Back in the 1950s, before I met my husband, he worked as a highway engineer tech with the Bureau of Public Roads. For one road construction job, the BPR crews camped for about seven years at Bungalow, a U.S. Forest Service worksite on the North Fork of the Clearwater River.
Recently, USFS archaeologist and historian Robbin Johnston told me that the agency focused on road building at that time. In earlier years, the work emphasis at administrative sites, such as Bungalow and Kelly Creek, was on trail building, fire protection, and mapping. USFS managers later emphasized maintenance and construction.
In 1964, in an effort to economize within the North Fork District, the Forest Service selected Kelly Forks as the future administrative site. That new location would centralize planned work on roads and bridges. Bungalow lay too far in the other direction, about twenty-five miles, making building maintenance and upgrades costly and impractical, especially in winter. Kelly Forks had space for a helipad, and provided housing for fire fighting crews. As the largest level area on the route, Kelly Forks eventually replaced Kelly Creek and Bungalow. Present- day Bungalow serves as a campground.
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I’m sitting on the porch of a log building that once served as the assistant ranger’s house at Lochsa Historical Ranger Station in the Clearwater National Forest. It’s now the visitor center and first stop on a self-guided tour of the site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, but in 1934, it was one of the buildings saved by the heroics of rangers surrounded by raging wildfire.
Looking through the trove of historical items in the visitor center one afternoon, I came across a typed account of this saga, which helped me appreciate how fortunate we are to have this place. The story was by H. D. Weaver, a Forest Service employee of the period. So far as I know, it has never been published. Continue reading →