Near American Falls in Power County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
Coldwater Hill Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk
The Oregon Trail
Westward-bound emigrants entered Idaho after crossing Thomas Fork Valley. They soon encountered the climb and descent of Big Hill, witnessed nature's curiosities at Soda Springs, and discovered willing traders at Fort Hall.
In 1843 wagons first rolled past Fort Hall to face the harshness and desolation of the Snake River Plain. Dust, sagebrush, lava rock, mosquitoes, a burning sun, cold nights, and a concerned Native American population made the journey an arduous one. Yet, these pioneers continued on to establish ocean-to-ocean nation.
Prior to the discovery of gold, California-bound emigrants followed the main Oregon Trail to Raft River before turning south on the California Trail. Gold seekers soon opened new routes in an attempt to reach their destinations sooner. Hudspeth's Cutoff (1849) directed traffic west from Soda Springs. The Salt Lake Alternate (Hensley's Cutoff, 1848) enabled travelers to obtain supplies in Salt Lake City before continuing their journey. These routes joined in the City of
As the number of emigrants increased, lands along the trail became barren of grass and wood, and water sources often became tainted. Consequently, alternate routes were explored and utilized. The South Alternate (1843), Northside Alternate (1840's), Goodale's Cutoff (1852), Lander Road (1858), and Kelton Road (1869) all became heavily utilized by emigrants and early Idaho settlers.
Native Americans generally were friendly and often helpful in the early stage of emigrant travel across Idaho. Native Americans traded with emigrants at Soda Springs and Fort Hall, provided fish at Salmon Falls, and acted as guides at the Three Island Crossing of the Snake River.
Increasing numbers of emigrants and declining resources soon led to unpleasant encounters between the two cultures. When the Hudson's Bay Company abandoned Fort Hall and Fort Boise in the 1850's, Native Americans lost a source of supplies and a calming influence. Tensions soon arose.
Scattered incidents soon lead to major confrontations. The Ward Massacre (1854), the Utter party's disaster (1860), and attacks in the Massacre Rocks vicinity (1862) created a need for military protection along the various routes. Idaho gold discoveries in the 1860's accelerated the need and posts were soon established.
"Traveled about 22 miles along the bank of Bear river & are encamped at Soda Springs. This is indeed a curiosity. The water tastes like soda especially artificially prepared. The water is bubbling and foaming like boiling water. I drank of it. It produced a little sickness. We find it excellent for making bread, no preparation of the water is necessary, take it from the fountain & the bread is as light as any prepared with yeast." -- Sarah White Smith, July 24, 1838
Located in a region explored by early fur traders, Soda Springs became a well-known attraction to bands of trappers operating in the Bear River country, missionaries, and emigrants and gold seekers traveling west on the Oregon and California trails. They all were impressed with the many curiosities located in the area.
After Hudspeth's Cut-off opened in 1849, Hudson Bay Company employees from Fort Hall moved a lot of their trade supplies to the area to access the large numbers heading west on the new cut-off and bypassing Fort Hall. Many emigrant trails diarists described the area in considerable detail.
One can still sample the sparkling waters mentioned by emigrants
"After about seven miles travel reached Soda Springs. These are considered the greatest curiosity on the route. They are scattered over about 40 acres of ground and unlike most of the springs boil up from the level ground. The water contains a gas and has quite a acid taste, and when exposed to the sun and air it passes but a short distance before it forms a crust or solid of scarlet hue, so that the constant boiling of any of these springs will form a rock to the height of its source. Some are from 15 to 20 feet in diameter. The water has ceased to run from a number of them and bursts out in a different place. The Shoshone Indians have a village near." Velina A. Williams, August 8, 1853.
For over two decades (1834-1856) fur trappers and Oregon Trail wagon trains passed by the doors of this adobe fort. Nathaniel Wyeth, an ambitious Bostonian, built the post in 1834 but soon sold his holdings to the Hudson's Bay Company, whose staff took over in 1838. British Fort Hall continued to welcome travelers even though it became United States territory in 1846. The site currently is part of the Fort Hall Reservation and is administered by the Shoshone-Bannock
"We commenced the Fort which was a stockade 80 ft square built of Cotton wood trees set on end sunk 2 1/2 feet under the ground and standing about 15 feet above with two bastions 8 ft square at the opposite angles. On the 4th of August the Fort was completed. And on the 5th the 'Stars and Stripes' was unfurled to the breeze at Sunrise in the center of a savage and uncivilized country over an American Trading Post." -- Osborne Russell, July 18, 1834.
"Paid a visit to Capt. Grant. Fort Hall is a small and rather ill constructed Fort, built of 'Dobie.' ... The Fort is near the entrance of Portneuf into Snake River. The river bottoms are wide and have some fertile lands, but much is injured by the salt deposits of the water from neighboring hill. Wheat, turnips have grown here with success. Cattle thrive well." -- Theodore Talbot, September 14, 1843.
In 1857 Congress responded to the wishes of California and New York interests and authorized the construction of an alternate route west from South Pass. Officially called the Fort Kearney, South Pass, and Honey Lake Wagon Road, it soon became known as the Lander Road.
By November 1858, the basic construction of the route was completed. In his official report, Lander stated that 62,310 cubic yards of earth were excavated, one mile of rock removed, eleven miles of willows cleared, and twenty-three miles of pine timber remove from the roadway. During the winter of 1858-59, he wrote an emigrant guide promoting the route, and in the spring he took to the field with a budget of $25,000 to improve portions of the road between South Pass and City of Rocks. During the Civil War he attained the rank of Brigadier General. He died on March 2, 1862, as a result of wounds received during a cavalry charge at Blooming Gap.
The Lander Road developed into a popular route not only for emigrants, but for prospective miners heading to the Montana gold rush and later livestock drives from eastern Oregon and western Idaho to eastern railheads. The route was difficult in places, but it provided excellent water, feed, and wood.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Forts and Castles • Native Americans • Natural Features • Roads & Vehicles. In addition, it is included in the Oregon Trail series list. A significant historical date for this entry is August 5, 1834.
Location. 42° 36.89′ N, 113° 8.55′ W. Marker is near American Falls, Idaho, in Power County. Marker is on Interstate 86 at milepost 18 near Cold Water Road, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: American Falls ID 83211, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Emigrant Trails (within shouting distance of this marker); California Trail - Parting of the Ways (approx. 4.7 miles away); Parting of the Ways (approx. 4.7 miles away); Register Rock (approx. 6.9 miles away); Massacre Rocks on Old Oregon Trail (approx. 8.9 miles away); Massacre Rock - A Clashing of Cultures (approx. 8.9 miles away); California Trail - Raft River Recrossing (approx. 9˝ miles away); Snake River Rest Area Oregon Trail Kiosk (approx. 10.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in American Falls.
More about this marker. A short trail leads to the kiosk at the east end of the Coldwater Hill Rest Area off of Interstate 86 Eastbound.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 16, 2018. It was originally submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 682 times since then and 192 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on September 30, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.