Early Cattle Drives through Idaho By Billy Jim Wilson In 1879, the year after the Bannock War that pitted U.S. troops against Bannock warriors of southern Idaho and Paiutes of northern Nevada, cattlemen in eastern Oregon began to
Out-of-state visitors to our Island Park summer home on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River usually come with a list of must-sees, including Yellowstone Park, the Tetons, and Jackson Hole. Once these bigger excursions are memories stored in their cameras, I take them for a short drive up Highway 20 to Big Springs and Johnny Sack’s Cabin. No one escapes a visit to me without seeing this spot.
Big Springs, a Natural National Landmark, is one of the forty largest springs in the world. It has a constant temperature of fifty-two degrees and produces more than 120 million gallons of water each day. I point out to my guests that these incredibly clear, quiet waters bubbling out of the hillside are the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork, the river they have just seen from my cabin’s deck. The water’s temperature helps to make Big Springs home to large rainbow trout, ducks, and terns, among other creatures. Eagles and osprey dive the waters for meals of fresh fish. We once saw a cow moose and her calf wade in the little pond created by the springs just below Johnny Sack’s Cabin, also on the site. The river widens quickly, flowing across Fremont County (it is soon joined by the Buffalo River), before it creates a spectacular path going over Upper and Lower Mesa Falls along Highway 47. Continue reading →