The Mountainside Was Ours By Barbara Morgan People say we Boomers enabled our Millennials to excess, buying them chemistry sets and computers. Encouraging worm dissection on the back porch Science and Nature Club. Enthusing about their thespian productions.
The jet boat crashed through reflected sunlight, leaving rippled water in its wake as it powered up the Snake River.
The canyon walls loomed above us. It was the last day of The College of Idaho’s spring break trip this year to Hells Canyon. Twelve students—ranging from first-time backpackers to experienced outdoorsmen, freshmen to seniors, both genders—spent five days in the folds of the deepest gorge in North America, viewing nature’s canvas and hiking more than twenty miles from Granite Creek to Kirkwood Ranch. Continue reading →
Wow, I’m finally at Kirkwood Historic Ranch on the Snake River, a place I have wanted to return to for years.
It’s July 25, 2014, and the drive over Pittsburg Summit was wonderful, the road in the best shape I’ve seen, because of major repairs made after a wildfire below Pittsburg Landing earlier in the year. On the jet boat ride upriver to the ranch, I reflect that my first visit was in 1959, with my best friend from Salmon River High School, Jerry Spickelmire, who was driving his jeep.
In the early 1960s, I fought fires in Hells Canyon for the U.S. Forest Service, and I remember an early August day in one of those years when thunderstorms started several fires in the canyon. My replacement hosts arrived on August 5, and when I left Kirkwood Ranch on that day, a large fire was burning across the river from Pittsburg Landing along with several others in the area. Continue reading →
It’s one of the ironies of Idaho’s geography that our longest river, the Snake, is navigable for only short distances.
Part of the reason is that over the course of its nearly 1,100 miles, the river drops more than 8,500 feet. The other reason is that until recently our grandest natural wonder, Hells Canyon, proved impassable to any vessel attempting a run upstream. But the lowest reaches of the Snake enjoyed busy traffic in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and for a time riverboats even served the mining trade on the middle Snake. At least one made it as far as the mouth of the Bruneau River.
I’m an Idaho native, but I didn’t grow up particularly close to a river. Instead I had to make do with a small drainage canal that ran through our farm outside Meridian. But it was water, and that was enough. In some way that I couldn’t have explained, water was magical. Years later, when I became a reference librarian at Boise Public Library, I discovered the wealth of information in its Idaho Pamphlet File—clippings about canals and rivers and steamboats and much, much more. Since then I’ve supplemented my reading with such books as Fritz Timmen’s Blow for the Landing and Bill Gulick’s Steamboats on Northwest Rivers. And here’s what I’ve learned. Continue reading →