Riggins, ID, located on the Salmon River in western Idaho, has been witness to many historical events throughout its time. Here are seven significant events that have taken place in or near Riggins.
1. The Nez Perce War of 1877
In the summer of 1877, the Nez Perce War erupted between the U.S. Army and the Nez Perce tribe. Fleeing from their traditional lands in eastern Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce traveled hundreds of miles through Idaho in their attempt to escape to Canada. Near the town of Riggins, Chief Joseph and his followers crossed the Salmon River as they tried to outrun the pursuing soldiers.
2. The Salmon River gold rush of 1861
In 1861, gold was discovered in the Salmon River near what is now Riggins. This sparked a gold rush that drew thousands of people to the area. The town of Florence, about 30 miles south of Riggins, became the largest settlement in Idaho during this time. Miners dug mines and panned streams in search of the precious metal, but the gold rush was short-lived, and most of the miners left the area by 1864.
3. The construction of the Salmon River Scenic Byway in the 1930s
During the Great Depression, the U.S. government launched public works projects to create jobs and improve infrastructure. In Idaho, one of these projects was the construction of the Salmon River Scenic Byway, which runs for 165 miles from New Meadows to McCall. The road offers stunning views of the river and surrounding mountains and was designed to boost tourism in the area.
4. The creation of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in 1980
Named after Idaho senator Frank Church, who was instrumental in its creation, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is the largest federally designated wilderness area in the lower 48 states. It covers more than 2.3 million acres and includes much of the Salmon River drainage basin. The wilderness area provides habitat for wildlife such as elk, deer, and mountain goats and offers opportunities for camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing.
5. The construction of the Riggins-White Bird grade in the 1930s
The Riggins-White Bird grade, also known as the Old Highway 95, was built in the 1930s to provide a safer and more direct route between Riggins and White Bird. The grade is known for its steep switchbacks and hairpin turns, which offer spectacular views of the canyon and river below. The road was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1996.
6. The Big Bar landslide of 2019
On August 6, 2019, a massive landslide occurred on the Salmon River at Big Bar, about 24 miles downstream from Riggins. The landslide blocked the river and created a lake that trapped fish and disrupted the salmon run. After months of work by state and federal agencies, the landslide was finally cleared enough to allow salmon and steelhead to swim upstream.
7. The return of Chinook salmon to the Salmon River in the 1990s
Chinook salmon were once abundant in the Salmon River, but their numbers declined drastically in the mid-20th century due to overfishing, dam construction, and habitat destruction. In the 1990s, a restoration effort was launched to bring back the salmon. This included removing some dams and creating fish ladders, as well as stocking the river with young fish. Thanks to these efforts, Chinook salmon populations have rebounded in recent years, and the fish can once again be seen swimming up the Salmon River near Riggins.
In conclusion, Riggins, ID, and the surrounding area have a rich history of significant events, from the gold rush of 1861 to the return of Chinook salmon in the 1990s. Visitors to the area can learn more about these events and their impact by exploring the town and nearby wilderness areas.
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