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Rock Creek Station

Milepost 227 U.S. 30 in Hansen

About five miles south of Hansen sits the remnants of the old Rock Creek Stage Station, which was part of “Stagecoach King” Ben Holladay’s mail and passenger route.

For decades, the grassy, tree-lined respite on the banks of Rock Creek was an early stop along the Old Oregon Trail. Holladay established a stage stop in 1864, and the following year, James Bascom and his partner, John Corder, built a store at the Rock Creek crossing — the first trading post between Fort Hall and Fort Boise.

As the junction of the Oregon Trail and Kelton Road, the site became the hub of south-central Idaho.

The stage stop was a “home station” where drivers could get fresh horses and passengers could buy a meal and lodge for the night.

Rock Creek Station marker

The Rock Creek Station historical marker tells the story of the early stage stop and Stricker Ranch, seen Oct. 11 in Hansen.

When Chinese miners moved into the Snake River Canyon, Bascom’s store was where they purchased their supplies, including opium, which was legal in those days. The Chinese built a “Joss House” — where they gathered to worship and socialize — just east of the stage station.

Later, Herman Stricker purchased the Rock Creek Store and farmed the area. The Stricker “mansion,” built in 1900, still stands on property now owned by the Idaho State Historical Society.

A cemetery just a short walk west of the old store holds the interred bodies of numerous pioneers — and an unlikely outlaw.

Bill Dowdle was caught in 1875 with a stolen horse and was jailed for days in a cellar behind the store. Residents mocked him, chanting “Dowdle Bill” from outside his cell.

Dowdle spent several long years in the territorial prison, dreaming of getting revenge on the two men who held him prisoner at the stage stop. When released, he high-tailed it to Rock Creek only to find one of his captors sick in bed and the other out of town. Disappointed, Dowdle spent the afternoon drinking in the saloon before shooting up the town. He narrowly missed hitting Charlie Walgamott, a young clerk at the general store.

Walgamott returned fire, killing Dowdle.

Lake Bonneville

Milepost 269 Interstate 84 at Juniper Rest Area

Lake Bonneville

The Lake Bonneville historical marker stands Oct. 19 at the Juniper rest area on westbound Interstate 86.

The ancient Lake Bonneville formed in a glacial basin that covered most of Utah and some of southern Idaho during the Ice Age. Over time the glacier melted, creating the largest lake in North America. The lake breached at Red Rock about 14,000 years ago, and the flood that followed ripped its way into the Snake River Basin south of Lava Hot Springs.

The flood tore through the bedrock, tumbling and tossing basalt boulders while cutting a path 500 feet deep at what is today the I.B. Perrine Bridge, and creating the canyon that now challenges BASE jumpers from all over the world.

The historical marker, which can only be accessed on westbound Interstate 86 from Snowville, Utah, is written in oddly passive language for such a violent natural disaster, stating:

“Twenty thousand years ago, this land was underwater. Not far to the north, you can see the old shore of Lake Bonneville. Formed in a basin from which no river reached the ocean, this became the largest lake in North America. Finally, the lake rose enough to overflow into the Snake River. Then, after the climate got drier and the great basin of Utah and Nevada became mostly a desert, the lake receded. Salt Lake and two other remnants are all that are left of this old 20,000-square mile lake.”

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Milner Dam

Milepost 250.1 U.S. 30 near Burley

When completed in 1904, Milner Dam raised the Snake River 38 feet to divert water into the south side canal. Later, the north side, including farmground near Gooding, got water from the dam in the largest privately-funded reclamation project in the U.S. through 160 miles of main canals.

Highway markers

A cable from the Starrh’s Ferry sits within the 1941 Starrh’s Ferry sign Oct. 19 near Burley.

Milner Dam’s three segments — 462, 404 and 280 feet in length — were built by electric cranes powered by a temporary hydroelectric plant not far above the Hunt Party’s wreck site.

Starrh’s Ferry

Milepost 253.5 on U.S. 30 west of Burley

Starrh's Ferry historical marker

The Starrh’s Ferry historical marker is seen Oct. 19 near Burley.

In 1880, a placer miner who settled on the Snake River about 5 miles west of Burley started a ferry one mile north of the historical marker. For 2 years, George Starrh ferried freighters hauling mining supplies to Wood River, then transported local traffic until 1904, when he was flooded out. According to the historical marker, a small town with a post office existed from 1909 to 1912. The area’s name has since been Americanized, and is now known as Star.

-Mychel Matthews


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