Time Travel Along the Snake River

Conestoga wagon ruts on the original Oregon Trail.

It was summer, 1849. When we left Independence, Missouri months earlier our wagon was loaded with 2495 pounds of gear and supplies including five barrels of flour, 600 lbs of bacon, 100 lbs of coffee, three rifles, and three pistols. We were a bit lighter now, having covered over half of the more than 2000 miles along the trail to Oregon City. Stopping at the Snake River to water our mules, we thought about our manifest destiny. Just a few years earlier John L. O’Sullivan had written in the New York Daily News:

“It is…our manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for development of the great experiment of liberty.”

I don’t know if we thought about the destiny of those who already occupied the land where our wagons would carve lasting ruts into the earth. Or if we thought about how the landscape which stretched out before us was formed thousands of years ago by a torrent of water that would carve out a canyon. And I’m pretty sure, unless we had a crystal ball, that we would have never imagined a man attempting to fly over that canyon on a motor powered vehicle. Or that one day, people just like us, who made a long arduous journey to the west looking for a better life would be forced from their homes and taken to a guarded camp just north of this river. We just pressed on leaving a groove in the dirt. We could have never imagined that over 170 years later other travelers would come here just to take pictures of the path our wagon wheel left.

Clark’s Grebe at Milner Historic Recreation Area.

June 25, 2020

After weeks of traveling at a leisurely pace along the Snake River visiting the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA, stalking birds on the Bruneau Delta, climbing sand dunes at Bruneau State Park and looking for signs of the past at Hagerman’s Fossil Beds, we ended up back where we had started 2 weeks earlier in Twin Falls to do laundry and reprovision for another couple weeks on the road.

But before we left the area and our now favorite river, the Snake, we had a few more spots to check out.

We had been crisscrossing the Oregon trail for the last week. There were supposed to be wagon wheel ruts at Hagerman Fossil Beds but by the time we got to the overlook, it was too hot to hike out and see them. We finally got our chance to see a little bit of mid-1800s history carved in the ground by thousands of wooden wheels at a campsite right outside of Twin Falls, the Milner Historic Recreation Area. And so started our day of time travel.

From Milner, we headed to Twin Falls and back some 15,000 years once again to the Bonneville flood and the ensuing deluge that tour through the canyon to form the Shoshone Falls. Standing at 212 feet and spanning 900 feet of the canyon, they are often referred to as the Niagara of the West.

Not far from the falls we leapt forward in time to the 1970s. Weeks earlier when I had told Greg that we were going to visit the Snake River he immediately asked me if we were going to see the Evel Knievel jump site. Huh? I did a little research and found the site was just up a short path from the falls.

We ended our day in the 1940s at the Minidoka National Historic Site. Idaho was the home of one many internment camps set up during World War II where Japanese Americans were sent after being forced from their homes on the west coast. Perhaps a somber way to end our day’s time travels but it was a good reminder, especially in current times when we face so many challenges, of the hardships and injustices that many of the millions of people who make up this country have had to endure and how they managed to persist in spite of them.

Right now, this very minute, we are really behind on the blog. We have been traveling with our friends Scott and Ellen, been having lots of adventures, and have found little time to write, post on Facebook, or Instagram. Although we still have a few stories and pictures to post from Idaho, we left there on July 3. We have been traveling in Wyoming and Montana and right now this very minute we are camped outside of Yellowstone National Park in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. I can hear the Yellowstone River flowing right by our campsite and Greg is playing ukulele for our friends.
Shoshone Falls.
Shoshone Falls. During the great Bonneville Flood 15,000 years ago the water rose to the top of the canyon walls.
View down the Snake River from The Shoshone Falls.
Western Fence Lizard
A pair of Golden Eagles watches over the Snake River Canyon near the Shoshone Falls.
Yellow-bellied marmot living on the edge of the canyon.
Yellow-bellied marmot wonders who the intruders are.
“Oops”, thought Evel Knievel. “The braking chute deployed too soon.” It was September 8, 1974. The parachute stopped the progress of his rocket jump across the Snake River. His rocket cycle dropped slowly toward this side of the canyon below.
Evel in the golden age of daredevil patriotic jumpsuits.
Evel leased 300 acres on this side of the Snake River to build his ramp and host the crowds that watched his jump. The rental cost in 1974 was $35,000.
View from Evel’s ramp looking across 1600 feet of Snake River canyon. There was a 180-foot high tower atop this ramp. His steam-powered rocket cycle was going 300 MPH when the chute deployed.
View across the Snake River canyon. In 2016 Eddie Braun successfully jumped the canyon without all the hype of Evel’s attempt.
Guard tower at Minidoka. Internees were originally told they were being moved from their homes for their own protection. But here at the camp the guard towers and barbed wire faced in, not out.
Ruins of the military police station and reception area at Minidoka.
Barbed wire fence (reconstructed) which kept Japanese internees from enjoying the river. The river was eventually diverted through a dangerous cut to a pond that the internees could use. Two boys drowned in the cut.
Barracks at Minidoka internment camp. The siding of the exterior walls was tar paper. (The new Visitor Center also sports the tar paper motif. It was closed because of COVID.) The prisoners worked farmland beyond these barracks, raising the crops that fed their population of 9,000.
The backside of the Minidoka Visitor Center.
What remains of one of the root cellars at Minidoka. Behind this entrance, the cellar stretches underground. It could house several train cars of food. The temperature was pleasant underground, so cellar-duty was considered a good job.
Honor Roll of Minidoka internees who served in the US Military.

4 thoughts on “Time Travel Along the Snake River

  1. Beautiful photos of the falls! And of the wildlife, of course. I’m very envious of all the fun and adventures you four are having in Montana and Wyoming right now! Is it busy with tourists or other RVers at all?

    As I write this, we’ve taken Zesty into the woods of New Hampshire. It’s humid and buggy – yes, we miss the west – but it’s a nice reprieve and change of scenery from our room above the garage! Send me an email when you have a change. 🙂

    And, don’t worry about being behind with the blogs. Real life is more important and enjoyable. Get to them whenever – we will all still be here, devouring them!

    1. It was really busy at Yellowstone with travelers but I have been told that tourism is way down. So glad we got to go now. I hate to be here when it is busier.

      It is a bit humid and buggy here also. The bugs have been vicious – I keep getting bad bites that swell up – twice near my eye and just a few days ago on my ankle. But still, it is quite beautiful and we have been enjoying ourselves. I will email soon!

  2. Hello Duwan and Greg

    I love your post on time travel. The photo of the red/orange lichens on the rocks over looking the Shoshone Falls – beautiful. I look forward to your next post. Jimmy and I wish we could be traveling like y’all. We are dreaming of it someday. Who knows with all these layoffs, maybe it will be sooner than we think. Thank you for the yummy nibbles from Littles.

    Anya & Jimmy

    1. Thanks! More people are hitting the road these days. I think you and Jimmy would make great travelers. Glad you enjoyed your Little’s treats!

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