Idaho Earthquake Country and More

June 25-30, 1984

Twenty-four congenial travelers journeyed forth under clear skies, and were driven by our amiable and skilled driver, Baxter Shaw, to Ontario for the evening. Then we crossed the fertile Idaho plains past Boise and on to Sun Valley for lunch break. After crossing Galena Summit, we paused for the magnificent view of the Sawtooth Mountains, then journeyed past many moraine encompassed lakes to Redfish Lake where we stopped at the visitor center. We went past Stanley, Sunbeam, Clayton to Challis for the night.

Challis is in Round Valley and bordered by red cliffs of volcanic rock of the Challis formation. It was during the recent earthquake that eyewitnesses stated that rocks cascaded down accompanied by a cloud of dust. Two small children were killed by a falling store front. Both the residents of Challis and Mackay had rapidly cleaned away evidence of the earthquake and torn down or repaired buildings. The missing high school in Challis and the old Custer Hotel plus other buildings in Mackay were testimony of the violence of the shocks.

We paused in the vicinity of the Lost River Range for the day, making a circuit toward Mackay by way of Grand View Canyon and Willow Creek Summit. At this place we had a good view of Mt. Borah and the Thousand Springs Valley as well as finding two nice looking dogs. Baxter alerted an oncoming tanker driver who stopped, then called the sheriff in Mackay. We are pleased to report that the two dogs were picked up and awaited their masters.

Mackay showed cracked buildings, shortened or missing chimneys and the torn down building spaces. We also viewed the Mackay and Clark houses and reviewed the mining history of White Knob.

We returned as far as the Double Springs pass road, then climbed the alluvial fan to the place that the recent fault clearly offset the fan and the road. The scarp is perhaps 15 feet high and makes a crooked path toward the base of Mt. Borah. Then we continued over Double Springs Pass, stopping at the top to see the great view, look at flowers and note the large pile of glacial debris that largely filled the old valley of the Lost River that at one time continued northerly to the Pahsimeroi and on to the Salmon River. We met a crew surveying altitude changes of Mt. Borah.

When we dropped down from the pass, we found the very broad Pahsimeroi Valley, a typical basin between two ranges. The steep scarp faced southwest as it did along the lost River Range, but its bordering range is called the Lemhi Range. We reached the Salmon River and swung back to Challis. There was time for most of the group to visit the Challis Hot Springs where the owner reported three degrees increase in temperature but unknown volume changes, if any.

We left Challis for Missoula, viewing the canyon of the Salmon River where it cut through the Lemhi Range, then the wide open valley where Salmon, Idaho is located at the mouth of the Lemhi River and Valley. We saw where the “River of No Return” turned west into its canyon, then we climbed to Gibbons Pass, then dropped down into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

As we continued northward we stopped to view the oldest Catholic church in Montana and as we approached Missoula, where we spent the night, we could see the old lake terraces of ancient lake Missoula, the body of water trapped by ice dams at Cabinet Gorge to the west that broke many times to cause the Spokane-Missoula floods. J.H. Bretz had named the flood or floods the Spokane Flood before he knew that it was caused by the breaking of ancient Lake Missoula, thus the dual name. We drove through the city observing the University of Montana and some old buildings.

Our fifth day brought slightly poorer weather as a front went through, but we climbed to Lola Pass and arrived just as the ranger was opening the visitor center for the day. Bill Eaton helped her raise the flag. We took a side trip to Packers Meadow where we saw a ‘lake’ of blue camas which was most impressive. Dropping down into the Lochsa was mostly in granite and we were accompanied by some sprinkles and headwind.

Mid-afternoon found us at Spalding near Lapwai at the visitor center where the story of the Nez Perce Indians is well told. This is on the remnant of a once much larger reservation. Lewiston was past and a brief stop was made at the Garfield County Historical Museum in Pomeroy (leader’s birthplace—Ed.) before reaching Walla Walla, our destination for the evening. Some took time to walk through the Whitman College campus, and the next morning we toured some of the scenic spots such as Pioneer Park and then drove by Fort Walla Walla Park, College Place and on to the Whitman Monument, a few miles west of the city. Here the story of the Whitman Mission is told by the prepared slide show as well as by numerous books that may be purchased.

The Touchet beds along the Walla Walla River were laid down in backwater from the Spokane Flood which inundated the whole valley up to 1,240 feet. Too much water tried to get through the Wallula Gateway that is situated in the Horse Heaven Hills along the state line. The result is that much of the water backed up, forming a temporary lake called Lake Lewis. After a few days the lake drained; and this was repeated with each flood.

Lunch was consumed at the Celilo Park before we continued on to Portland where our friends from the Geological Society of the Oregon Country were dropped off, and we continued to Eugene. Seldom, if ever, has the writer been on such an enjoyable trip with splendid scenery and weather, and such a congenial group. Four-state tourers were Margaret Baldwin, Donald and Dorothy Barr, Carlene Beck, Virginia DeMers, Jan Gund, Bette Hack, Vera Heidenreich, Jane Hilt, Ruth Hopson Keen, Virginia Horton, Beatrice Lefevre, Irene Flynn, Ruth Nichols, Janice Pattison, Bonnie Rickard, Lois Schreiner, Grace Smith, Margaret Steere, Bob and Ellen Tracy, Mildred Weatherby, co-leaders Ewart Baldwin and Bill Eaton.


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