhi3725 12
Loon Creek479452 277 Chinese, 4 Mexican
Stanley Basin Dist.29 290
     Totals988 90880(120 Chinese)

11870 Census, Idaho Historical Society, Boise, Idaho.

Later census figures give the following population to Lemhi County:


Junction was named from its location at the junction of two routes where the road from Montana across Bannock Pass met the Birch Creek road to Salmon, and the town of Junction served the wagon freighters and stage coaches as well as being a center for ranches and early mines in the vicinity. A. M. Stephenson and family came to Junction in 1867. Some other early settlers in the Junction area were the George, Jacob, John and Joseph Yearian families, John and Elijah Stroud, Edwin R. Hawley, Gray and Andrew Purcell, Susan Clark, James and Neil McDevitt, William Peterson, Joseph B. Pattee, J. P. Clough, Z. B. Yearian, George W. Cottom and Michael Maier. Most of these were stockmen, as there was little farming in the upper Lemhi. Z. B. Yearian had a dairy herd of Holsteins.

The importance of Junction declined somewhat after the Utah-Northern railroad was built into Montana in 1879-80, and a wagon road was established between Salmon and Red Rock, Montana, going up Agency Creek over Lemhi Pass. When the Gilmore and Pittsburg Railroad was built in 1910, it missed Junction by two miles, the new town of Leadore was established, and old Junction diminished and disappeared.

Communities other than mining towns grew up primarily as agricultural, supply, and school centers, such as the present day Salmon, Leadore, Lemhi, Tendoy, Baker, Carmen, North Fork and Ellis. Such centers of earlier days include Forney, Sunfield, Yearianville. There have been at least 55 post offices in Lemhi County through the years.1 By 1908 there were 25 school districts in the county.2

1Interview with David G. Ainsworth, Salmon, Idaho, February 25, 1970.

2Elizabeth Reed, "First School Established Here in Log Cabin," The Recorder-Herald, Salmon, Idaho, Diamond Anniversary Issue, 1961, p. 4.

Some of the early settlers in rural areas include:3

Major WimpyWimpy Creek
BohannonBohannon Creek
Ben CarmanSawmill on Carman Creek (now Carmen Creek)
B. F. Sharkey(one of Leesburg discovery party) Pattee Creek
Elijah Mulkey(of Leesburg discovery party) Mulkey Creek
Anthony Hornbacknear Carmen bridge
Harry LewisGeertson Creek, later 4th of July Creek
Lars GeertsonGeertson Creek
James L. KirtleyKirtley Creek
John RouseKirtley Creek
Wm. BakerBaker
L. P. WithingtonWithington Creek
John and Sandy BarrackBarracks Lane
George ThomasNorth Fork
James NeicewanderNorth Fork
John Holbrooknear Salmon Others near Salmon include: Tom McGarvey, Michael Boyle, Lee, John Morgan, Joshua Brown, James Beattie

3Shoup, pp. 9-15.

As late as 1936 Leesburg was reported to have about 40 inhabitants, and a small boarding house that could accomodate five or six people for $1.50 per day and up. At that time Gibbonsville had one rooming house for about ten people and around 100 population. At Forney in 1936 one ranch took in lodgers and served meals. It could accomodate ten persons. Forney was an outfitting point for pack trips into the Big Horn Crags.4

4F. W. Godden, December 7, 1936, letter to Mrs. Verna Colton, Mackay, Idaho.


The first grazing use by stock in the Salmon National Forest vicinity was by the horses of the Indians. At times it was heavy and concentrated in the places where they camped. At other times it was negligible. Cameahwait's Shoshoni were reputed to have over 700 horses in 1805; Nez Perce and Flathead also came through on horseback.

There was intermittent grazing by the trappers' horses after 1805. They often followed Indian trails and at times they had to move their camps or seek other routes because of over grazing by Indian horses or those of previous trappers. Captain Bonneville had to move his camp from Carmen in November, 1832, not only because game grew scarce, but because the great numbers of Indian horses and his own had eaten down the forage.

With gold discovery in 1866 came continuous range use. The thousands of people in the Leesburg basin during those first two years required horses for transportation. Herdsmen kept the large horse herds on nearby ranges. Some milk cows were brought in and foraged nearby. As the town of Salmon grew, the nearby ranges supplied food for the horses and milk cows and then for range cattle.

Many of the early cattle in the Lemhi and Salmon River valleys came from Montana where herds were built up from the practice of trading with the wagon trains traveling the Oregon Trail. Men from Montana such as John Grant, John Jacobs, Caleb E. Ervine, possibly Fred Burr, Neil McArthur and others made trips south each summer to the Oregon Trail to trade horses to the emigrants for their tired, broken down cattle, oxen and horses, which they drove to lush pastures in the Bitterroot and Deer Lodge valleys for conditioning.1 This nearby source made cattle easily available to the people of the Salmon River area. Other cattle came from Utah, Southwestern Idaho, and Oregon. Some had come originally from California and Texas and were old Spanish Longhorns. Shorthorn cattle eventually predominated, with some Angus, and the longhorn strain diminished. Later, Herefords were introduced. The valleys of the Lemhi and Salmon rivers proved to be very favorable for stock growing.

1Weisel, pp. 39-41.

The cattle would be driven to the mining camps as needed for slaughter. Small drives were made in the summer, and toward fall the drives would be larger to provide for the winter needs. Smoked or "jerked" meat was in common use. A cattle drive through the town of Salmon and across the river could always be counted on for a little excitement as the cattle often strayed through yards and gardens or clotheslines full of newly hung washing. Most of the rural settlers were stockmen. Lars Geertson brought in cattle from Utah. It was reported that in the late 1870's his cattle ranged from Salmon to Nicholia. He also had extensive gardens and furnished Salmon with vegetables, fruits and butter. John Snook has one of the earliest brands in Idaho that has been in continuous use. The Barrack brothers had large herds ranging from Kirtley to Wimpy Creeks. E. P. Rippey near Baker imported shorthorn cattle and some fast horses. During the depression of the 1870's, George L. Shoup accepted cattle in trade and soon had a large herd just from trade and natural increase. Shoup also brought in cattle from Utah. In 1876 he shipped 800 head of mature steers to Chicago, trailing them from his range on Lost River to the Union Pacific Railroad at Green River, Wyoming. The top price was 4¢ a pound, down to 2-1/2¢.2

2Shoup, p. 18.

In 1880 another shipment was made, this time from Camas Station on the Utah-Northern railroad, by cattlemen Shoup, Morse, Morrow, Spahn, Brooks and others from upper Lemhi. The combined herd numbered about 1100 four to eight year old steers.1 In 1882 several thousand cattle were delivered to contract buyers.

1Shoup, p. 31

All these years the cattle ranged widely the year round with little fencing and no stored feed. The only hay produced was a little for the milk cows and saddle horses. The late 1880's brought a change. Increasing numbers of cattle, from importation and natural increase, had caught up with the existing supply of forage. Ranges were becoming depleted. Then came a severe winter when the temperature was reported as low as 60° below zero. Hungry stock froze to death. A dry spring and a season of poor grass followed, then another fierce winter. Stockmen in the Lemhi and Salmon River valleys, like those throughout the Rocky Mountain west, had no way to save their cattle. Losses were overwhelming. By 1890 the cattlemen realized they could no longer range their cattle the year around without the use of stored feed. The ranchers began to acquire more land, build fences and grow hay for winter feeding, using the high mountain forage for summer grazing.

Everyone was dependent on horses and pack animals in the early days, whether miner, stockman, or businessman. There were innumerable pack strings, freighting outfits, stock horses and saddle horses. Many fine horses were imported such as a carload of well-bred mares brought in from Missouri by Lars Geertson in 1875, along with the stallion Robert Lee. An 1890 report of the Lemhi County assessor gives the following horse statistics: 4 thoroughbred stallions, 1000 grade horses, and 2390 head of range or cayuse horses.2

2Clark's Review, 1890, Lemhi County Museum, Salmon, Idaho.

Like the cattle in the early days, the extra horses ranged at will, and the natural increase was great. Soon ranchers were exporting horses to central and southern states for work and saddle horses. Fred Chase tells about Snook, Carpenter, and others buying horses from the Indians, and catching and branding feral horses, then trailing as many as 1,000 head at a time to Red Rock, Montana for shipment on the train.3

3Interview with Fred Chase, Boise, Idaho, June 1, 1970.

Sheep raising came later than the cattle. After the great losses of cattle in the late 1880's, some cattlemen turned to raising sheep. With little control of grazing the depletion of the range grew more rapid, and there was the usual contention between cattlemen and sheepmen.

Supervisor George Bentz, in his report for the Forest Atlas in January, 1909, reports that the only agricultural product which was exported from the area at that time was the mature beef steer, the spring lamb or mutton, and the matured range horse, all of which provided their own transportation over the mountain roads and trails to the railroads.1

1George Bentz, "Report for Forest Atlas," January 15, 1909.

Butter brought a good price in the mining camps and was carried in by pack string. It was often packed in ten and twenty pound tins and sealed in brine. Salmon dairies for a time supplied Leesburg, Loon Creek and the Custer County mines.

There were extensive gardens near Salmon, which supplied the town of Salmon, and some produce was packed in to Leesburg and other mining camps.

Grain was raised for local milling and for livestock feed. John and Sandy Barrack operated a flour mill seven miles east of Salmon, built in 1872. In 1886 a grist mill was built on the east edge of Salmon, and operated by various people until about 1954. On Hayden Creek Oltmer and Bolts operated a flour mill from 1910 until 1933.

Some primitive and ingenious methods were used to harvest grain in places where machinery was inaccessible. Fred Chase tells of grain harvest on Warm Spring Creek sometime before 1900. At that time Pat Brennen owned a ranch on Warm Spring Creek, Dave Edson one on Poison Creek, and the Chase Family on McKim Creek. Brennen and Edson both had large numbers of horses. They could get a binder up to the Brennen ranch on the old road, but could not get a horse-drawn thresher up to the ranch. Edson and Chase hauled their grain down to the Brennen ranch, where there were two round corrals. They filled a corral with horses; had a man in the middle on a post with a whip, who started the horses around in the corral. Men on the outside pitched grain in onto the horses till it was up to their shoulders. In about two hours the tramping of horses threshed the grain, which was then cleaned by a fanning mill run by water power. Next morning they would start in again with another bunch of horses. The horses were pretty gentle after such a work out. It took about two weeks to thresh all the grain.2

2Fred Chase.

Some settlers brought in berries and fruit trees. Jerry Fahey, who ran a pack train to Gibbonsville after 1877, brought in crabapple and older type apple and plum trees, gooseberry and currant bushes, by pack string.3 Some of these were planted near Gibbonsville, others at North Fork by George Thomas, and some on 4th of July Creek by Mr. Davis. In 1888, M. A. Chandler planted 200 fruit trees on Withington Creek. By 1907 the Idaho Recorder reported over 8,000 apple trees from Carmen Creek down the Salmon and up the North Fork.1

3Interview with Joe Gautier, Salmon, Idaho, February 21, 1969.

1"Fruit Industry of Lemhi!" Idaho Recorder, Salmon, Idaho, January 24, 1907, p. 1

Forest Supervisor Bentz reported in 1909, "In the northern part of the Forest there is quite a large amount of fruit, melons, and the more tender varieties of vegetables raised. This is along the North Fork, the Salmon River and its small tributaries.... In this part of the Forest the demand has not kept pace with the supply, and for the past four or five years there has been a plethora of farm products in that section of the country."2 He further reports that a wagon road from Gibbonsville to the Bighole Basin in Montana was built in 1907 by the Forest Service and the county. This opened up a market for the farm products of northern Lemhi County.

2George Bentz, "Report for Forest Atlas," January 15, 1909, p. 8.

One small industry in the Salmon National Forest which flourished for a short time during prohibition was the making of whiskey in illicit stills. However, the exact output, market and income from this industry is difficult to obtain. It is known that there were several stills which produced high quality whiskey.


Indian Trails. The Salmon River canyon was inaccessible and river travel considered impossible in the early days, yet there were hundreds of travelers through the Salmon National Forest areas. Even before white men came, Indians hunted in the mountains, and there were trails used by various tribes for travel to good fishing areas, for trading, and to the buffalo country. Indian trails were not as well defined as our interstate highways, and the Indians traveled by many routes, yet some trails became well worn and almost legendary. One such trail was the one found by Meriwether Lewis in August, 1805, when he was searching for Indians and discovered a "broad Indian Road" leading across Lemhi Pass. This was a travois trail worn down by years of use by Shoshoni and also by some Nez Perce and Flathead in traveling east to hunt buffalo. In recent years when the Salmon National Forest wanted to mark the route of Lewis and Clark an attempt was made to find this travois trail. The search was unsuccessful until a study of aerial photographs revealed a marked difference in vegetation along a route where, in some parts there had never been a known road. This discovery led to the realization the searching had been in the wrong areas, for the revealed route lay along the ridges, or directly down a streambed or gully, without contouring the hillsides, even if the way led precipitously up or down a steep ridge or gully. The horses with a travois could not travel along a hillside without tipping over load; they had to go directly up or down.l Samuel Parker repeatedly mentioned this aspect of the Indian Trails as he traveled them with the Nez Perce in 1835. He did not like going directly up or down instead of contouring.2

1A. R. Bevan, Engineer, formerly with the Salmon National Forest

2Glenn Thompson

The Indian trail northward from Salmon to North Fork became the early pack trail, leading above the Salmon River cliffs to Carmen, up Tower Creek and across the hills past 4th of July Creek, Wagonhammer Creek, Big Silverlead and down Trail Gulch to the North Fork, thus avoiding a part of the Salmon River canyon too precipitous for travel. It also avoided a river crossing.

The Flathead Indians from the Bitterroot Valley came over to the Salmon to fish, usually traveling up the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. From there they came down to the Salmon River by way of Squaw Creek or Indian Creek, or down Hughes Creek to the North Fork. This last is probably the trail missed by the Lewis and Clark guide, old Toby, when he led the party on up the North Fork with no trail at all, and finally confessed he had missed the creek he had intended to follow. These same trails were used by the Nez Perce who came from the west. In 1835 when Samuel Parker was guided westward by the Nez Perce, the probable route was up Hughes Creek and on west on one of the southern trails of the Nez Perce. Many miles of the present divide trail between the drainages of the Salmon River and the West Fork of the Bitterroot River are probably part of the original Indian trail. After gold discovery, one of these southern Nez Perce trails became a freight artery for pack trains between Lewiston, Idaho and Virginia City, Montana.

A well known early Indian trail led from Salmon up the east side of the Salmon River to the Pahsimeroi. This trail was about a mile back from the river and up to about 2000 feet higher than the river.

Indians had a system of blazes by which they used to find trails in difficult places. Following are some Indian tree trail blazes common in central Idaho, as observed by Glenn Thompson, former supervisor of the Salmon National Forest.


These blazes were made by cutting or pounding the outer perimeter of the design. The inside bark and cambium later dried and fell of its own accord. There are a few where the dead bark persisted to leave an indentation the shape of the blaze.

Rock cairns were used where trees were not available. The top rock served to direct the traveler.

Prospectors and packers often used early Indian trails in their travels. Trails became life-lines between supply centers and the mining camps. From Salmon these trails fanned out to various camps. One led up from the west bank of the Salmon, over the Leesburg hill and down into Leesburg basin. Another went up the west side of the Salmon and up Lake Creek, south along the ridge, down into Prairie Basin, to Silver Creek, Meyers Cove, and Loon Creek. Yellowjacket was supplied by this route, or from Challis by way of Morgan Creek, or from Salmon by way of Leesburg. Other trails led over Lemhi Pass to the Virginia City country, which was also reached from Gibbonsville by a trail up Dahlonega Creek. An early day trail to Leesburg from Montana forded the Salmon River or crossed on Shoto's ferry below North Fork and led up the mountain, along Napoleon ridge and on to Napias Creek.

Wherever there was a mine, there soon was a trail, and often later a road. A mine on Bohannon Creek was in a place too precipitous to reach with pack animals. The gold ore was "high-graded" and wrapped in green cowhide, tied tightly and rolled down to the canyon bottom. From there it was loaded on a pack string.

During the period of greatest population and production in Leesburg all supplies came by packstring usually from Fort Benton, Montana, or from Walla Walla and Lewiston, branching off the trail to Virginia City, Montana.

Some early day packers in the Salmon Forest area were: Ira Tingley, Wm. Bryan, Dan Hire, Mart Newcomb, Ezra Orn, Jesus Erquetes, Beagle Brothers, Jim Wood, Eli Minert and George Hyde, Cap Williams and sons Ike, Henry and Tom with Jeff Riggs. Fred Phillips and David McNutt packed supplies into Leesburg as early as the fall of 1866 and started a store there. They operated a unique free delivery: their burros could be loaded with an order and driven by the purchaser to his cabin where he would unpack the burros and turn them back toward home to return by themselves.

Joe Skelton, Jim Hayden, and Henry Leatherman packed supplies to Leesburg from the Bitterroot and Bannack. Later these three freighted with wagons and oxen. Skelton was severely injured by a steer he was trying to yoke up to his freight wagon.1

1Shoup, History of Lemhi County, p. 13-14.

Packers W. W. Slavin and Charles Spinney supplied the Shoup mines and packed out gold. Another Shoup pack train was run by Campfield. Wallace St. Clair packed bullion from the Kentuck mine at Shoup to Red Rock, Montana. He usually took a route different from the preceding trip to confuse possible holdup men.2 Jerry Fahey packed into Gibbonsville and also ran a store there. He recalled one Christmas season when supplies were getting low. The women in town wanted flour for Christmas baking and were happy to see the pack train from Walla Walla arriving. When the packs were unloaded, there was no flour-only whiskey. Fahey reported that the packer left town hurriedly to escape the wrath of the women.1 In July, 1878, Jerry Fahey's pack train to Gibbonsville was attacked by Indians on Sleeping Child Creek in Montana. The Indians took part of the cargo, which had been unloaded for the night, and drove off the pack mules. Fahey escaped.2

2Interview with Herb St. Clair, Salmon, Idaho, May 1, 1969.

1Interview with Fay Brunk, Salmon, Idaho, April 30, 1969.

2"The Murder Party," New North-West, Deer Lodge, Montana, August 2, 1879, quoting from Missoulian extras of July 18 and 19, 1878. It was thought these same Indians had earlier killed 2 men near Phillipsburg.

The Steen Brothers operated their own train after acquiring the Yellow Jacket mine and mill. Dick Johnson also serviced the Yellow Jacket mine by pack train. He ran 75 pack animals. Jim Wood at the mouth of Hat Creek was reported to have over 100 pack animals in his string.

Jack McGivney, father of Larry McGivney of Salmon, packed in to Thunder Mountain from Salmon. He had a place at the mouth of Loon Creek.

Hal Chase and Truman Andrews moved the steel boom to Moose Creek for the dredging operation there. The boom had been brought to Salmon from Red Rock by way of Junction because the Agency Creek road had too many bends to accomodate it. Fred and Dan Chase and Frank Andrews helped their fathers, acting as swampers to keep the horses moving. They used 36 horses, taking several days to get the boom from Salmon up the Leesburg hill. They went straight up the hill. From the top they took it along the ridge to Moose Creek.3

3Fred Chase

Wah Sing, Chinese merchant, owned his own packstring, operated by Chinese. Boise Sam, another Chinese operated a freight outfit.4 Some of the packers later turned to freighting with wagons pulled by oxen, mules or horses.

4Shoup, p. 10.

Wagon Roads. The completion of the first trans-continental railroad in 1869 made it possible to bring freight by wagon from the railhead at Corinne, Utah, which supplied Salmon and western Montana. There were no constructed roads, and travel was slow and difficult. By 1879 the Utah-Northern reached Camas Station, near present Dubois, shortening the wagon freight route to Salmon. By 1887 a wagon route was established from Salmon to Red Rocky, Montana by way of Agency Creek and Lemhi Pass. The stage went through daily in 12 hours. Leaving either Salmon or Red Rock at 6 a.m. the passengers would cover the 71 miles by 6 p.m. E. Nashold was mail contractor and owned the stage line. The dinner or midway station was at Coldsprings, owned and conducted by Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Sunderlin.1

1Lemhi Herald, Salmon, Idaho, July 2, 1908, p. 1.

George Eldridge reported in 1894 that the Salmon River above Salmon City had recently been opened by a portion of the State Wagon Road.2

2Eldridge, p. 10

Some of the early freighters were: Charles and George Cockrell, Si Lindsay, John Snook, John Wheeler, Fraim Withington. E. Nasholds and "Red" McDonald operated a stage line from Salmon to Camas Station on the Helena-Salt Lake wagon road, later on the Utah-Northern railroad. Dan Chase drove stage to Red Rock using a six horse team. Ferril Terry drove stage to Red Rock with his father and later drove stage to Leesburg. By 1895 a wagon road was completed from Salmon to Forney, through Leesburg, reaching within 12 miles of Yellowjacket mining camp.

Fred Ramey recalls it used to be a three day trip from Salmon to the Rabbit Foot mine on Silver Creek, in a Concord coach with four horses. Mont Caldwell owned the stage line, which carried mail, passengers and freight. The route was the old Leesburg road straight up the hill west of Salmon, with lunch at the Mountain House well up the Salmon side, while the horses rested. The first night was spent at the Leesburg hotel whose proprietor was Mrs. Mahoney, mother of Marion Mahoney of the Forest Service. The second day dinner stop was at Leacock's ranch at the mouth of Napias Creek, with the second night at Forney, which was the end of the stage route. From there the trip was finished by buckboard.3

3Fred Ramey.

In the early days there was a "winter road" over Lost Trail from Gibbonsville. The country was too rough for a summer road, but in the winter when the snow was deep and covered the holes and boulders, horses could pull sleighs over this winter road. This was in use in the 1890's.4 Winter roads were also used for early day logging.

4Joe Gautier.

The wagon road up Indian Creek to Ulysses from the Salmon River was built by the county and by subscription about 1901.

During the rush to Thunder Mountain in 1901, the following appeared in the Recorder-Herald:

F. W. Vogler, general manager of the Redrock, Salmon City and Gibbonsville stage line, was in town Monday and states that his line is making all arrangements for the handling of the great crowd of people which, it is expected, will rush to the wonderful quartz discoveries recently made in the Thunder Mountain district in Idaho, about 100 miles from Salmon City. He can easily handle 25-50 passengers each day, having ten four-horse Concord coaches and four six-horse Concords to do it with. He will be able to land passengers within 50 miles of Thunder Mountain at Yellow Jacket, from which point the journey must be made by pack outfits.1

1Recorder Herald, Salmon, Idaho, December, 1901.

The old road to the Big Hole from Gibbonsville, over Dahlonega, took a good team to haul half a ton over. The Rose brothers used to take fruit over it. They would have to take two teams to get to the top. Passengers traveled in Concord coaches with four-horse teams. The road over the hill was very steep; going down hill the drivers tied trees to the backs of the coaches and held the horses back as much as possible.2 In 1907 the Forest Service and the county cooperated in building a better wagon road up Dahlonega from Gibbonsville to the Big Hole Basin. After the wagon road was built, Tom Barber freighted from Gibbonsville to the Big Hole with a jerk line.3 The early stage from Salmon to Gibbonsville was a wagon. In winter they changed from wagon to sleighs at Eagle Station, now known as the Duncan place, and also called Red Butte.4

2Joe Gautier.

3Herb St. Clair

4Interview with Bessie Cannon & Frances Donlan, Salmon, Idaho, April 30, 1969.

Ross Tobias described the freighters' outfits that serviced the mines on Yankee Fork and Loon Creek: the freighters usually used four, six or eight horses according to the load. Sometimes more teams were used, but going to the mines the curves made it hard to use more. They usually pulled two wagons and a camp wagon. In steep places they would take off one wagon, pull the other to the top, then go back for the one they left. They were kept busy hauling coke in and ore out.5

5Interview with Ross Tobias, Salmon, Idaho, May 27, 1970.

An unusual method of ore hauling was the "iron monster" used by the Dubois Salmon Transportation Company. This company was organized by the backers of lead mines in the Gilmore area to haul ore over 70 miles to the railroad at Dubois. They used a traction wagon: a steam engine with cleated metal wheels which ran on land, capable of pulling four cars, each loaded with 15 tons of ore. The great tractor ran day and night and took four days to reach the railroad. The trip was mostly down hill through sage-brush land. The off-duty crew slept in a sheep wagon at the end of the train. This method of moving the ore from Gilmore was used sometime after 1906.6

6"Spurt in Gilmore Recalls No-Rail Iron Monster," The Salt Lake Tribune, January 14, 1952, p. 13.

The building of the Gilmore and Pittsburg railroad to Gilmore and Salmon from Armstead, Montana, in 1910, and development of auto transport and better roads brought a gradual end to large scale freighting by wagon. A survey of stage lines in the area in 1917 listed the following:

Salmon—Forney Stage Line:
     2 wagons
     4 spring wagons
     1 stage—coach
Fare: Salmon — Leesburg, $2.50; Salmon — Leacock, $3.50 Salmon — Blackbird, $4.00; Salmon — Forney, $5.00.

Challis — Gibbonsville Stage Company:
     2 wagons
     6 spring wagons
     1 stage—coach
     3 autos
Fare: Salmon — North Fork, $2.50
     Salmon — Gibbonsville, $3.50
     Salmon — Ulysses, $4.00
     Salmon — Indianola, $3.50
     Salmon — Challis, $6.00
     Salmon — Ellis, $4.001

1Dana Parkinson, Forest Supervisor, "Reconnaissance Report for the Military Information Division," 1917.

In 1917 there were 73 automobiles in Lemhi County, including the following 15 different companies in order of their quantity: Ford, Dodge, Overland, Chalmers, Maxwell, Dart, Buick, Studebaker, Cadillac, Premier, Velie, Chevrolet, Hupmobile, Oakland, Apperson.1

1Dana Parkinson, Forest Supervisor, "Reconnaissance Report for the Military Information Division," 1917.

The automobile had not yet "taken over" however, for the same survey reported 7 motorcycles, 1048 draft horses, 2599 saddle horses, 1174 pack horses, and 1073 wagons.

Railroads. During the years of the expansion of the railroads into the west, there was railroad talk and activity in almost every part of the west, as different railroad companies surveyed routes, and settlers contemplated the probabilities of some railroad reaching their particular spot.

The completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 changed the direction of the supply lines into the Salmon River area. Before this date, supplies were brought in by pack string from Walla Walla, Washington and Fort Benton, Montana. After the driving of the Union Pacific golden spike marking the completion of the Union Pacific railroad at Promontory Point, Utah, in May 1869, freighters could reach the Salmon River area with wagons, loaded with supplies from the railhead at Corinne, Utah.

Isaac Stevens had conducted railway surveys across northern Idaho in 1855. The Northern Pacific, hoping for a shorter route, decided further surveys should be made and chief engineer A. Milnor Roberts assigned Col. W. W. DeLacy the task of surveying a route down the Salmon River to Lewiston, in 1872. The Salmon River route attracted attention for several reasons: a) it would be on water grade while passing through the rugged mountainous area west of the Continental Divide, b) this route would avoid the problem of winter snow slides in mountainous country because the snow fall at the river level was known to be slight, c) this route was assumed to be shorter than the one through northern Idaho.

Col. DeLacy supervised the building of four boats at Salmon, and with a total party of 25, started the survey down the river on June 15. They ran the survey on the south side of the Salmon River, crossing to the north side seven miles above the mouth of the South Fork, and reached Lewiston on November 16, 1872, five months after starting from Salmon. They were able to survey a continuous line of levels from Salmon City to within two miles of Snake River, a distance of 248 miles, the average grade of the river being only 12.22 feet per mile. At South Fork Col. DeLacy and Col. Long made the trip in to Warrens for supplies and mail and Col. DeLacy reported that it would be a slow route because of the continual curves, and a rough route due to the rugged canyon of the Salmon River.

The other end of the Salmon River route also presented difficulties in getting over the Continental Divide. The Big Hole Pass was one of the contemplated routes. Another serious objection to the Salmon River route was that for a distance of approximately 300 miles the line could not be reached at intermediate points with wagons or steamboats so as to provide supplies and materials for the building contractors. The rugged canyon also indicated a lack of markets and population centers to be served by the line.1

1Idaho Signal, July through November, 1872.

In 1908 there was talk of an electric railway from Idaho Falls to Salmon and a subscription fund was started in Salmon.2

2The Lemhi Herald, November 19, 1908 and December 3, 1908.

The railroad which finally reached Salmon was the Gilmore and Pittsburg, built from Armstead, Montana, on the Oregon Short Line, westward through Bannock Pass to Leadore, with a run south to Gilmore and north to Salmon. A group of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania business men, under the direction of the Northern Pacific Railway, incorporated the railroad in Idaho and Montana in 1907. The president of the group, W. F. McCutcheon, was also president of the Gilmore Mining Company of Gilmore. The announced purpose of the road was to service the Gilmore mines and the town of Salmon, but plans had been formulated for a water grade route on from Salmon to the Pacific, following down the Salmon, Snake and Columbia rivers. Surveying was done in 1907 and 1908. Track laying began in 1909. One of the early duties of the Salmon Forest Rangers in the upper Lemhi was marking timber for railroad ties, and instructing choppers how to pile brush. On May 18, 1910, there was a celebration in Salmon upon the arrival of the first passenger train. Regular passenger service was soon started, leaving Salmon at 6:30 a.m., arriving at Armstead at 12:15 p.m., traveling the 100 miles in less than six hours. The return trip left Armstead at 2:30 p.m. scheduled to reach Salmon at 7:30 p.m. The train handled passengers, mail and freight. Ore shipped from Gilmore sometimes amounted to three cars a day.

Surveys were made down the river. In March, 1908, engineers T. H. Bacon and Charles McClung had made a reconnaissance tour down the Salmon River. Captain Harry Guleke and Dave Dandilands piloted them by boat to Lewiston. During 1910, surveying down the river continued. Men reported they had to hang from the cliffs by cables to make the survey and they expected the railroad would have to do the same. At one time there were enough materials in Salmon to build the bridge across the river and continue on, but orders came to stop all further work.1

1Correspondence from E. R. Lambert and Harold Borovec, Chehalis, Washington, February, 1970. Mr. Lambert was a locomotive mechanic at Leadore from 1910-1914, and 1922-1939.

Later the Northern Pacific took over the line. Business had dwindled and a cutback was made in equipment. Though mine shipments had declined, business remained fairly stable through the 1920's, with cattle and sheep shipments accounting for half of the annual business. The depression signaled the end of the railroad. W. H. Bichler was able to keep it operating with existing equipment and track through the 1930's. The tri-weekly mixed train which had operated in the 1920's was replaced by a rail passenger car. The freight train operated only once a week except in summer and fall when more runs were needed for shipping livestock. In 1939 the line was inspected and declared unsafe for operation. By then the remaining equipment consisted of two locomotives, a gas electric passenger car, a rotary snow plow and 31 freight cars, all in poor condition. In May of 1939 railroad service stopped. In the fall of 1940, the locomotives were started up and worked their way to Armstead, picking up the track behind them.2

2W. R. McGee, quoted in Recorder-Herald, August 29, 1968.

Former Salmon Forest Supervisor S. C. Scribner (1918-1926) related a story about the surveyors going down the river in 1910. A family living on Owl Creek, which was then far below the end of the road, inquired what the surveyors were doing. Upon learning they were surveying for a railroad, the wife instructed her husband to start cutting poles that afternoon to make a fence between the house and the railroad. She was not going to have her children run over by a train. No whistles have yet been heard down the Salmon River.1

1Charles D. Simpson and E. R. Jackman, Blazing Forest Trails (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1967.), p. 324.

Salmon River Travel. — The Salmon River, for which the town and the National Forest are named, runs along or through the Salmon National Forest for over one hundred miles. Unlike many of the rivers of the eastern United States and Canada, the Salmon was never used extensively as a highway because it is swift, turbulent, and dangerous.

Lewis and Clark explored it for were correct in in 1805 hoped to travel down the Salmon in canoes and Clark nearly 40 miles below Salmon, finally deciding the Indians their description of the impassable river.

The first known attempt to boat the Salmon River comes from the diary of John Work, who led a Hudson Bay fur brigade into Idaho in 1831-32. They camped near what is now Salmon, Idaho, on March 25, 1832. The next day Work sent four men down the Salmon River with one small skin canoe, to hunt the river to Fort Walla Walla. They were listed as L. Boisdnt, A Dumaris, M. Plante, and J. Laurin. He expected they would have a good hunt because this part of the river was not known to have ever been hunted by whites. Work and the rest of his party continued up the Salmon River, trapping through the mountains to the Payette and Weiser rivers, and reaching Fort Walla Walla on July 19, 1832. Here he found that M. Plante and A. Dumaris had drowned on the trip. The canoe was too small to carry the men and their baggage also, so the men had taken turns, with two walking while two rode the river. The survivors did not see the accident, but only found the floating paddles, and were left without any food or supplies. They had been descending the river over 30 days when the accident occurred. Contrary to expectations, they found no beaver. Nez Perce Indians assisted the survivors.2

2Work, pp. 139-140, and 174-175.

Early miners used the Salmon River to float mining equipment and supplies down from Salmon to wherever they were mining along the river. John McKay and Ben Ludwig were two of these early river travelers. They worked separately but are reported to have been on the river, possibly as early as 1867. They built their boats at Salmon, and each floated, down to his claims. There the craft would be torn apart and the materials used at the claim. When the supplies were gone the miners would walk back up to Salmon, build another boat and float down with more supplies. Local belief is that John McKay may have been the first man to descend the river by boat from Salmon to Lewiston, perhaps in 1872. This date and the name J. N. McKay are found on a rock near Cover Creek, below Shoup.

When hard rock mining development started near Shoup, around 1882, there were no roads into that area. All miners, their machinery and supplies came in by trail and pack string, or floated down the river. Supplies came from Red Rock, near present Dillon, Montana, by freight wagon to Salmon. The rest of the way was by pack train from Carmen, or floated on the river.

Josiah Chase, grandfather of early Forest Ranger Fred Chase, built one of the first scows that went from Salmon to Shoup. The scow was built just above the present Salmon River bridge in Salmon, to carry a stamp mill for the Kentuck mine at Shoup. Tom McGarvey and Jim Compton manned some of the early scows bound for the Kentuck mine. Passengers often went with the supply scows. In November, 1884, Henry Clay Merritt, superintendent of the Kentuck, and Jack Gilmer were passengers on one of these supply boats and Merritt was drowned below Indianola. He was buried beside the river near Spring Creek.

The Salmon newspaper Idaho Recorder sometimes listed departures for Shoup. There is no indication that these boats were anything other than float-boats, and apparently the newspaper gave them the nickname "steamers."

September 3, 1887. The steamer "Juliana" left the Main Street wharf on Tuesday for Shoup and Thomasville. Quite a number of passengers were on the upper deck.

September 10, 1887. Steamer "Idaho" left on Wednesday for Shoup. Mr. Ritter and family (3) of Kansas City boarded here, en route for Pine Creek to reside there. Capt. Eli Suydam, Pilot Sanderland, other passengers: Jas. Fudge, Henry Breenan, Jack Hennesey, J. H. Duray, J. E. Booth, Miss Elma Edwards. Total 11.

October 22, 1887. Steamer "Porfet" named for Pine Creek with 11 passengers and crew of 2. have contracted for all the river freight for Mrs. Porfet, left for Suydam and Sanderland points below Salmon.

March 24, 1888. Mr. E. S. Suydam and Geo. Sunderlans are up from Shoup.... The Steamer "Clytie" will sail the middle of next week, being the first of the season of '88.

April 14, 1888. Captain E. S. Suydam of the steamer "Clytie" came back from the City of Shoup on Wednesday, via the trail.

May 12, 1888. Steamer "Louise" left Tuesday for Shoup and Mintzerville, heavily loaded with merchandise, Suydam and Sanderland in charge.1

1Idaho Recorder, Salmon, Idaho, 1887 and 1888, dates listed above.

Billy Taylor of Salmon reports that his mother, Anna Graves, was the first woman boat passenger between Salmon and Shoup, probably in 1886 or 1887. Since boats could not be taken back up the river, the town of Shoup had many buildings that were partly constructed from salvaged river scows.

Captain Harry Guleke was a famous Salmon River boatman in the early days, freighting materials and supplies to the mines. Mrs. Elizabeth M. Reed of Salmon recalls the day in October, 1896, when a large crowd gathered at the bridge in Salmon to see Guleke take off on his first long trip, through to Riggins, over 150 miles downstream. With him was David Sandiland.1 Cap Guleke, as he was called, ran the river for 40 years.

1Interview with Elizabeth M. Reed, February 25, 1970.

The type of boat which was developed through trial and error was a long rectangle with ends slanting up and outward, and was managed by two sweeps (long blades with poles attached) one in front and one in the rear, to guide the boat. These sweeps were usually arranged so one man, standing in the center of the boat, could reach both sweep poles. On larger boats, and going through rapids, the sweeps were manned by two men, and the swift water could wrench a sweep out of a man's hands, or knock him overboard. The size of boat varied according to the need. One in 1901 was reported to be 35 feet long, 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep. One of Guleke's last boats was 28 feet long, 8 feet wide, with sideboards five and a half feet high. Cargo and supplies were placed in the bottom, covered with planking to make a deck from which to navigate the boat.

Early trips by Guleke include one in 1901 with R. G. Bailey, who had mining claims on Bailey Creek about 100 miles below Salmon. Bailey walked from the claim to Salmon, where he and Guleke built a boat, loaded it with three tons of supplies and left Salmon in early April, when there was still much ice in the river. After several narrow escapes they reached the Bailey claims where they dismantled the boat and made two smaller ones. Guleke took one of them and went on to Riggins where he caught the stage back to Salmon. Bailey stayed at his claim and later used the second small boat to make his way to Lewiston.2

2R.G. Bailey, "Pioneer Tells of First Boat Trip Down Main Salmon River," The Recorder Herald, January 17, 1952, reprinted from The Spokesman-Review October 4, 1951.

The Idaho Recorder for January 2, 1903, tells of a trip from Salmon to Lewiston late in 1902. Capt Guleke piloted two men from Omaha: R.F. Dwyer, a mining engineer and his younger brother J. V. Dwyer, on a successful hunting trip for bighorn sheep. The Dwyer brothers outfitted for the trip at the store of the Kitty Burton Mine up Indian Creek, loaded their supplies in 30 by 10 foot flatboat and headed for Big Creek (Panther Creek) where they hunted for several days, having arranged with Guleke to join them there before the winter ice formed. After a severe Thanksgiving day storm, they started downstream November 29 without waiting for Guleke. They were stopped at Poverty Flat by slush ice blocking the river for a quarter of a mile. Night came before they finished clearing a channel, and in the morning the channel was completely choked again. There Guleke found them three days later. Following his directions, they built a smaller boat from the large one, 12 feet long and four feet wide, portaged it over the ice, leaving a large part of the supplies in the larger, ice-bound boat:

Once started down the river in the smaller craft... there was never the least doubt about reaching the mouth of the river, although on several occasions there seemed to be considerable doubt of our making the trip alive... After leaving Whitebird, the river, although wild in its flow, gave evidence along its banks that man had come here and made this his home. There were a number of little homes with vineclad porches and orchards back of the house... We reached the mouth of the Salmon river December 17, and two days were occupied in reaching Lewiston.1

1The Idaho Recorder, January 2, 1903.

The river has taken its toll of lives and there have been many narrow escapes. Already mentioned was the drowning of John Work's two trappers in 1832, and Henry Clay Merritt in 1884. At Cove Creek, below Panther Creek is the grave of Johnny Burr. Billy Taylor reports that Johnny Burr and Billy's father, Wm. E. Taylor, were passengers on a scow bound for Shoup. Burr was a good swimmer, and was enjoying swimming on and off all the way down. When they reached Shoup he dived off the boat to help get the line secure for docking. He never came up, and they found his body at Cove Creek.

In the early 1900's there was a lot of railroad speculation and surveying down the Salmon River. Much of it was done in secret to keep rival railroads from becoming curious. A near tragedy occurred when Guleke and J. B. Pope were going down the river in 1906. Their boat swamped and Pope lost a large number of valuable engineering instruments. In his relating this occurrence, people learned that he was a railroad engineer, a fact before kept secret.2

2The Lemhi Herald, April 18, 1907.

In August, 1907, George Sandilands was assisting Captain Guleke, shipping a load of freight for the Mike Coan claims below Pine Creek. The rapids caused Sandiland's sweep to knock him into the rapids and he was drowned.3

3The Lemhi Herald, August 8, 1907.

In May, 1947, a man and his two sons attempted to visit Hack Saw Tom who lived across the river above Shoup. High water caught the cage swinging along across the cable and in the following struggle, the two brothers, John and Guy Davis, were drowned.

Some river victims are never found. Some wash ashore weeks, months or years later. Since roads and cars have been improved, many people have been victims of cars accidentally going into the river. In 1970 two Salmon National Forest summer employees, Gary Yule and John Jones, were drowned June 25 when their Forest Service pickup went into the river one mile above Indianola during high water. These two were among at least eight who lost their lives in the upper Salmon and Middle Fork in 1970. Of these eight, two are still missing and at least two others are missing from river accidents in 1969 and 1967.

Percy Anderson and Harry Guleke ran the river many times together, and in later years Elmer Keith worked with Guleke on the river. In 1931 Clyde E. Smith and son Don L. Smith came to the Salmon River working placers along the stream. Soon they were running boats on the river.

In October 1935, the National Geographic Society sponsored a boat trip down the Salmon River from Salmon to Lewiston. The boat, designed by Captain Guleke, was 32 feet long and had 28 foot sweeps with six foot blades. Monroe Hancock was the boat pilot and John Cunningham as second boatman and Dave Chard as cook. This trip was the subject of an article which appeared in the National Geographic for July, 1936, written by two of the passengers: Philip J. Shenon and John C. Reed. Others on the trip included Dr. Maynard Owen Williams, photographer and writer Dean A. W. Fahrenwald, director of Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology; D. Worth Clark, Idaho Congressional Representative, and Howard R. Flint, Regional Forest Inspector of the U. S. Forest Service. At the Middle Fork Clyde and Don Smith and Tom Ayers took some of the party up the Middle Fork about three miles on an overnight trip. They pulled a small boat up, and floated down. Later during the trip Mr. Flint became ill and a plane was sent for. The plane piloted by Dick Johnson, met the boat party at Mackay Bar and flew Mr. Flint to a Missoula hospital, where he died. The rest of the party finished the boat trip to Riggins and Lewiston.

A more recent Salmon River trip sponsored by the National Geographic Society was made in 1969 by the John and Frank Craighead party.1

1John Craighead and Frank Craighead, Jr., "White-water Adventure on Wild Rivers of Idaho," National Geographic, Vol. 137, No. 2, (February, 1970) 212-239.

Clyde and Don Smith were the first people to keep a boat running on a schedule on the Salmon River, and the first to haul one back by truck. The trip took ten days, with a day spent getting supplies and two days trucking back to North Fork. After World War II the Smiths began running the river with paying passengers. Their first commercial passenger trip on the river was in 1946. Prior to that the Smiths hauled freight. Clyde Smith was active on the river until 1947. Their early scow-type wooden boats were equipped with butane for refrigerator and stove, and there were bunks for six persons. During a survey trip with the Corps of Engineers in 1945 the Smiths operated two big houseboats, moving the boats about four miles each day.

It was not long until motor boats were plying the Salmon. One craft tried on the river was a boat propelled by an airplane engine with an airplane propeller mounted on the back of the boat and two rudders behind in the slip stream. It was not successful. Don L. Smith used outboard motor boats for several years, both down and up the river.

Charles Dahle of Salmon tried a jet boat on the Salmon River in 1957. His first one would not come up all the rapids. The first satisfactory one was built in 1959 in Portland for Dahle, who designed the pump to go with it. It was a welded aluminum boat with a Cadillac marine motor. This same boat is still in use (1973). The jet boat is propelled by the thrust from a jet of water. The water, drawn through a vent in the bottom of the boat, is shot through a jet nozzle by a pump operated by a relatively high powered motor.

In May, 1961, five men made a successful trip up the Salmon River in two hydrosleds. The craft were specially constructed to run the river. They had square prows and sterns, but the keels had a wide convex "v" with the open end at the bow, tapering toward the stern, allowing the boats to sled over even the roughest waters. Both boats were powered by Mercury outboards: the 14-foot boat had a 50-h.p. motor and the 16-foot boat a 70-h.p. The party started at Rogersburg, Washington, on the Snake River and traveled to the mouth of the Middle Fork of the Salmon in three days. The group included Dale and Alva Victor of Wallowa, Oregon; Elwyn Powers of Lostine, Oregon; Lovell Groves, photographer from Longview, Washington and Bill O'Malley, Mercury dealer from Portland. Elwyn Powers is a brother of F. E. Powers who was at that time Supervisor of the Salmon National Forest. They made the return trip from the Middle Fork to Riggins in five hours.1

1F. E. Powers

Within a short time after the introduction of the jet boat, it became very popular and today many people use jet boats to go both down and up the Salmon River. Rubber rafts are a favorite for a more quiet, one way trip. Kayaks and wooden McKenzie River boats are sometimes used on parts of the Salmon and the Middle Fork. There are many outfitters that offer river trips commercially. Others float in private parties.

When the use of motors in the Idaho Primitive Area was prohibited it affected travel on the Middle Fork in that no boat motors of any type are permitted on the Middle Fork, limiting travel to float trips only.

In 1968 the Middle Fork of the Salmon River was designated as one of the eight initial units of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Recreational travel on both the main Salmon River and on the Middle Fork has increased phenomenally in the past 20 years. In 1949 there were about 25 people who floated the Middle Fork. In 1969: 1624, and in 1970: 3028. Further boating statistics will be found in the chapter on recreation.

An unusual cargo on the Middle Fork in June, 1970 was a ten-passenger Volkswagen bus floated down from Dagger Falls to the Flying B ranch. Bob Smith of North Fork, veteran river runner, and his crew loaded the bus onto a 34-foot rubber pontoon and floated it down over 60 miles in about 12 hours. His crew included Don Waetzig, Mike Isley, Chuck Baird, Sandy Sims and Ray Torrey, all of Salmon. The bus is used at the Flying B to transport guests from the airstrip to the lodge.1

1"Ten Passenger Bus Takes Middle Fork Float Trip," The Recorder-Herald (Salmon, Idaho), June 18, 1970, p. 1.

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