Cultural History Phases
HISTORIC PHASE-TRANSPORTATION along the Lower Salmon River
Ferries formed an important link across a forbidding barrier. They were used to move both people and livestock across the Lower Salmon River. Ferries were located at Shearer's(near Elkhorn Creek), John Day Creek, White Bird, Cooper's Bar (near Rice Creek), Landcaster (near American Bar), and Billy Creek. Other locations also had ferries in operation for short periods of time.
By the early 1900s, many areas were settled with a system of trails and roads which lead to homesteads, mines, and small communities. The stage road between White Bird and Riggins was completed between 1894 and 1898. The construction of Highway 95 in 1931 obliterated most of the stage road.
Captain H. Guleke utilized the Salmon River in the early1900s to transport people, as well as goods, in large sweepboats (see illustration on page 30). Sweep boat dimensions were roughly 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. The sweeps consisted of two poles (sometimes made of peeled lodgepole pine trees) to which a 12-foot blade was attached. Sweeps were located at the bow and the stern and took one person to operate each one. The large sweep boats were sold when the trip was over since there was no way to get the boats back upriver.
The National Geographic Society conducted an expedition down the Lower Salmon River using sweep boats in 1935.
The first railroad survey of the Salmon River took place in1872, by Northern Pacific. The survey covered the eastern side of the river and was to go from Salmon to Lewiston. This route was later abandoned because of the potential high cost of construction. In the early 1900s there was renewed interest in railroads along the river, but an adequate route was never located.
A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was located near French Creek in 1933. The CCC constructed the road from Riggins to French Creek and from French Creek into the Payette National Forest.
From 1920 to 1940, a road from Graves Creek to White Bird (paralleling the Lower Salmon River) was planned to shorten the distance from Cottonwood to White Bird. The road was under construction as part of a Work Projects Administration project in 1939, but all work was suspended in 1940, reportedly because of political pressure from the nearby town of Grangeville which would have been by-passed.