Taken from: The Golden Road to Adventure

Second Edition

Clearwater River Brink and a Half Club

September 27, 1947

By Floyd B Sterrett


Paul Bunyan stepped here. Striding across the continent, his legendary boot gouged a small, rolling plateau from the towering hills. He paused, shortened the lead chain on Babe, his big blue ox, and moved on the Pacific.

In 1898, builders, searching for a townsite, found Bunyan’s footprint. They stopped, they looked, they nodded. This was the place. Deeply cut by Orofino Creek and the Clearwater River, this wrinkled mesa pictured an appealing alpine setting against rugged pineclad canyon walls.

The climate was mild. This 1057 foot elevation, sheltered by circling ridge tops 2000 feet higher, betokened a slight winter snowfall. Summer days were warm, the nights cool.

Since then, Orofino, the mecca of the inland logger, has boomed into the lumber metropolis of the Clearwater Valley. Lumber, match blocks, and cedar poles pour from bustling camps, and the huge timber potential for pulp manufacture is attracting outside attention.

Metal mining, the leading activity of pioneer days, is still an important industry. And one of Idaho’s largest lime deposits lies near the town. The processing of lime products promises to be a tremendous future enterprise.

Many productive farms occupy adjacent valleys and upland benches and livestock raising is of considerable importance.

Gateway to a virtually unspoiled, primitive wilderness, Orofino, is nevertheless a modern town. There are first-class schools, churches, hotels, a general hospital, a theatre and a weekly newspaper, the Clearwater Tribune. Nearly all trades and industries are represented. Many business establishments are housed in excellent buildings that are the pride of the city.

Through the town runs historic Orofino Creek, a famous Nez Perce Indian land mark. A raging torrent of melted mountain snows in the spring, its waters roll a placid course in summer and fall.

Only a mile west of the city is Bowler Field, the Municipal Airport. Hunters make this field a stopping point on their way to remote big game areas. Many parts of this game paradise can be reached by plane or pack train.

Seat of Clearwater County, Orofino, is easily accessible to the traveler on his Gold Road adventures. It is on Highway 9, east of Lewiston, straddling the banks of the Clearwater River. The Camas Prairie Railroad serves the town’s 3000 population, and Bowler Field makes flying easy.

The Clearwater National Forest makes its headquarters in Orofino. It is also the location of the Northern State Hospital. An impressive Federal building is an additional feature.

Should Paul Bunyan recross the continent he would look down at this footprint and smile with satisfaction.

What was once only a rolling plateau, is now a pleasant town, where hospitable men and women carry on the pioneer tradition of making the stranger feel at home. A town of beauty, a clean town, a town a man is proud to call his home.


By Vincent W Cawtorn

There’s history connected with Weippe. Lewis and Clark, when they traversed the Northwest in 1805-1806, visited the meadow. They heard the Nez Perce refer to “We-ippe”, and in their diary, mention is made of the fact. It was learned that We-ippe, translated, meant grassy valley.

About 1863, when Pierce was a flourishing community, Ed Hammond located on the meadow midway between Greer and Pierce. He was the first postmaster there, although at that time, it was only a sub-postoffice of the established one at Pierce. About 1870 Hammond and Pat Gaffney petitioned for a post office, naming Weippe as the town. The permit was granted and Weippe was on the map.

In olden days, the settlement was known as the “Milk Ranch.” A man named Magoon operated a dairy there, and it was the first drop-off place for mail and humanity, a sort of go-between to the mines.

M. Roberts sold 160 acres of meadow land to the townsite company organized in 1913 and the incorporation also purchased from R. J. Anderson this ranch and mile holdings at Weippe. The town was officially born.

A railroad was to be induced to handle the tonnage created by logging. The streets were to be 80 feet wide; alleys 16 feet in width. The townsite owners worked night and day to induce people to settle at Weippe, and succeeded. The railroads never came, but splendid highways and roads traverse the district and Weippe is able to get its products to market without trouble.

This is a section of rich agricultural land, it has vast timbered resources and the greatest alfalfa growing section in the United States. Weippe has much to offer its visitors besides the fine friendly people that one meets. Here are the meadows trod by the feet of Lewis and Clark, by the Shoshone girl, ”Sacajawea,” by the greatest of all Indian chiefs “Joseph” of the Nez Perce Tribe on his heart-breaking retreat in 1877. Yes, there is history connected with Weippe. And Weippe is proud of its part in the building of the West.


By Vincent W Cawthorn

For some years prior to 1860 rumors of gold had been drifting out of the Clearwater region. Trappers and fur traders reported gold in the hands of the Indians, used for bead-work and ornaments. Members of Captain John Mullens road building crew started whispers moving, causing the Captain anxiety lest they desert him.

The Indians kept the region free of gold seekers until 1860, when Pierce’s party arrived. They met Pierce and turned him back, too, threatening him and his men.

Pierce turned back, down the Clearwater, but did not give up. He learned that there was a secret route by which he could avoid the Nez Perce and reach the country he wished to visit.

Eluding the Indians, Pierce’s party gained the Clearwater country and wintered at Canal Gulch a short distance from the present town of Pierce, where traces of yellow metal were found. The following spring the gravel bars of that section began their astonishing yield of the golden harvest which was to make the Idaho Territory known over the world as the new bonanza of the West.

The first town was built about one and one-half miles from the present site. It was called Oro Fino. A couple of years later it burned. It was decided to change the townsite and the name. A post office was secured in 1864. It was the first county seat in what was to become Idaho, and the old courthouse still stands, as a monument to the town’s hectic past.

Pierce of today, while still carrying on the mining trade, is primarily a logging town, and serves as a trading center for the vast Potlatch Forest industries. Pierce is in a wonderful game belt. It has many streams of clear mountain water where the trout fishing is excellent. Hunters need not go far for deer and elk. It is less than a hundred miles from the Montana line where many hunters go for big game, including mountain goat, antelope and moose.

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