National Geographic : 1936 Jul
DOWN IDAHO'S RIVER OF NO RETURN The boat, of a model unchanged since Guleke invented it, weighed about five tons when loaded. Without motive power, it looked clumsy. We were to learn later, however, that Hancock and Cunningham, with sweeps balanced like laboratory scales, could manipulate with surprising dexterity the best-known and most-photographed scow that ever bumped its uneven way down Salmon River. About 10 a. m. on October 4 Captain Guleke grasped the front sweep, and our scow, empty because of low water, left its birthplace, never to return (pages 94, 109). Although the old riverman has probably taken his last boat through the canyon the light of adventure still shone brightly in his eyes as he steered our craft the first few hundred yards down the river he conquered but could not tame. After floating under Salmon's new bridge, we disembarked to put in our time in side trips while the barge descended toward deeper water for cargo and passengers. To inspect the rugged uplands we motored to the Big Horn Crags country, where Supervisor John Kinney, of the Salmon National Forest, had arranged for Ranger Gutzman to meet us with horses. In the sixties the gold of Napias Creek attracted 7,000 adventurers, many of them Civil War veterans, and rival factions built up almost overnight the towns of Lees burg and Grantsville. At Forney we turned west over Quartzite Mountain to our ren dezvous. WHEN THE CANYON WAS "IMPASSABLE" For eight miles we rode our horses deeper and deeper into the crag country. What peculiar yet beautiful freaks of weathering they were, rearing their pock marked faces spirelike to the sky! Re luctantly we turned back, creakingly crawled into our car, and drove into Salm on under a star-covered sky, tired and stiff. We set out on Sunday morning to rejoin our scow at Ebenezer Bar. After 10 miles of wide, cultivated valley the canyon narrows, and at 23 miles below Salmon we noted a decided "pinching in" of the walls. Near this place Toby, an In dian guide of the Lewis and Clark expedi tion, had convinced Captain Clark that the Salmon River Canyon was impassable, and here the party had turned north to seek a less forbidding "gateway" to the Pacific by way of the Lolo Pass. We followed the river to Shoup, named in honor of Idaho's first State Governor and United States Senator. It is a strange looking old place with building lots stand ing on end, a town where for several years freight and supplies have been transferred from truck to horse. Although Shoup is now booming and new roads simplify trans portation, the pack train will not soon end its usefulness in this rugged region. Near the mouth of Panther Creek we in spected Indian paintings on the rocks, and piles of mussel shells left at an old camp site. Later we were to see many such paint ings, as well as numerous petroglyphs (fig ures cut into rocks), in both the Salmon and Snake River Canyons (page 121). Indians today have no knowledge of the origin or interpretation of these figures. However, since many portray the mountain sheep, the symbol of the Tukuarika, or Sheepeaters, it seems likely that this tribe was responsible for part of the inscriptions. When we reached the boat, we found many people had motored down from Salmon to wish us godspeed on our 2,355 foot descent to Lewiston, 253 miles away. Low light on the water made it difficult to see hidden rocks, and Captain Hancock sug gested that we postpone our start until morning. Though our scow had looked unwieldy, this advice seemed overcautious. "They're tired," we thought. But before the trip was over we had absolved our boatmen of undue caution and had developed a bit ourselves. We slept in a newly completed camp whence C.C.C. workers are pushing a road down the river with dynamite and "bulldozers," heavy tractors used for shov ing obstructions out of the way. Dave Chard's "Come and get it," at day light, referred to delicious sourdough hot cakes. Dave had installed his kitchen after leaving Salmon, and a full-sized iron range now sat in a corner of the scow, with work benches close at hand. Since the boat was heavily loaded and the water low in the Lake Creek Rapids, we struck out on foot immediately after breakfast. We were greeted at the Pope Ranch by Mrs. Mills, an old-fashioned little lady who had read THE GEOGRAPHIC for many years and was familiar with Williams' articles. She said she had thought it possible that she might meet him in China or Afghanistan, but that she never had expected to be intro duced to him in the Salmon River Canyon.