Monday, July 28, 2008

Onwards to Idaho

Before leaving Missoula, we stop at Fort Missoula. Built in 1877 to protect area settlers from Indians, the soldiers saw an almost immediate engagement at the Battle of the Big Hole in August, 1877. The next several years, they saw little action, only dealing with minor Indian harassments. During World War I, the fort was utilized as a training center. Later it became the headquarters of the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1941, the fort was turned over to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization and in 1947, was decommissioned.

The majority of the land is now in the hands of non-military agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Missoula County. However, a portion of the military reservation continues to serve as an Army and Navy training facility and reserve center. Though some of the buildings were dismantled and moved. However, there are still many sites to be seen including the parade grounds, officer’s row, the Alien Detention Center, and numerous other buildings. The Historical Museum of Fort Missoula features yet more buildings that have been moved from various areas in the county that interpret local history.

We then head south on U.S. 93, making our way to Idaho through a number of small towns. Once in Idaho, we travel the Salmon River Scenic Byway, through some of the very same areas that Lewis and Clark made their expedition in 1805. We soon come to the old settlement of Gibbonsville, which got its start in 1877 when gold was discovered in the area. By 1895, the area had been developed to such an extent, that a 30-stmp mill was built and the mine employed some 600 men. Today, Gibbonsville bears little resemblance to the boisterous mining camp of the late 1800’s. Sporting about 100 residents, the town is filled with both new and dramatically restored old cabins. However, there are still a few remnants left of its mining days and a nearby cemetery that we found to be an interesting stop.

Beyond Gibbonsville, we continue south to North Fork before turning west and traveling along the Salmon River in search of the old mining camp of Shoup, Idaho. This is a very active recreation area as we spy canoes, kayaks and river rafts bobbing along the water, as well as numerous fisherman, and a lively boyscout camp. The actual town of Shoup, that once boasted a population of over 600 people and businesses and homes that lined both sides of the roadway, has been reduced to only a general store and the mine. Up until recently, it appears that mine tours were offered, but this too, was closed on our visit. However, we were still able to get some shots of the mine and rusting equipment before making our way back to the highway.

We are pleasantly surprised when we come upon a small group of young bighorn sheep and they still enough to accommodate a couple of photographs. We’re then back on the scenic byway and looking for a place to eat and a pillow for our heads in Salmon, Idaho.

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