National Geographic : 1944 Jun
Idaho Made the Desert Bloom pounds of culled potatoes, which normally would be wasted or fed to hogs, are turned into a valuable asset. Out of the profits from the municipal power project Idaho Falls has built a large hotel, a $200,000 city hall, a fine, artificially watered golf course-all without a bond issue or in crease in taxes. Every spin of the turbines brings money into the coffers, and soon the beautiful city will be debt-free. Eventually it will also be free of taxes. Pocatello, Railroad and College Town Our road, continuing southeast from Idaho Falls through Shelley and Blackfoot and across the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, brought us to Pocatello and the north branch of the Lincoln Highway, which in Idaho takes roughly the course of the old Oregon Trail. Paradoxically, Idaho's second city and prin cipal gateway to the Northwest (page 650) memorialized an Indian chieftain whose pro pensity to wander from the paths of rectitude won him the name of Pocatello-"He does not follow the road." In 1862 this thieving bandit massacred the members of an emi grant party. Nothing in the present pleasant city of Pocatello suggests such early tragedy. But for all its million-dollar high school, super sized cheese factory, hill-backed football sta dium, and neat business center, Pocatello is still a child of the highway and the railway. The streets are oriented to the diagonal rail and road line, rather than north and south. At the railway yards, car shops, and round house of the Union Pacific Pocatello earns about half a million dollars a month. But Pocatello also is a seat of learning and culture. Here is located the Southern Branch of the University of Idaho. This fine institu tion with its beautiful campus offers to hun dreds of Idaho boys and girls all the advan tages in higher education. A permanent addition to Pocatello is the new Naval Ordnance Plant where guns up to 16 inches in diameter and 96 feet in length are relined. Each of the monsters is lowered lengthwise into an 8-story pit, the bottom of which is so far below water level that Navy divers were used in its construction. While the gun-lining is kept cool by force fed water, the outer shell is heated by electric resistance units. A hydraulic jack, powerful enough to topple a skyscraper, loosens the lining. Then a new inner tube is inserted, the shell is contracted with a grip of cooling gun metal, and the tube is rifled. Smaller naval guns are built here. Many miles to the northwest, in a desert bare as a setting for a Foreign Legion motion picture, the rejuvenated naval guns are fired to test their accuracy. Pocatello also boasts of a substantial oil refinery, a large grain mill and elevator, and a tie-treating plant where most of the ties used on the Union Pacific system are creosoted. A branch of the Lincoln Highway, coming into Pocatello from the southeast, passes through miles upon miles of sheep and cattle country. At present this region is so thinly populated that an average family has two square miles in which to graze its stock. Con ditions here, however, may change after the war. Underlying the waste of grazing land are five billion tons of phosphate-enough fer tilizer to restore the fertility of worn-out farms in a nation. Relatively little has been done thus far to utilize this enormous reserve, for Idaho has been shut off from the world by diffi cult mountains and high freight rates. How ever, progress is beginning to be made. Plans are already under way for the con struction of a gigantic superphosphate plant in southern Idaho, and as the phosphate re serves of our southern States dwindle, hungry soils of the Middle West and East will look to Idaho for relief. Ninety years ago westward-bound emi grants trooped through Soda Springs, next to-the-oldest settlement in Idaho, sometimes at the rate of a thousand a day. Medicinal springs here were appreciated by the old timers, who named one of them Beer Springs. The bubbly, invigorating water still attracts visitors as it did in the early days. At Lava Hot Springs, midway between Soda Springs and Pocatello, are available baths re markable for their mineral content. The State has built and maintains an ex cellent institution here. The medicinal values of these waters compare favorably with those of better-known springs. Idahoans hope to make this town a widely known spa for sufferers from infantile paral ysis. By moving about in the pools, bathers can find exactly the desired degree of thera peutic heat. Even the Indians made Lava Hot Springs a neutral refuge where men of all tribes could gather. South of Lava Hot Springs our party visited the Square Hat Ranch, where a $70,000 crop of fat spring lambs roamed the hills. There we feasted on leg of lamb and delicious sour dough bread made by a Basque shepherd. Big, solid Dominic, who speaks "Spanish, French, English, and American," is one of a large clan who love America, support Victory drives, and fight for freedom.