Idaho wildfire uncovers historic parts of the Oregon Trail
Last week I reported on the horrible wildfire that swept through Boise. You can read that story here. Today I learned there actually is a positive outcome as a result of the fires; parts of the Oregon Trail have been resurfaced. The trail paths were covered up by tall brush, but were recently spotted in satellite photographs taken after the fire. The land is currently owned by the Idaho Power Company, but plans are in the works to allow signs along the rediscovered trails.
Last week's devastating Amity Road Inferno destroyed too many homes and family memories, but the flames did uncover one piece of history: a nearly two century year old unmarked trail that plays an important role in the heritage of many Boiseians.
Members of the Idaho Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association plan to mark portions of the pioneer trail that are now visible after the Aug. 25 fire.
Before the blaze, two parallel pathways measuring about a half-mile altogether had been covered by tall brush. The paths, which are light depressions in the ground, stretch across a vacant field below a ridge where the homes were burned.
The pathways were discovered in satellite photographs taken days after the fire.
"We plan to mark it before the snow flies," association member Wally Meyer told The Idaho Statesman.
He said the last wagon through southeast Boise probably crossed the flat plain about 1890 on the property now owned by the Idaho Power Co., which is negotiating with the group to allow signs along the newly found pathways.
Investigators have concluded that an equipment failure on one of the company's electricity lines ignited the fire.
Settlers migrating to the Pacific part of the US used the Oregon Trail. The trail was the only possible way for settlers to get across the mountains.
Historians say more than 350-thousand emigrants traveled by foot on these trails. Some of them started as far east as Independence, Missouri, then they came through the Gem State and some continued in Oregon City where the trails end.
Pioneers traveled across the Oregon Trail, one of the main overland migration routes on the North American continent, in wagons in order to settle new parts of the United States of America during the 19th century. The Oregon Trail helped the United States implement its cultural goal of Manifest Destiny, that is, to expand the nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The five to six month journey spanned over half the continent as the wagon trail proceeded 2,170 miles (3,500 kilometers) west through territories and land later to become six U.S. states (Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington). Between 1841 and 1869, the Oregon Trail was used by settlers migrating to the Pacific Northwest of what is now the United States.
I myself remember learning about the Oregon Trail through the old Apple floppy disk computer game.