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Grays Lake NWR

History/Cultural Overview

This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  1982.  Master Plan Report for Grays Lake
     National Wildlife Refuge Wayan, Idaho.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,
     Region One.  Pages 3.1-3.2 & 9.1-9.24.

Table of Contents


As part of its overall management plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex, requested a Class I Cultural Resource Inventory of the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which lies in a mountainous area between the South or Lewis's Fork of the Snake River and the main trunk of the Snake, 45 miles southeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

In general, cultural resources are viewed as those fragile and non-renewable traces of human endeavors, activities or occupations reflected in sites, structures, trails, natural features, and the like that were of importance in local, regional, or national history. Class I cultural resource inventories are intended to provide a perspective on these resources, based on a review of existing information—archaeologic, ethnographic, and historic—pertaining to the human use or occupation of the particular area, locality, or land management unit in question from the earliest times to the present with particular attention paid to all recorded cultural resources within the area. Included in this perspective are suggestions as to how the recorded resources might be protected or preserved and additional cultural resources identified and properly inventoried. The main purpose of this is to alert administrators and researchers to the known and potential cultural resources within the area in question, and thereby avoid their inadvertent destruction. Typically, a Class I inventory contains a compendium of the recorded cultural resources found in the unit under consideration.

For the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, very few cultural resources have been recorded; some are known, but remain unverified. The reasons for this, as will become apparent in the ensuing parts of this inventory, are largely geographical; Grays Lake was away from the main population centers, pre historical as well as historical.

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Historical Perspective Early Times


The area around Grays Lake was a hunting ground for many Indian tribes and sub-tribes. The resident Indians were of the Shoshonean Nation, primarily the Shoshoni, Bannock and Lemhi tribes. Due to the fact that this region has historically been a crossroads of travel routes, from the Great Plains to the West Coast, and from the Northwest and Canadian regions to the Spanish country south, a number of hunting and war parties from many Indian tribes have been known to frequent the area, often resulting in violent tribal clashes. Other tribes utilizing the area were the Nez Perces, Absorokas (Crow), Blackfeet, Flathead, Tukuarika (Sheepeaters), Brule, Sioux, Diggers, Utes, Arapahoes and Piutes.

The Shoshoni were great hunters of buffalo, a tradition that apparently goes back to ancestors over 8,000 years ago. Although they lived among the once great herds of buffalo, the Indians in this region were not considered very prosperous as measured by the American Indian's own standard of living.

The 1800's:

The W.P. Hunt Overland Party (Joseph Miller, Jacob Rexner, Edward Robinson, Martin Cass, and John Hoback) was probably the first group of white men to explore the Grays Lake area. Their explorations took place during 1811 and 1812 as they hunted and trapped in the area.

Grays Lake was named for John Grey, and was first known as John Grey's Lake. Grey was a noted Iroquois leader and explorer, and gained prominence during the early years of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Grey probably first visited what is now Grays Lake about 1818.

Early explorers probably found Grays Lake to be much more of a lake than it is today, and with a much greater wildlife population and diversity. Travelers in the late 1800's using the Lander cut-off of the Oregon Trail, which passed along the south boundary of the Refuge, reported the lake alive with ducks and geese.

Early 1900's:

The Grays Lake Valley's value for ranching was not recognized until shortly before the turn of the century. Soils were rich and productive, but long and severe winters challenged the hardy and discouraged the weak.

In 1906, Barzilla Clark of Idaho Falls, constructed a channel (Clark's Cut) and a series of drains in the lakebed at the south end of the lake to divert water from Grays Lake to Meadow Creek and the Blackfoot River. Beginning in 1907, a series of withdrawal orders were made at Grays Lake in conjunction with the Fort Hall Irrigation Project, for lands within the lake's meander line. Since that time there has been conflict over the ownership of the lakebed. In 1908, the U.S. Government purchased Clark's interest in Grays Lake.

With the unnatural draining of the lake, waterfowl, and other wildlife values declined. Beginning as early as the 1920's, concerned citizens and State and Federal officials tried to establish better habitat management for what was once one of the most productive natural waterfowl areas in the western United States.

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At the start, we were instructed to make use of a recently completed Class I Cultural Resource Inventory prepared for the Burley and Idaho Falls districts of the Bureau of Land Management by Franzen and others (1980). However, it soon became apparent that this document had limited applicability to the locale in question. This was borne out by a search of the recorded historic and prehistoric sites and review of the regional literature encompassed in the Class I inventory. A more parochial approach was needed, an approach that focused on county and local histories and recollections, but which balanced this literature against a regional backdrop. Significant assistance in locating this literature was rendered by the staff of the Southeast Idaho Refuge Complex and of the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge. In the time available, an exhaustive search for this literature could not be made, but a broad outline of the place of the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in local, regional and national history was determinable. For information on the history and protohistory of the refuge, it was necessary to rely to a considerable extent on the knowledge and expertise of the senior writer, who has conducted extensive studies in the prehistory of southeastern Idaho generally and who has firsthand familiarity with the locality in question. Ultimately, knowledge of the physical setting of the Grays Lake locality proved to be the key to understanding the place of this locality in local and regional history.

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Physical Setting

The Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge consists of some 22,000 acres of marshland and a bordering 10,000 acres of wet meadows and uplands in a mountain basin nearly isolated by topography from the major population centers and transportation arterials in southeastern Idaho. The nearest major population centers are Idaho Falls (formerly Eagle Rock) on the main trunk of the Snake River approximately 40 miles due northwest, and Soda Springs at the great bend of the Bear River 20 miles south-southwest. There are modern, paved or improved roads from both cities that ultimately lead to the Grays Lake Refuge and nearby small communities, some of which follow historic trails that were once major thoroughfares through this part of southeastern Idaho.

The area lying between Soda Springs and Idaho Falls consists of a series of fault basins and low northwestward-trending ridges and mountain ranges, some of which form part of the western edge of the Middle Rocky Mountain province and the remainder the northeastern extremity of the Basin and Range Province. Directly north is the Eastern Snake River Plain section of the Columbia Intermontane province. Elevations are generally above 6000 feet; the small, shallow body of open water in the Grays Lake marsh, usually labeled "Grays Lake" on maps of the area, has a maximum elevation of 6390.5 feet, at which level it overflows either into the artificial Clark's cut at the south end or into the natural Grays Lake Outlet at the north end of the marsh. All of the major drainages in this general area flow northwestward towards the Snake, including the Blackfoot River 10 miles to the west, Willow Creek into which the Grays Lake Outlet drains, and the South Fork of the Snake River, some 22 miles east of Grays Lake, on the east side of the Caribou Range, the highest mountain range in the area. Peaks in the Caribou Range rise to as much as 9803 feet above sea level, while those directly southeast, south, and west rarely exceed 8,000 feet.

The mountains and much of the bedrock in the Grays Lake locality are composed of ancient rocks of pre-Tertiary age. However, nearly the entire west side of the basin is rimmed by basalts of the Willow Creek lava field, one of the major intercanyon lava flows found extending across the general area, filling some of the larger drainage basins, the upper part of the Blackfoot River among them. A large island in the Grays Lake marsh, Bear Island, consists of the same type of basalt as the Willow Creek lava field. Lava from this formation plugged the outlet to the Grays Lake drainage basin, possibly on more than one occasion, leading to a considerable accumulation of sediments in the basin and eventually formation of Grays Lake and Grays Lake marsh.

The total depth of the sediments in the Grays Lake basin is unknown. They consist of unconsolidated alluvium, aeolian silt, organic lake sediments, gyttja, and peat. A core of 330 cm depth taken off the east end of Bear Island yielded peat to a depth of 250 cm, gyttja from 250-268 cm, organic-like sediments from 268-278 cm, and fossiliferous inorganic lake sediments from 278-330 cm. A sample of organic matter from between 253 and 262 cm yielded a radiocarbon date of 4150 + 70 years B.P. (f-4435, uncorrected; Olivier 1980). Thus the upper basin sediments are probably of both Recent and Late Pleistocene age, with the present-day marsh developing only within the past 4,000 years.

The dominant vegetation in the marsh is bullrush or tule (Scirpus sp.) with willows (Salix sp.) along the edges and sagebrush-grass (Artemisia-Agropyron) cover on the better drained slopes and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and other conifers at the higher elevations. Among the economically important animals inhabiting the marsh are muskrat (Ondatra sp.) and beaver (Castor canadensis); many thousands of both have been trapped in this locality. Among the present-day big game found in the region are moose (Alces alces), deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk (Cervis canadensis). In early historic time, bison (Bison bison) were observed here and probably also mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis), which were common in the hills to the south and west. From shallow cuts and springs at the southeastern end of the marsh, local residents have recovered teeth and tusks of elephant (probably Mammuthus jeffersoni) within the past few years. However, this was probably not a major area for either bison or elephant; the growing season is extremely short and the winters are often quite cold.

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The Human Uses(s) of the Grays Lake Marsh and Immediate Environs through Time

Human use of the Grays Lake marsh and its immediate environs through time can be divided into a number of broad themes that are both chronological and functional, such as the following:

(1) Utilization of the uplands lying between the main stem of the Snake River and the South or Lewis's Fork of the Snake and the Great Bend of the Bear River in prehistoric time;
(2) The native inhabitants of the uplands in the Protohistoric Period;
(3) The fur trade and the discovery of Grays Lake;
(4) The Lander Road and the Salt Road;
(5) Travel and commerce through the uplands;
(6) The discovery of gold and the development of ranching in the Grays Lake locality;
(7) Grays Lake in the 20th century.

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Utilization of the Uplands Lying between the Main Stem of the Snake River and the South or Lewis's Fork of the Snake and the Great Bend of the Bear River in Prehistoric Time

Studies in the prehistoric use of these uplands have been confined mainly to the vicinity of the Blackfoot Reservoir on the Blackfoot River (Miss 1974) and the Ririe Reservoir on Willow Creek (Powers 1969). Limited surface surveys and a minimal amount of archaeological testing have been carried out on phosphate leases in the mountains southeast of Grays Lake (e.g., Druss and others 1980). Also, brief reconnaissances have been made of proposed state exchange lands in the vicinity of Grays Lake, which resulted in the discovery of an isolated chipped stone point fragment at the southwestern end of the Grays Lake Refuge designated site the Idaho State Archaeological Survey records, and an archaeological survey was made in 1980 of approximately 15 miles of proposed fence lines within the boundaries of the refuge area. Collectively, the latter endeavors have failed to turn up a substantial body of data, but they have served to point up or indicate the relative significance of the Blackfoot Reservoir locality in the prehistory of these uplands. Before the construction of the dam in the early years of this century created the Blackfoot Reservoir, this locality was a large marshland fed by the Little Blackfoot and main Blackfoot Rivers and such feeder streams as Poison and Meadow Creeks. There were also numerous springs in this area. Only 200 feet or so lower in elevation than the Grays Lake marsh, the Blackfoot marsh lay on an easily traveled natural corridor between the big bend of the Bear River and the main stem of the Snake, a corridor extensively used by the fur trappers and early travelers through the region, as well as by later travelers and carriers between the Snake River Plain and northern Idaho.

More than 50 archaeological sites, ranging in age from ca. 10,500 years old to early historic, have been found around the Blackfoot Reservoir and untold quantities of artifacts and chipping debris have been picked up by visitors to the reservoir locality. There is a far greater concentration of archaeological material here than anywhere else in the uplands. The difficulty is that very little is actually known about most of the material recovered from this locality. For the most part, the archaeological investigations in this region were in the form of surface surveys and "test excavations," neither of which was designed to do more than ascertain the depth and extent of archaeological deposits in the area that would be adversely affected by a proposed increase in the level of the reservoir (see Miss 1974). On the other hand, it is possible to relate the prehistoric cultural material found in this locality to the cultural sequence that has been worked out by Butler (1978) for southern Idaho generally, but which is in the process of being modified (viz, Butler 1981). An outline of this sequence reflecting the modifications now in progress follows:

Period/approximate time span/cultural stage

     I.    Earliest occupation of southern Idaho, beginning before 10,000 B.C., probably
           by hunters of extinct forms of big-game animals such as elephant (Mammuthus
           sp.), camel (Camelops sp.), horse (Equus sp.) and bison (Bison sp.), but
           whose diagnostic tools are yet to be recognized (e.g., the Wilson Butte Cave
           I assemblage; Gruhn 1961);

     II.   Ca. 10,000-5800 B.C., classic Early Big Game Hunters exemplified by Clovis,
           Folsom and Early and Late Plano points, which, except for Clovis, have been
           found in situ on the Eastern Snake River Plain in association with extinct
           forms of big game listed under I above (e.g., the earliest occupations at
           the Wasden Site; Butler 1978);

     III.  Ca. 5800-1500 B.C., the Early Archaic, which is characterized by a wide
           variety of projectiles, stemmed-indented base and large side-notched points
           among them;

     IV.   Ca. 1500 B.C.-A.D. 500, Middle to Late Archaic, which is (are) still to be
           meaningfully defined (see Butler 1978);

     V.    Ca. A. D. 500-A. D. 1650-1700, the Late Prehistoric period, in which two
           distinctive groups of cultural manifestations are present: the Dietrich
           phase of the Great Salt Lake Fremont in southern Idaho, best exemplified
           at Wilson Butte Cave (Gruhn 1961), and the Blue Dome phase in Birch Creek
           Valley (Swanson 1972), which may represent an intrusion of Athabascan-
           speaking peoples from the High Plains into eastern Idaho (Butler 1981);
           the former is a formative stage cultural manifestation while the latter is
           probably better classified as a Late Archaic stage manifestation, even
           though pottery is present at this time on the High Plains;

     VI.   A. D. 1650-1805, the Protohistoric period, during which Shoshonean-speaking
           peoples come to occupy southern Idaho and acquire horses.

Folsom and Plano points characteristic of the Early Big Game Hunting period have been found in the vicinity of the Blackfoot Reservoir (Miss 1974; Butler 1980); none are known from the Grays Lake locality. However, the senior writer examined a small collection of points found in a garden near Wayan at the southern end of the Grays Lake basin which included the base of a possible Clovis point. This specimen was seen many months before the senior writer was informed of finds of elephant teeth and tusks at the southeastern corner of the Grays Lake marsh and had an opportunity to examine some of these finds. The opportunity came in the fall of 1980 when he saw materials recovered south of the new Grays Lake Refuge headquarters. Among the materials were definite fragments of elephant tusks, bison teeth, and large elk antler burrs. The last showed clear evidence of scoring and chipping. Human osteological remains were also recovered, but no stone or bone tools were noted. All of the material had been lifted out by a backhoe and was badly mixed.

The Early Archaic period appears to be well-represented at the Blackfoot Reservoir and may also be represented in the Grays Lake area. Surface collections made by local residents in the vicinity of Grays Lake marsh contained examples of large side-notched and corner-notched points that elsewhere in southern Idaho would be considered typical of the Early Archaic. These collections also included large ovates and well made side and end scrapers of colorful silica minerals, possibly the reason that they were picked up. The total amount of material collected was extremely small in comparison with similar materials picked up from the Blackfoot Reservoir and elsewhere in eastern Idaho.

The Middle to Late Archaic period is probably represented in the Blackfoot Reservoir locality, but the data are uncertain and poorly controlled. Nothing has been observed by the senior writer in the Grays Lake region that would fit in with known materials assignable to this period. The Late Prehistoric period, on the other hand, is well represented in the Blackfoot Reservoir locality, especially at the Poison Creek site, where pottery was found and radiocarbon datable materials recovered (Neudorfer 1976). Some of the pottery found at Poison Creek is the oldest definitely dated pottery in southern Idaho (A.D. 1230 ± 70), but is indistinguishable from pottery typical of the Protohistoric period, a problem that has yet to be resolved in the archaeology of the region. The Poison Creek site probably represents a temporary, seasonal encampment in the uplands, with the main winter encampments occurring either along the main stem of the Snake or in the lower Bear River Valley, where it flows southward into Great Salt Lake (Butler 1981). Almost nothing that can be attributed to the Late Prehistoric period has been encountered elsewhere in the uplands. Just why this should be so is not yet known.

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The Native Inhabitants of the Uplands in the Protohistoric Period

This is the period in which Shoshonean-speaking peoples occupied most of southern Idaho and a large part of the Great Plains. Along the way, they also acquired horses. The question is, when did they begin to occupy eastern Idaho? There is a hypothesis, well supported by linguistic evidence, that the immediate ancestors of the historic Shoshonean-speaking occupants of this region originated in the southwestern corner of the Great Basin and began spreading northward and eastward from there sometime around A.D. 1000. Some archaeologists (e.g., Madsen 1975) believe that the spread of these Shoshonean-speaking peoples is marked and can be dated by the occurrence of a type of pottery commonly referred to as Shoshonean ware, a pottery that dates progressively younger in age as one travels from the southwestern corner of the Great Basin towards southeastern Idaho. By extrapolation from the earliest occurrence of this pottery further south in the Great Basin, Shoshonean-speaking peoples should have arrived in southeastern Idaho around A. D. 1300. That is the date that has been almost universally accepted for initial Shoshonean occupation of southern Idaho; however, as indicated previously, it appears to be substantially in error. The earliest date of Shoshonean occupation in southern Idaho may be closer to A.D. 1650 (Butler 1981). This is significantly later than the generally accepted date for the initial Shoshonean occupation of western Wyoming, ca. A. D. 1460-1510 (Wright 1978). This apparent discrepancy in the time of the initial occupation of the two contiguous areas by Shoshonean speakers remains to be resolved.

More importantly, around A.D. 1700-1710, the Shoshoneans east of the Continental Divide began to acquire horses and soon expanded rapidly southward and northward on the High Plains. Those who moved southward became known as the Comanche, Lords of the South Plains (Wallace and Hoebel 1952), while those who moved northward are known mainly as Northern Shoshoni. It was the latter who dominated the Northern Plains by the middle of the 18th century and were encroaching on Blackfoot territory in southern Canada; however, this was a short-lived domination. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Northern Shoshoni were afflicted by a smallpox epidemic and their traditional enemies, the Blackfeet, had acquired firearms from the French and also had begun to acquire horses. When Lewis and Clark encountered horse-mounted Northern Shoshoni in the Lemhi Valley in 1805, these Shoshoneans had been routed from the Plains by the Blackfeet and were now under considerable pressure by the latter (Wells 1980). The same was true of the horse-mounted Shoshoneans found along the main stem of the Snake River at this time (Murphy and Murphy 1960). By the time the fur traders began exploiting the resources of the region, A.D. 1810-1840, Blackfoot raiding parties were penetrating Northern Shoshoni territory as far west as southcentral Idaho and were frequently encountered in the uplands and along the Blackfoot River in southeastern Idaho. As Murphy and Murphy (1960:296) have pointed out, it was at this time that Northern Shoshoni history became "inextricably connected with that of the American Frontier."

Historic and ethnographic accounts (e.g., Steward 1938; Murphy and Murphy 1960) clearly indicate that there were distinctions between the horse-owning and nonhorse-owning Shoshonean peoples occupying the region, but the impact of the large aggregations of horse-mounted Shoshoni on the small, widely dispersed resident population is unknown, as are their seasonal movements, food gathering activities, and the like. Perhaps because of their larger numbers, the emphasis in the regional literature has always been on the horse-mounted groups, in whose seasonal rounds and large-scale movements the uplands of southeastern Idaho played an inconspicuous role.

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The Fur Trade and the Discovery of Grays Lake

Lewis and Clark's journey of exploration that brought them to the headwaters of the Columbia River drainage in central Idaho and thence to the Pacific Ocean was of considerable interest to American fur traders. Competition for resources was fierce. For example, John Jacob Astor, who had already made a fortune in fur, conceived of a plan linking the Atlantic and Pacific by means of a chain of trading posts along the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, with a major post near the mouth of the Columbia to capitalize on the Northwest fur trade. But his Pacific Fur Company, formed in 1810, was not the first of its kind to penetrate the Rockies. A party from the recently-formed Missouri Fur Company captained by Andrew Henry began to trap along the Missouri headwaters in the spring of 1810, came under frequent attack by Plains Indians, and sought relief by moving westward. They crossed the Rockies in early summer, entering the headwaters of the Snake near Henry's Lake, and built an outpost on the Henry's Fork of the Snake near the present-day town of St. Anthony. They left to go back across the Rockies the following spring (1811). It was three members of the Henry Party, John Hoback and two companions, who guided the "Overland Astorians" under the command of Wilson Price Hunt to Fort Henry in October, 1811. The Hunt Party crossed the mountains west through the Teton Pass into Teton Basin (the historic Pierre's Hole) before arriving at the Henry's Fork of the Snake. They continued on from there, and floated the Snake to below Milner Dam. Here they encountered rough water (Caldron Linn) and lost one of their voyagers (the canoe upset and he drowned). The group then split into three parties and walked the rest of the way across Idaho. Portions of the divided party's routes were later utilized by Oregon-bound emigrants. A return party, under the leadership of Robert Stuart, departed Astoria in the early summer of 1812, crossed Oregon and followed the Snake River through southern Idaho until they reached the Portneuf River, just west of the Blackfoot. The Stuart Party followed the Portneuf southward and then eastward towards the great bend of the Bear River. As Lavender (1975:69) notes, "Although Robert Stuart, returning overland from Astoria to St. Louis with a small party of hunters and malcontents, did find a feasible horse trail through South Pass [Wyoming] and down Sweetwater Creek to the North Platte, international politics and then war kept the Americans from developing the route." The Blackfeet on the Northwestern Plains also kept pressure on the routes through the mountains. Meanwhile, Astor's partners at the mouth of the Columbia, uncertain that they could resist the British in the War of 1812, sold out for what they could get to the North West Company, which eventually merged with the rival Hudson's Bay Company. Coincidentally, Astor's partners were former members of the North West Company. Be that as it may, exploration of the upper Snake River drainage by the North West Company did not get underway until 1816. The North West Company was involved in a battle with the Hudson's Bay Company, and there was also the constant pressure of the Blackfeet on the High Plains.

Exploration of the Snake River area by the North West Company was begun under Donald McKenzie, one of Astor's former partners and a member of Hunt's 1811 group, who led a motley brigade of trappers, including French-Canadians, Iroquois, halfbreeds, and a few Americans left over from Astor's collapse, most of whom were more inclined to gamble on racehorses than trap. There is no record of McKenzie's first expedition, but in the autumn of 1817 he set out with a party of Iroquois, including one John Grey, a halfbreed also known as Ignace Hatchiorauquasha, and reached "a rich field of beaver in the country lying between the great south branch (Snake River) and the Spanish waters (Green River)" (Ross 1956:135), a region to which he returned in 1818-1819 and 1820-1821, at the end of which he was promoted and replaced by Michel Bourdon. The latter had accompanied him on the earlier expedition to the region and had explored the Bear River southward into Cache Valley. Bourdon was killed a few years later by the Blackfeet in the Henry's Fork country. McKenzie's promotion came the same year that the North West Company merged with its old rival, the Hudson's Bay Company, 1821. It was during the McKenzie-led expeditions into southeastern Idaho that John Grey and his Iroquois companions explored the uplands in which the Blackfoot and Grays Lake marshes are located (Wells 1969).

Though he spent many years trapping and exploring in the Rocky Mountains before retiring to the future site of Kansas City, Missouri in 1836, where he died in 1841, it is not certain that Grey actually saw the body of water named after him. What the early trappers usually referred to as Grays Creek is obviously the present-day Willow Creek, the head of which is in Crane's Flat, a basin immediately to the northwest of Grays Lake and separated from it by low hills; the outlet of Grays Lake flows into Willow Creek a dozen miles or so before that stream finally empties into the Snake. The phrase "Grays Hole" was apparently applied by the early trappers to the entire upland area lying between the main Blackfoot River on the west and the Salt River on the east. For example, Warren Angus Ferris, an employee of the American Fur Company and an acquaintance of John Grey, wrote on May 8, 1832 of his journey from Sheep Rock on the great bend of the Bear River towards the Snake River:

We passed north westward, through a plain intersected by
a number of streams, flowing through deep canals of cut
rock, which unite to form Gray's Creek which is likewise
confined between barriers of cut rock. This valley or
rather district is called Gray's Hole, after John Gray...
(as quoted in Lovell 1963:47).

On the basis of Ferris's description and familiarity with this part of the uplands, the senior writer would guess that Grays Hole may have referred specifically to the dissected lava fields lying between the Blackfoot Mountains and the Caribou Range north and west of the Grays Lake basin. At any rate, "Grays Lake" is a very apt place name, far more so than the one that came into use later in the century.

At the time the North West and Hudson's Bay Companies merged, there was renewed interest in the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains by American trappers, and they were soon found there in increasing numbers, much to the dismay of the British. The increase in American trappers was due in part to the rendezvous system established in the early 1820s by Andrew Henry and William Ashley. The first rendezvous was held on the Henry's Fork of the Green River in Wyoming in 1825; the last, on the Popo Agie River near Lander, Wyoming, in 1840. There were two held in the Teton Valley (Pierre's Hole), one in 1829 and one in 1832. The latter is best known because of a battle that took place at that time in the Teton Valley between the trappers and a party of Gros Ventre Indians. This was also the first rendezvous attended by Nathaniel Wyeth, a Boston merchant, who had come west looking for business opportunities.

Wyeth returned east with plans for supplying goods for the 1834 rendezvous to be held on the Ham's Fork of the Green River. When he arrived at the 1834 rendezvous with supplies, he found that the trappers' needs had already been taken care of. After spending a few days there, Wyeth set out for the Columbia River. He journeyed west, past the present site of Soda Springs on the Bear River, and continued to a point near the confluence of the Portneuf and Snake Rivers, where he decided to build a fort and establish trade with the Indians. The building was named Fort Hall in honor of Henry Hall, a senior partner in Wyeth's company. For various reasons, trading did not prosper and the fort was finally sold to the Hudson's Bay Company a few years later. Ironically, the Oregon country would soon open to large-scale American emigration via the Oregon Trail, which entered Idaho at the extreme southeastern corner. The trail followed the Bear River to Soda Springs, continued northwestward across the upper end of the Portneuf River, down the Ross's Fork of the Snake to Fort Hall, and from there followed the general course of the Snake across southern Idaho. In the late 1830s, some Oregon-bound missionaries went north from Soda Springs, passed Grays Lake and then swung west toward Fort Hall. By 1846, enough settlers had reached the Willamette Valley in Oregon to give the United States a basis for settlement of the Oregon question with Great Britain. By 1848, nearly 12,000 emigrants had followed the Oregon Trail to the Oregon country.

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The Lander Road and the Salt Road

The Lander Road was a portion of the government-built "Fort Kearney, South Pass and Honey Lake Wagon Road" that detoured to the north of the Oregon Trail near South Pass, crossed the Smith's Fork of the Bear River, then the Salt River, a tributary of the South Fork of the Snake, went up Stump Creek and Terrace Canyon in the Caribou Range, emerged at the southern end of the Grays Lake basin, passed around the south end of Grays Lake, and from there went northwestward to the Ross's Fork, where it rejoined the main Oregon Trail. Although this was a longer, more expensive and more difficult route to construct than one further south through Utah, it had certain important advantages: forage for stock, water, game, wood, and a generally healthful environment (Harstad 1966:15). Route-finding and construction were carried out between 1857 and 1860 under the direct supervision of Frederick West Lander, a Department of the Interior engineer. Some 13,000 emigrants, accompanied by large herds of cattle, passed over the Lander Road the first year that it was open. Although completion of the first transcontinental railway in the 1860s resulted in rapid decline of emigrant travel over the trail, there was still emigrant traffic over the cut-off as late as 1910-1912.

The most difficult parts of the Lander Road were those encountered between South Pass and the head of Terrace Canyon in the Caribou Range. Once over the Caribou Range divide, travelers along the route did not linger very long in the Grays Lake basin, but usually rolled on towards the Ross's Fork and Fort Hall. Mr. Charles Cummings, one of the first travelers over the cut-off in the summer of 1859, described this part of the journey as follows (as quoted in Harstad 1966:16):

                SUNDAY, JULY 24th

Morning cloudy & continued cloudy all day; occasionly
a little showery. The rode followed the valey till noon.
We nooned at the mouth of a canyon [Kinni-Kinnike Creek
Canyon] that ran into the mountains. A creek running through
the canyon which I think is a tributary of Salt River. We
crossed the stream 5 or 6 times. Passed an Indian ranch,
& camped about 1 1/2 miles from it on a little bottom. Prety
fair grass, good water & plenty of pine wood by going about
80 rods for it. We have travled in sight of snow for nearly
3 weeks, sometimes the same snow being visiable for 3 or 4 days.

                    JULY 25th

Continued going up the canyon untill noon. A great
many places the road (is) just wide enough between the mountains
to pass. Here the rode has been worked a great deal.
Colonel Lander is but a few miles ahead with his men trying
to do justice to other parts of the rode. We nooned at the
hed of the canyon. The rest of the day was a little down
hill. About 3 o'clock left the mountains & struck on to a
very nice valley. In this valey camped.

                    JULY 26th

The rode kept the valley till noon, sometimes would go
over the hills, but it is prairie & should think it the same
valey. We nooned by a large pond [John Grey's Lake] which
is at the head of the valey. I should think the pond was
somewhere between 2 & 5 miles across. It is hard to tell.
I would not like to say, eny how. Flags & rushes grow at
the edges of the pond & at places extend some distance. It
is full of ducks & I saw 3 swans. Shot at them several times
but was to(o) far off. In the afternoon the rode kept arround
the pond for 4 or 5 miles, then followed up a ravine & went
over the hill into a nice little valley watterd by Antelope
Creek [possibly a branch of the Blackfoot]. We left the creek
expecting to camp by the foot of the mountain, but finding no
water we agen raised the hills. Finding no-water we were
obliged to keep on. Seeing the prospect for wood ahead rather
dubious, we lashed on severall large dry popple poles under
the wagoon & travled on. Kep traveling till dark. Here we
came to a nice creek [possibly the headwaters of the Port Neuf]
with good grass, & I assure you & all the rest of mankind that
it was very acceptable.

An important mineral resource often noted by travelers along the Lander Road were the salt springs on Stump Creek in the Caribou Range, which proved to be of considerable commercial value, especially since there was now a good road—the Lander Road—over which the salt could be transported. J.H. Stump and B. F. White formed a partnership and began producing salt at the Oneida Salt Works on Stump Creek in 1866. Gold miners also used the Lander Road at this time (the 1860s) to get into Montana, because the Wyoming-to-Montana roads were blocked by Indians. By 1879, the Salt Works were producing over one million pounds of salt per year, which was shipped everywhere, but mostly to the gold mines in central Idaho and southern Montana. The salt was hauled by hundreds of horse or ox-drawn wagons from the Salt Works over the Lander Road to a road connecting Soda Springs with the Taylor Bridge at Idaho Falls (Eagle Rock). From there, the salt went west to Boise, as well as north to Montana. That part of the route leading from the Salt Works past the south end of Grays Lake to Taylor Bridge on the Snake River became known as the "Salt Road" (Lovell 1963:142).

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Travel and Commerce through the Uplands

Beginning in the 1860s, most of the travel and commerce through the uplands was between Soda Springs and points along the main stem of the Snake, mainly Eagle Rock (Idaho Falls) and Fort Hall. Soda Springs was among the lesser stopovers for traffic originating at Salt Lake City and other points in northern Utah. According to Lovell (1963:143), "The road from Soda Springs to Eagle Rock by way of Gray's or Willow Creek was an alternate route up the valley, and a favorite one for traffic coming in from the east." A short-lived, locally-organized mail route followed the same general route in 1863-1864 (Clark 1941). During the 1870s, large herds of cattle were being driven eastward from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho through southern Idaho to railroad points in Wyoming. This stock trail (Goodale's Cutoff) led over the Salt Road to Grays Lake and followed the Lander Road into Wyoming (Clark 1941). Except for the impact on the local vegetation, there are no other enduring marks of this cattle trail through the uplands.

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The Discovery of Gold and the Development of Ranching in the Grays Lake Locality

In the summer of 1870, placer gold was discovered in the mountains directly east of the Grays Lake marsh. The mining district was called Cariboo after Jesse Fairchilds, generally known as Cariboo Fairchilds, because he had worked earlier in the Cariboo mines of British Columbia. Mount Pisgah, where the gold was discovered, was renamed Cariboo Mountain; the spelling was changed to Caribou when the Caribou National Forest was created in 1907. News of the discovery spread fast and by the autumn of 1870, there were many gold seekers on the mountain. However, there were problems in recovering the gold, and laborers were in short supply. Chinese miners were encouraged to participate in the undertaking, and various labor-saving equipment also was brought in. The discovery of lode, as well as placer, gold in 1874 made the Cariboo districts all the more attractive to miners. A decade later, the population of Cariboo City on the east slope of the mountain rivaled the population of Eagle Rock on the Snake River, but soon after, the amount of gold recovered quickly began to decline, as did the number of miners and mining operations on the mountain. However, in their heyday, the Cariboo mines provided a definite economic stimulus to the development of the upper Snake country, particularly in the vicinity of Grays Lake.

According to historic notes on file in the Caribou National Forest office, "The first settler in the Grays Lake Basin was a man by the name of Garber who established a ranch on Willow Creek in 1870[,] kept a few cattle and horses but made his living principally by selling fish, caught in the small streams, to the miners in Caribou Basin." By the end of the 1870s, other settlers had moved into the basin and cattle ranching became an important business, "the Caribou mines [furnishing] a market for [the] considerable beef that was raised around the lake" (Clark 1941:133). At this time, the latter was known as John Day's Lake and the outlet as John Day's Creek (St. John 1879). Small communities began springing up in the basin, and by 1888, a post office was established at the present site of Gray, which is just north of the Grays Lake NWR headquarters on the east side of the marsh. "John Day" was the requested name for the post office; however, the name approved by the postal service was "Gray's," which was officially changed to Gray in 1892 (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers 1958:187). At the northeast corner of the marsh, a store, post office, eating house, and blacksmith shop were established at a place named Herman, which is still shown on most Idaho maps, but which no longer exists. The last remaining parts of a store and service station were torn down and removed in 1979 or 1980. Both "towns" and ranches were built away from the fluctuating levels of the Grays Lake marsh, outside the present boundaries of the modern-day Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and all on the east side at the foot of the Caribou Range.

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Grays Lake in the 20th Century

None of the preceding events had nearly the impact on the Grays Lake marsh as its inclusion in the government-sponsored Fort Hall irrigation project just after the turn of the century. Prior to 1906, there does not appear to have been any deliberate effort to increase or decrease the water level in the marsh. For example, in his 1877 geological survey of the Teton Division, Orestes St. John noted that the Grays Lake Outlet, which he called John Day's Creek, rose "in a shallow lake of uncertain or variable extent, according to the season, its borders being occupied by extensive levels of marsh, margined by fields of tule, and treacherous bog" (St. John 1879:350). Physical alteration of the marsh was undertaken in 1906 by Barzilla Clark of Idaho Falls, who began construction of a canal and a series of drainage ditches to divert water from the southern end of the marsh into Meadow Creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot River. In 1907, the government purchased from Clark the right to divert the waters of Grays Lake into the Blackfoot River drainage, along with the partly-constructed canal connecting the two, as a part of the Fort Hall irrigation project. When that project was completed, 26,000 acre-feet of water were diverted through Clark's cut to the newly-formed Blackfoot Reservoir by means of two diversion dams (Madsen 1980:162-165). The Clark's cut and connecting drainage ditches are shown on most modern maps of the Grays Lake basin. An earthen fill dam across the Grays Lake Outlet channel is also shown on the USGS 7.5' Herman, Idaho quadrangle.

Substantial withdrawals of water from Grays Lake, combined with the low annual precipitation in the basin, eventually had severe adverse impacts on the wildlife inhabiting the marshlands. There were occasions when the marsh literally dried up and fire ravaged large areas of it. After a long struggle and considerable controversy, a wildlife refuge within the former marshlands was set aside in 1965 by authority of the Secretary of the Interior after approval of the boundary by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. However, Grays Lake remains part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Hall irrigation project.

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Summary and Recommendations

Most of the activities that took place within the Grays Lake Wildlife Refuge during historic time left little mark on the scene. These activities consisted mainly of trapping fur-bearing animals in the early years, an activity which continued well into the 20th century, and ranching, which is still the predominant activity on the perimeter of the refuge. That part of the historic Lander Road, Salt Road, and cattle trail which passed around the southern end of the marsh and is within the refuge boundary is not on the National Register of Historic Places, probably because it is poorly preserved here. Those parts of the trail occurring on or adjoining National Forest lands, where they are better preserved, are on the National Register. An informal survey made within the past several years by Larry Jones of the Idaho Historical Society failed to turn up any historic sites or buildings in the immediate vicinity of the refuge, does not appear to qualify as a National Register site at this time. Despite these seemingly negative findings, it might be worthwhile to search for any remaining evidence of the Lander Trail, Salt Road, and old cattle trail at the southern end of the refuge unit, and also for any so-called "trappers' cabins" or other defunct structures within the refuge and attempt to determine their age and purpose. Some of these may be known to older residents of the Grays Lake basin. Oral histories should be collected from these residents regarding the structures and related matters; also, land records should be researched.

Only one prehistoric site has been recorded within the refuge boundaries, an isolated chipped stone point, but there are strong indications that other prehistoric cultural resources exist within the refuge boundaries. Bear Island and any other well-drained land within the refuge should be systematically inventoried before all remaining surface indications of prehistoric sites are removed by collectors. As indicated by accidental local discoveries, there appears to be considerable potential for buried Early Man materials in the late Pleistocene deposits beneath and around the perimeter of the extant marshlands. Prior to undertaking any ground-disturbing work, it might be worthwhile to have archaeological test excavations carried out in the area(s) to be disturbed.

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