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Driving Highway 12, on the Trail of Lewis & Clark

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Learn About Lewis & Clark

Starting in Lewiston, Highway 12 traverses the state from west to east, through Indian reservations, along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, and into some of the state’s wildest country, until finally arriving at the Lolo Pass, where Lewis and Clark crossed over from Montana and became the first white men to step foot in Idaho.

The Beauty Of Idaho
The Selway Falls

By starting in Lewiston, we were following Lewis & Clark’s trail in the wrong direction. They had reached Lewiston in 1805, when the Nez Perce were at their cultural height. In honor of the region’s original settlers, a beautiful statue by the name of Tsceminicum sits at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. A Nez Perce woman kneels on the ground, while the legends and symbols of her people appear to flow out of her like a river.

Today, the 202-mile journey from Lewiston to Lolo Pass requires about three hours in a car, but it took Lewis, Clark and their Corps of Discovery well over a month to complete. Highway 12 doesn’t follow the exact trail: the much rougher Lolo Trail, just to the north, is the path the expedition party actually used; it’s still open to traffic, but expect to go about 15 miles per hour.

After passing through the reservation towns of Orofino, Kamsiah and Kooskia, we reached the tiny community of Syringa, where Scott Swearingen and his family welcomed us into their Lewis & Clark Trail Cabin. We arrived just before dusk, tired and ready to relax. As though he’d read our minds, Scott started a campfire, and we sat around chatting with him until it was dark. The next morning, he had a hearty breakfast waiting for us — just what we needed before another long day on the road. The cabin was rustic and comfortable, and well-situated for a trip along Highway 12. To book a night, contact Scott and Pam via Air BnB.

The next day of driving was completely different. Whereas we’d encountered a number of towns on the first day, the road cut through remote territory on the second. Just outside of Kooskia, we saw a sign warning us that there’d be no petrol for 88 miles. And after the road entered the Clearwater National Forest, we didn’t see another town for hours. This was untamed wilderness of river and forest, with little other traffic.

Lewis & Clark’s expedition took place so long ago, and the landscape of America has altered so drastically, that it’s difficult to put ourselves in their shoes; to truly appreciate how dangerous and rough their adventure must have been. But along Highway 12, you can journey through the same wilderness as they did, over 200 years ago. Besides the cement of the road and a few interpretive signs set up along the side, not much has changed.

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The Tsceminicum Statue in Lewiston
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November 5, 2012 at 2:48 am Comments (4)

A Concise History of Idaho

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Idaho History Books


History in Idaho began when the White Man discovered it, and that’s that! Well, no, of course that’s not true. But unfortunately the recorded history of Idaho does begin with the appearance of Europeans in the early 19th century. Everything prior is based on fossil records and legends. So, the known story of Idaho is largely one of conflict between settlers and Native Americans, and of the struggle to populate and live off some of the continent’s wildest land.

15,000 to 6,000 B.C. The appearance of humanity, with Big-Game Hunters on the trail of woolly mammoths and mastodons establishing a presence in Idaho.
6,000 B.C. to A.D. 500 The so-called Archaic Period sees a major warming of the earth, which creates massive rivers. The Archaic people, hunters and gatherers, begin to trade with one another.
500 to 1805 Not much is known about the 1300 years before the arrival of the Europeans, referred to as the Late Period. The modern Indian tribes such as the Nez Perce, the Bannock and the Shoshone, took shape and flourished.
August 12, 1805 Lewis & Clark enter Idaho, making it the last of the 50 states to be explored.
1810 The fur trade leads to the establishment of Fort Henry on the Snake River, abandoned just a year later.
1832 Aided by the Nez Perce tribe, fur trappers engage the migratory Gros Ventre people in a bloody battle at Pierre’s Hole.
1836 Henry H. Spalding establishes a protestant mission in Lapwai, writes Idaho’s first novel, opens its first school, and plants its first potato.
Chief Joseph, 1840–1904
1846–1869 Tens of thousands of settlers pass through Idaho on the Oregon Trail, though very few choose to settle here.
1860 A gold rush leads to the illegal establishment of Lewiston, squarely situated in territory given to the Nez Perce tribe in a treaty.
1863 Abraham Lincoln incorporates the Idaho Territory, which included most of present-day Montana and Wyoming, and had its capital at Lewiston.
1877 The bitterly fought Nez Perce War concludes with Chief Joseph’s immortal words “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
July 3, 1890 Idaho is admitted into the Union as the 43rd state.
1892 Mining strikes in Coeur d’Alene turn deadly and union struggles culminate in 1905’s assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg.
1905 The completion of Milner Dam allows settlement in the heretofore unpopulated Magic Valley area.
1936 The Sun Valley ski resort opens, featuring heated outdoor pools and the world’s first ski lifts.
1981 The closure of the Bunker Hill Mining Company signals the substantive end of mining in Idaho.
1992 The infamous Ruby Ridge standoff between right-wing separatist Randy Weaver and the US Marshalls leaves three dead, including Weaver’s wife and son.
2001 The Aryan Nation is expelled from the state. Owing to Idaho’s remoteness, right-wing extremism has been a problem since the 80s.
2012 and beyond With the eclipse of mining, Idaho’s economic base turns to tourism and technology, with Boise establishing itself as one of America’s most livable cities, and adventure-seekers the world over beginning to discover the state’s great untamed wilderness.
Camping World
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August 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm Comments (2)
Driving Highway 12, on the Trail of Lewis & Clark Starting in Lewiston, Highway 12 traverses the state from west to east, through Indian reservations, along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, and into some of the state's wildest country, until finally arriving at the Lolo Pass, where Lewis and Clark crossed over from Montana and became the first white men to step foot in Idaho.
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