Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Lewiston, Idaho’ category

Nez Perce National Historical Park

September 21, 2017

A few miles out of Lewiston is the headquarters for Nez Perce National Historical Park. The rest of the park is composed of 38 sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. We would visit two more sites today, one the basalt area north of our campground, and one at Buffalo Eddy on the Snake River.

We watched a 33-minute movie about the Nez Perce, who call themselves the Nimiipuu. They were a huge tribe that inhabited the Columbia Plateau. A very spiritual group, they are one with the land and waters. In 1804 they were instrumental in saving and guiding Lewis and Clarke, giving them food and trading for Appaloosa horses. In an 1855 treaty, they were granted approximately half of their homelands as a reservation, but a later treaty reduced their lands to 10%, and they were forced to move in the spring when waters were high and dangerous. Thousands of white settlers had moved into their territory. Chief Joseph led 500, many of whom were women, children and elderly against 2000 cavalry. He had only 145 men burdened with many noncombatants, but through many skirmishes and four major battles, they managed to hold off the soldiers for four months, crossing the dangerous Snake River many times. In Big Hole Basin in Montana at 3:30 in the morning Colonel John Gibbon attacked the sleeping Indians with 183 men, killing women and children. The Nimiipuu counterattacked with guards from the surrounding hills. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded. The soldiers fought with rifles and pistols, while the Indians fought with bows and arrows. The army counted 89 Nez Perce dead, mostly women and children.

The remaining Indians escaped and managed to elude the army for another two months, but in the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, Colonel Nelson Miles dealt the final blow. Those not killed surrendered. They were only 40 miles from the Canadian border. Chief Joseph famously said, “I will fight no more forever”.

The museum is very well done, with excellent exhibits, and the movie is also excellent. I hope I am not related to John Gibbon. Roger Dailey of the park service was very helpful and generous with his time telling us other sights to see and places to visit. He is from this area and was a fire jumper for many years. There is so much to see in Idaho!

We took the “Spiral Road”, as Roger suggested, back to camp for lunch. Lewiston is the lowest point in Idaho at 700 something feet, and is surrounded by mountains. After lunch we took Roger’s advice to visit another Nez Perce site at Buffalo Eddy on the Washington side of the Snake River. It is a gorgeous drive up the river toward Hell’s Canyon. The Snake River canyon is the deepest in the United States. Driving 25 miles into the canyon, the river becomes more wild, yet there are houses and cabins all along the Washington side.

Buffalo Eddy is a huge eddy on the powerful Snake River. Having fished for trout for three weeks, I know to look for backwater currents where fish find calmer waters to rest and eat from a constant easy flow of food. This eddy is huge, at least two football fields long and about 40 yards wide. Beautiful basalt rocks lie beside the pool, a perfect place from which to fish. Native Americans came here for 10,000 years to fish for salmon coming upriver all the way from the mouth of the Columbia River to spawn. I imagine there were thousands of salmon in this pool. These large hard, black, flat-sheared rocks were a perfect place for the Nimiipuu to hammer out figures on the rocks. It would be quite a job to chisel these out with stones on these hard surfaces, but that is what made them survive all this time. It was very cool to be in this incredible place.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Returning to camp, we walked a path two miles up river to a basalt rock formation along the river. This is rock formed from a series of lava flows 17-6 million years ago. Surging up to form the Columbia River Plateau. The weight of the flow caused Central Washington to sink, forming the Columbia River Basin. It and also damming up the ancient rivers and forming two huge lakes, Idaho Lake and Columbia Lake. There were a series of catastrophic floods known as the Ice Age Floods. “the deluge caused American Falls Lake to breach its natural lava dam, which was rapidly eroded with only the 50-foot-high American Falls left in the end. The flood waters of Lake Bonneville, approximately twenty times the flow of the Columbia River…swept down the Snake River, leaving debris and sediment deposits across southern Idaho. For miles on either side of the Snake, flood waters stripped away soils and scoured the underlying basalt bedrock, in the process creating Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Crane Falls, and Swan Falls, while cutting and deepening gorges and canyons along the way”. (Elizabeth Orr, Geology of the Pacific Northwest)

We think of all the disasters going on today with fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. Then every now and then I read these things and try to imagine the rocky mountains being formed or that a whole part of the western continent just fell off into the sea. I love the Will Durant quote, “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”.

Lewiston

September 20, 2017

On a rainy morning, we went to the Hell’s Gate Visitor’s Center and watched an excellent movie about Lewis and Clarke’s crossing the Rockies in Idaho. Then we read the plaques and pictures throughout the center and looked at a big relief map showing their incredible journey through these huge mountains in the snow. They never would have made it without Sacagawea or the help of so many Native Americans along their whole journey. It would be fun to ride horses along their route. I don’t know how they made it in 11 days, but they almost died.

We went to the very nice Lewiston Library to post and pay bills. It is worth the trip just to see all their art and statues. We had sandwiches at the Stax Restaurant, which was quite good, then went down the block to the Nez Perce Museum. I was disappointed that only a small part was about the Nez Perce Indians, but realized this is Nez Perce County, so it was more about history of the county. The Nez Perce were instrumental in saving Lewis and Clarke’s expedition only to be persecuted by the Army years later, stripped of their lands and forced to cross the same treacherous mountains in spring high waters to a reservation in Montana.

On a rainy, cold afternoon, we took the afternoon off, read and watched a movie.

McCall to Lewiston

September 19, 2017

It is a beautiful drive with a variety of terrains along Rt. 95. At Riggins it follows the great Salmon River. Riggins is a cute little village with a bunch of river guiding companies. It was cold and rainy, so we opted not to stay in Riggins and float the Salmon. Maybe another time. The river takes one side of the mountain at White Bird to turn and join the Snake River, while the road continues north to Lewiston. Big rain clouds were in the distance. We had rain earlier, but all of this is so welcome. The whole northwest has been plagued by tremendous fires all summer, smoke covering the whole area. Makes you wonder – fires here, hurricanes in the east and a big earthquake in Mexico.

We pulled into beautiful Hell’s Gate Campground just outside Lewiston. We are on the Lewis and Clarke trail. The visitor’s center has all kinds of information and a movie about their crossing of the Rockies in Idaho and the terrible time they had in the Bitterroot Mountains.

We were setting up camp when Carol came over from the adjacent campsite. She and David are on their way to McCall, so we traded information north and south. Dave came back over later with a drink. We talked about travels and the troubles you have fixing things. You just have to learn how to work on all kinds of problems, because it happens to all of us. He was a Ford mechanic for years, so that really comes in handy. He told us about a bike trail that goes along the Snake River and through Lewiston. Clarkston is on the other side of the river. This is the area where the Clearwater joins the Snake River on its way to the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke followed the Snake into the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop, near where I met my friends at the mouth of the Columbia. I have not followed the Columbia through the United States, but have seen its origin, fished it there and as it leaves British Columbia south of Castelgar, and have crossed that monster bridge at its mouth. With beautiful rivers flowing into it, like the Snake, the Clearwater and the Salmon, it is a heck of a river. It is nice to know about the hatchery in McCall, Idaho that hatches millions of Chinook Salmon, and that they can find their way to the ocean, returning five years later all the way back to McCall. Fish ladders allow them to make their way over four or five dams.