Yesterday and today

The flow of covered wagons across Idaho slowed after 1869. The newly completed transcontinental railroad offered emigrants a faster, safer, and easier way to travel and allowed them to “jump off” onto the trail much farther west. Since then, the Indian trails, fur trade traces, and wagon tracks that once followed the “accursed mad river” across southern Idaho

been replaced by paved roads and interstate highways. Many of the place names on modern state highway maps are holdovers from the trails era: Fort Hall, Pocatello, American Falls, Owyhee, Boise...

But more than just names remain. Today’s visitors can walk in wagon ruts at Three Island Crossing, Bonneville Point, Massacre Rocks, and many other places. They can taste the soda water at Hooper Springs, slap mosquitoes at old Fort Hall, and look off the rimrock to the basalt-edged Snake River below. They can bear the shoulder-sagging heat of midsummer at Craters of the Moon and breathe the fragrance of sagebrush after a thunderstorm over City of Rocks. Landscapes where emigrants, native people, and soldiers collided have changed little since the 19th-century. In Idaho, the past is still present.