By Jerry Eichhorst
The author has researched and compiled more than 1,650 written accounts of early travelers along Idaho’s emigrant trails. As president of the Idaho chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association, he has published excerpts in recent years from some of these diaries on the chapter’s website newsletter. Below is a sampling of what he has uncovered.
A few days after entering what would later become Idaho, the emigrants came upon an unusual site of several natural hot springs and geysers. Known as Soda Springs because of the carbonated water, most diarists commented on the area. Many used the term “curiosity,” so I suspect that is how a guidebook must have described the springs. A small trading post was built in the area in later years. Today a timer-controlled geyser is the area’s curiosity. Lorenzo Sawyer writes the most detailed description of Soda Springs I have seen. The portion of his day reaching Soda Springs is related here.
June 17, 1850 — Last night was the most disagreeable one we have experienced on our journey. The weather was cold. About 7 o’clock p. m., it commenced raining. During the first watch, the rain continued to fall; about the second watch it changed to snow and sleet, and towards morning it snowed quite hard. The watch found it exceedingly disagreeable traveling about among the thick bushes loaded with water and sleet. The sun shone clear in the morning, however, and soon dispelled the snow in the valleys. We were on our march at six o’clock. Mr. Lake being still sick, we took him in our wagon again.