Breezing Over the Oregon Trail in Southwestern Idaho
Crossing into Idaho from Nevada, the scenery quickly changed from mountains to acres and acres of farmland. The local spuds had welcomed us back to their state. While here, our home base for a week was at Three Island Crossings State Park, where we immediately noticed their amazing grass-watering regimen. A lady there was strictly dedicated to the task of managing sprinklers throughout the park all day long, and she did a wonderful job!
With the abundance of water and no restrictions on washing RV’s, Steve got to work giving Betsy a good bath, and (yuck) fixing the leaking seal in our toilet:
On other days we played, hiked and drank a bit:
Three Island Crossings, Idaho
Little did we know that Three Island Crossing State Park was the site of one of the most dangerous river crossings along the Oregon Trail. It was here that pioneers found themselves facing the mighty Snake River. The ford was called Three Island Crossing because the emigrants took their wagons from island to island as they swam across the cold and fast-moving river with their animals and wagons.
To perpetuate the legacy of the pioneers, the park is also home to the Oregon Trail History and Education Center, which interprets the site of a ford of the Snake River along the Oregon Trail.
But first a brief background history of the Oregon Trail:
The Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile route stretching from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon that lured over 300,000 pioneers to a treacherous six-month journey. Emigrants followed this route during a twenty-year period beginning in 1841. When they entered present-day Idaho, many had already traveled more than a thousand miles of hot, dusty trails, which eventually wound through Idaho desert. Over 580 miles of those trail remnants remain today.
In southwestern Idaho, the pioneers followed the Snake River and rode along high plateaus that were often 200′ above the water. It was here in the town now called Glenns Ferry (where the state park is located) that they stopped when faced with a critical decision. They had to either cross the river to reach a shorter, easier route north of the Snake River, or stay on the dry, rough south side. For those who braved to cross, it took three days to traverse the three islands to reach the north shore.
At the Oregon Trail History and Education Center we learned more interesting facts about this portion of the trail. It featured exhibits illustrating Native American life and their interaction with pioneer emigrants passing through. The center is located right across the bluff from where the migrants descended the steep bluff to the Snake River:
We grabbed a copy of the Main Oregon Trail Back Country Byway Guide after our visit, and followed Part 1 of the autoroute. It’s a loop drive that took us to the south side of the Snake River where we viewed the Three Island Crossing location from another perspective.
Strong currents and deep water made the crossing extremely dangerous, and some did not survive. A crossing re-enactment is performed each August to commemorate the crossing and display how grueling it was for those tenacious pioneers.
For our second visit to Boise, we decided to stay closer to the city at Boise Riverside RV Park, where the dusty gravel roads made us miss Three Island State Park immediately. Last year we experienced good vibes in this city, and we placed it on our “top 5” list of possible places to live. We still like Boise, but it’s fallen off the list because of its harsh winters. Click here if you’d like to see details of our last visit.
Dozens of hiking opportunities in and around Boise were a factor that drew us here originally, and we had to try out a few new ones this time. The Boise foothills provide about 130 miles of trails with year-round options, and we chose several moderate treks this time – Hulls Gulch, Table Rock, Quarry Loop, and the Hillside to Hollows Trails. They were all nice hikes that overlooked the city from different angles:
A new experience for us was renting a tandem bike, which we’d been curious to try. Our campground rental office was right next to the Boise River Greenbelt Trail, so we gave it a go. Although we enjoyed the scenery along the greenbelt during our 17-mile journey, we agreed that we’re more solo-bike types. Hey, you don’t know until you try!
And just like the emigrants, we continued on to Eastern Oregon…
Next up: Breezing Over the Oregon Trail in Eastern Oregon