“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Orofino in Clearwater County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)

River Crossing Over Time

River Crossing Over Time Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 16, 2020
1. River Crossing Over Time Marker
...then crossed the River at a shole place the water to the horses bellies." - Sgt. John Ordway, Sept. 26, 1805

Clearwater Crossings
Long before we had highways and bridges, people crossed the river at this location. What is now called the Clearwater River begins its journey in the seven- and eight-thousand foot peaks of the rugged Bitterroot Mountains. When Captain Clark went to the village of Chief Twisted Hair, situated on an island upstream from here. Clark asked where the "big water" (Columbia River) was. The Nez Perce responded by saying "Koos koos kee," meaning "This is the smaller water." And that's the name that went into the Journals. The actual name Kaih-kaih-koosh, signifying Clearwater.
Nimi'ippu Crossings
For many generations, the Nimi'ipuu or Nez Perce used this flat stretch of the river for crossings. The shallow waters from late summer through late winter allowed them to wade or ride their horses from shore to rocky shore. The photo above shows a re-enactment of riders at this very location. During times
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of high water or when the Nimi'ipuu needed to transport goods, they used rafts or canoes. When the Lewis & Clark Expedition passed through in September of 1805, the Native Americans provided lessons in canoe construction. Their Canoe Camp is across the river and about four miles downstream.
Ferry Crossing
With the discovery of gold in the Pierce area, miners and suppliers flocked to this region. Several ferries were quickly established to transport pack trains and individuals across the Clearwater. One that operated near here, known as the Reed ferry, "was a cable ferry, rigged with ropes and pulleys, and moved by the force of the current," according to pioneer William Goulder. Ferrying was easy in low water conditions, but with the spring flows came trouble. "Some of the biggest trees in the mountain forest...were moving down...and we had to work like beavers to keep out of the way of the big drift-wood."
Bridge Crossings
As Orofino grew, there was a need for a dependable all-season method of crossing the Clearwater. The photo below shows one of the old metal structures built to span the river. The modern concrete bridge was constructed in the 1990s.
George Washington was here?
An 1861 newspaper article records the following: "It is five miles up the South Fork
River Crossing Over Time Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 16, 2020
2. River Crossing Over Time Marker
(of the Clearwater) from the ferry to Wish-la Nocha's... a venerable savage who looks as much like George Washington as the Father of his Country looked like himself... He is sixty-five or seventy years old' but hale and hearty, and well to do in the world. He has a ferry across the South fork, and many cattle and horses. He was a youngster when Lewis and Clark came down through We-ipe and the Koose-kieh-kieh, and he says that when they shook him by the hand he felt that their grasp was sincere."
Erected by Idaho Governor's Lewis & Clark Committee.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & ViaductsNative AmericansWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 46° 28.86′ N, 116° 15.562′ W. Marker is in Orofino, Idaho, in Clearwater County. Marker can be reached from Riverside Avenue near Dent Bridge Road / Brown Avenue, on the left when traveling north. The marker is located near the entrance to Clearwater Crossing RV Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 500 Riverside Avenue, Orofino ID 83544, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Routes Through the Region (here, next to this marker); Dworshak Dam (approx. 3.2 miles away); Indian Fishing Rock
Clearwater River Crossing image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 16, 2020
3. Clearwater River Crossing
(approx. 3.3 miles away); Lewis and Clark (approx. 3.3 miles away); Canoe Building Site (approx. 3.6 miles away); Ahsakha Village Site (approx. 3.6 miles away); 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery (approx. 3.7 miles away); Pit House Village (approx. 3.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Orofino.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 10, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 7, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 80 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 7, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Feb. 21, 2024