Lava Hot Springs in Bannock County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
Furs and farms, ﬁre and ﬂoods...
... the rise of Lava Hot Springs
The community of Lava Hot Springs is located at a strategic crossroads between the Rockies, the Great Basin, and the West. The year-round availability of natural hot and cold running water has long been an irresistible draw to the area.
The quest for beaver drew trappers and traders to the region in the early 1800s. A few mountain men settled in, trading their traps for the tools of farmers, miners, and merchants. By the late 1800s, they were joined by homesteaders who were enticed by the government's offer of free land.
The railroad''s arrival in 1882 provided farm-to-market transportation. It also brought tourists anxious to soak in the hot springs. The community first called Dempsey, then Hall City, was renamed Lava Hot Springs in 1915 and a resort town was born.
Twentieth century fires and floods devastated the town. Residents, as reliable as the water in the hot springs, cleared away ashes and mud each time and rebuilt their community.
(photo: top center)
Bob Dempsey, an Irish trapper, and his Lemhi Indian wife Margaret set up camp on a creek about 1-1/2 miles west of Lava Hot Springs in 1851.
In addition to trapping, Dempsey traded
(photo: center, 2nd from top)
Passengers and products of all kinds rolled in and out of town on the Oregon Shoreline Railroad. By 1905, Lava Hot Springs was a popular destination for train-traveling tourists.
(two photos at top right)
By 1896 there were businesses, farms, and families in Hall City. A little log schoolhouse built that year was replaced with a fine brick one in 1905.
(side-bar across the bottom)
The fire engine, parked in a local garage, was blocked by 20 automobiles, delaying critical fire-fighting efforts. Pocatello's fire department dispatched a crew but their engine broke down on the road.
After a four-hour fight, the flames were brought under control, Nye Drug Store, the local state liquor dispensary, was damaged by the fire. During the blaze, the store was reportedly "relieved" of 20-30 cases of liquor.
Rain and unseasonably warm temperatures melted snow, saturating the ground and sending more water into the river than its banks could contain.
For three days, citizens and the National Guard frantically filled sandbags in an attempt to save lives and property. Despite their efforts, the worst flood in Lava Hot Springs' 100-year history caused millions of dollars of damage.
Photo captions: Townspeople survey damage after the 1936 fire.; The wild Portneuf River rushed through the heart of town in 1962, leaving devastation is its wake.
Location. 42° 37.164′ N, 112° 0.64′ W. Marker is in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, in Bannock County. Marker is on East Main Street near 1st Avenue East, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 110 East Main Street, Lava Hot Springs ID 83246, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lead Bell Mining Company (here, next to this marker); Lava Hot Springs (approx. ¼ mile away); Lava Hot Springs' healing waters (approx. ¼ mile away); Hudspeth's Cutoff (approx. 4.8 miles away); Chesterfield (approx. 7 miles away); Bancroft's First School (approx. 9.4 miles away); McCammon Railroad Center (approx. 9½ miles away); Location, location, location.... (approx. 9.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lava Hot Springs.
More about this marker. This marker is in front of the South Bannock County Historical Center Museum.
Categories. • Disasters • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 13, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 13, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 109 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 13, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.