Warm River—Spotlight

In Search of a Lost Town

By Geraldine Mathias

One of the first places we tried camping after moving to Idaho in 1966 was the Warm River Campground about eight miles northeast of Ashton. It borders the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and is very close to the Wyoming/Idaho border. It was nothing like it is today. Fewer than a dozen spaces made up the camping area, and outhouses were the facilities. But the Warm River flowed through the place gently, and the wide, easily accessible banks made it perfect for novice anglers, especially kids. Warm River is so called because it is spring-fed and remains fifty-two degrees even in winter.

The campground is just above the confluence of Warm River and Robinson Creek, along Idaho Highway 47. A short distance to the west, the Henrys Fork of the Snake River flows down a canyon to meet the two other rivers. Though Robinson Creek is not technically a river, the name Three Rivers has stuck.

The surrounding area was quiet on that first visit. Old farmsteads and an occasional home or cabin made up what I later learned was once a fair-sized town. Some years ago, we purchased a few acres from a descendant of one of the original homesteaders. We never built on it, but we go sometimes to check on things, and used to take occasional float trips down the Snake River from there. When I look around, I cannot imagine where a town with a school, a sawmill, a dance hall, and several stores ever existed. Except for a first-class fishing lodge and the much-improved campground, all vestiges are gone.

Nothing indicates that a couple of hundred folks once called the area home. It was incorporated in 1947 by Fred Lewies (pronounced Lewis) to meet the state law that restricted liquor licenses to incorporated towns. Lewies’s wife, Berta, became the first mayor. Descendants of the Lewies have always served as mayor and city councilmen since then. Now only two permanent residents make up the population. It remains an incorporated town, with a mayor, so the lodge can serve alcohol.

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