We were looking at a 20 acre parcel of lane for sale just off 87 on the way to Quake Lake and became intrigued by the unnamed canyon hidden behind the property. So we mounted an expedition with our friend Dennis Tivel and hiked up the canyon to a beautiful meadow we named Rachel’s Meadow.
This canyon is completely wild and a very pleasant hike. Here are a few pics of the trip. The meadow is about 1.5 mi up the canyon. Fortunately there is an old overgrown ranch road we could follow up the canyon to the meadow.
We have built up a Caltop map for the Henrys Lake cabin blog which contains hikes, kayak trips and drives in this Henrys Lake area.
Click on this link https://caltopo.com/m/LQ47 to see the map above. If you click on one of the trips shown, you can see some useful information such as length and elevation profile.
The various trips are split into the following categories
Red trips indicate fun drives suitable for a VW camper or SUV
Blue indicates easy hikes 1-2 miles long
Yellow indicates full day hikes up to 8 miles long
Green indicates ‘bushwacking’ hikes overland or on poorly marked trails.
Black indicate wishlist hikes that we haven’t yet hiked.
Orange indicates kayak trips we have been on.
Caltopo is a wonderful tool which can be used to maps annotate maps. It is well worth the effort to use it and also how learn how to make custom maps.
Google Earth Trips
We can also display these trips in Google Earth. This is a great way to inspect a trip either to prepare for a trip or after you have been on it to see just where you were. To do so, you need to copy the features in the Caltopo map to a .kml file used in Google Earth
The Google Earth image above shows the main Targhee Creek trail in orange. A short loop trail is shown in purple which connects up to the Dry Creek trail shown in purple. Also shown is an overland hike from the cabin which intersects with the Dry Creek Trail.
To get to the trailhead, take highway 20 to the Targhee Creek gravel road and follow it to the trailhead which is marked.
We took a nice dirt road up to the Lionhead trailhead yesterday. It was a beautiful drive up into the high country behind the cabin to a long ridge, a bit like the Sawtell hike. The path on the pic above shows the road you take called W Denny Creek which you find from the highway. We made it ok in our VW camper, but the road can be a bit rough. Unfortunately my pictures didn’t come out so here is a pic of Sandy enjoying the back porch.
I found the story of Elma Winnemucca Smith fascinating. She lived on Henrys lake in the late 1800s. The text is copied from the Caldera National Monument page
Elma Winnemucca Smith
Elma Winnemucca Smith, one of the most interesting people to have lived in Island Park, about 1895. She was a true Indian princess being the daughter Chief Winnemucca and granddaughter of Chief Truckee of the Piute tribe of Nevada, California, Idaho, and Oregon. Her sister Sarah Winnemucca is one of the most important figures in American history. I will post a link about Sarah in the comments. Sarah and Elma spent most of their childhoods in the Euro-American community, particularly in Marysville, California. Elma married a Euro-American man named John Smith who came to the Virginia City, Montana mines only to strike out and then to Henry’s Lake to work on the Dick Rock Ranch. Elma and John tried to have children but two died in childbirth. Elma liked having a baby antelope and would capture one in the spring soon after it was born. She normally tied a red ribbon around its neck so hunters would not mistake it for game. Sarah Winnemucca, Elma’s rich and famous sister, began spending summers with Elma at Henry’s Lake in her humble cabin (a photo will be posted) in the later years of her life. To give an idea or how rich and famous Sarah was, she once took Elma on a trip to southern Nevada and the sisters traveled by Pullman car from the depot at Monida to Nevada and back. Traveling by Pullman car was akin to traveling by private jet today. Elema’s husband John died in 1889 at Henry’s Lake. Elma adopted two boys whose parents had been murdered by Indians. Their names were Ed and Will Staley. Will came up missing without a trace, one day, and Elma was accused of murdering him. Sarah, who was living with Elma at the time, died a few months later. This was in 1891. Despite suspicions of Indian poison, Elma’s closest Euro-American friends stood by her, got her an attorney, and all charges were dropped. Later, when the surviving Staley brother grew up, Elma helped Ed Staley to buyout Gilman’s Sawtelle’s commerical fishery from Gilman’s son Eben probably with monies left by her wealthy sister Sarah. It is from Ed that Staley Springs gets its name. Ed Staley cared for Elma until her death in 1920. Both Elma and Sarah are buried somewhere near Henry’s Lake. Since Henry’s Lake was later raised with a dam, the graves may be under the lake.
Elma Winnemucca Smith, the sister of Sarah Winnemucca, in 1919 at the age of 70. Elma lived at Henry’s Lake for most of her adult life where her famous sister Sarah would come and spend the summer. The two women spent their days gathering plants and picking berries on the shores of Henry’s Lake and also kept a large garden. Elma seems to have had a lively sense of humor. As a girl, she had staged tableaux vivante with her sister depicting scenes from the life of Pocahontas. So the irony of her marriage to a man named John Smith was not lost on her. She took to calling herself calling “Pokey Smith,” which is the name most of the white settlers knew her by. Lillian Culver, a settler in Centennial Valley, refers to her in her diary as “Mrs. Indian Smith.”
In January of 1889, Elma’s husband John died from drinking chokecherry wine. Her famous and relatively wealthy sister Sarah began spending summers with Elma thereafter. One day, Sarah spotted a party of Bannocks on the old trail that skirted the lake. She generously invited them to dinner at the cabin. All seemed to go well, but the Bannocks may have been harboring grudges toward Sarah because of her role as scout for the Americans in the Bannock War of 1878. In any case, after their guests departed, Sarah had a premonition of danger. She and Elma hid in a haystack and watched as the Bannocks returned and set the cabin on fire.
In the late summer of 1891, Sarah traveled to Bozeman to serve as tour guide for a wealthy New York woman, continuing to cash in on her fame, and was back at Henry’s Lake on October 16 of 1891. Her and Elma were enjoying a large meal when Sarah collapsed and then died late in the evening. The death was attributted to the chokecherry wine the two women had fermented that summer and the same type of wine that killed Elma’s husband a couple of years prior.
Elma still had the Staley boys she and John had adopted after their parents had been murdered by Indians in the nearby Madison Valley. One of the Staley boys came up missing just a few years after Sarah’s death, however. Such was life in the West of the late 19th century. When Ed Staley, the surviving boy, reached maturity, Elma purchased Gilman Sawtelle’s commercial fishery on the west side of Henry’s Lake, probably with her famous sister’s money, at what is today called Staley Springs after Ed Staley who operated it for years. Ed cared for his mother until her death in 1925. This 1919 photo of Elma is almost certainly at Staley Springs.
The map below which shows Henrys Lake, Yellowstone and the Tetons is the map produced by the 1872 Hayden Expedition which led to the establishment of Yellowstone Park and the US park system. The Hayden expedition sought to complete the exploration of the headwaters of the Missouri river, originally started by Lewis and Clarke in 1806. Click on the map below for a high resolution map
The Hayden Survey pictures of Henrys Lake by William Henry Jackson
The Hayden Survey of 1872 described Henrys Lake:
“Henrys Lake, a shallow body of water, about 3 by 2 miles in diameter, and full of small, scattered islands, and the source of Henrys Fork. It is well stocked with most excellent trout. At this point are four remarkable passes through the range, Tyghee and Red Rock, on the east and west; Raynolds, or the Madison, on the north; and Henrys Lake, on the south. Elevation of lake, 6,492 feet; Tyghee Pass, 7,063 feet; Red Rock Pass, 7,271 feet; Raynolds, 7,911 feet. The view is taken from the north, looking south, over Sawtell’s ranch. Fremont County, Idaho. 1872.”
The rather interesting book Floating islands mentions the floating Islands of Henrys lake.
The book further describes the Floating Islands in the quote below
A description of a 300-foot floating island in Henrys Lake from “Floating Islands,”
The Friend; A Religious and Literary Journal, April 23, 1887,
The outer edge was a tough sward, and so thin that it gave down under the weight of a man and let him into the water boot-top deep.
“An Idaho Floating Island,” Current Literature, May, 1889
On the edge of the floating forest, in summer time, may be seen a luxuriant growth of blue-jointgrass, the roots of which form so compact a mass as to support the weight of a horse. Anynumber of men have no difficulty in walking about on it. Further back among the trees youmight build a big house and make a garden and do whatever you please. You would be just assolid and safe as though there were not 50 or 100 or 200 feet of water under you.You pitch your tent some evening on one side near the island and are pleased with thebeautiful prospect. There is the island only a few rods from you, covered with trees and grass.The next morning you wake up and the island is gone. You look far away to the other side andthere it is, its trees bending gracefully in the wind. Along in the afternoon it returns, or it maytake an easy jaunt off at an oblique angle from you.
“Lake Henry’s Moving Island,” Adirondack News, July 13, 1889,
The surface is solid enough to support the weight of a horse anywhere, and there are places where a house could be built The wind blows the island about the lake, and it seldom remains twenty-four hours in the same place.
“Idaho’s Island Wonder,” Port Chester Journal, February 18, 1897
The edges of this floating island are thin, of course, but near the center it is several feet thick and of sufficient strength to support a good sized summer hotel, if someone could be found that would care to make such a venture. Old mountaineers who are well used to all kinds of queer things declared that the floating island of Henry Lake is the most wonderful thing to be seen in the mountain regions of the United States.
The tale that a man lived in a cabin he built in the late 19th century on one of these floating island is partially true. One island did have a crude cabin. When the lower Snake River valley was inundated by a dam in 1924, the islands were dynamited.
“Lake Residents Check Out Express Isles — Several Thompson Lake Islands Cut Loose in Storm, Sail into Residents’ Yards,”
Spokesman Review, December 18, 1995,
For one thing, they’re spongy. Really spongy.
“It’s like stepping onto a big mattress,” said lakeside homeowner Mark Johnson. “You can feel them move under your weight.”
“They’re very treacherous,” he said. “I wouldn’t trust them. You might walk along and fall through. Then you can’t get back up — you’re trapped.”
W.H. Jackson was a prolific photographer who visited Henrys Lake and Sawtells ranch in 1872.
The following description of Sawtell’s ranch is from this link
Sawtell’s Ranch on Henry’s Lake, 1871, as photographed by William Henry Jackson. Gilman Sawtell is second from right, leaning against the post of his cabin. His partner, Levi Wurtz, is furthest left. The third man from left, in dark coat, is Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, a well known geologist and explorer who is heading up what is known as the Hayden Expedition of 1871. The Hayden Expedition was a scientific expedition sent west by the US Congress to explore the Yellowstone region. The other men in this photo are Calvary soldiers from Fort Hall. The Hayden Expedition was given a military escort to protect them from, not only Indian attack, but from outlaws and road agents that roamed the West.
Sawtell and Wurtz came to Henry’s Lake only a few years before in 1867 to ranch cattle for the Montana Gold Rush towns of Virginia City, Bannack, and Helena. The flies on the marshy shores of Henry’s Lake proved to be too heavy for cattle but the two entrepreneurs quickly realized they could market Island Park’s abundant elk, moose, antelope, and Bighorn sheep to hungry miners in Montana. In the cooler months, they could harvest trout from Henry’s Lake. Gilman Sawtell built a wagon road from Virginia City to his ranch and would pack fish and game on ice and haul to the new mining towns. Some of the buildings in this photo are probably icehouses.
Yellowstone Park was created the following year in 1872 and Gilman Sawtell quickly entered the tourist business. Gilman Sawtell guided the first group of tourists on what became known as the Grand Loop in 1871, just months after this photo. Gilman Sawtell is widely credited by historians as Yellowstone’s first tour guide. Sawtell constructed a wagon road from his ranch, along the north shore of Henry’s Lake, over Targhee Pass, up the Madison River, and into the Lower Geyser Basin so that a crude road soon connected Virginia City to the geyser basins. That is, Old Faithful was quickly served by wagon or by coach on Sawtell’s road. Gilman Sawtell campaigned to be Yellowstone Park’s first Superintendent but was edged out by a wealthy and educated Montana banker named Nathanial Langford.
Indian troubles would stall development in the mid 70’s. Gilman Sawtell’s ranch suffered damage in 1877 when the Nez Perce war passed through and again in 1878 during the Bannock War. By 1879, the Utah Northern railroad was pushing north into Montana and a depot was built at Monida only 50 miles to the west. Gilman Sawtell’s ranch became a stage stop in 1880 when George Marshall began stage service into the new Marshal Hotel on the Firehole River in the Lower Geyser Basin not far from Old Faithful. The road into the west entrance of Yellowstone was, by far, the most traveled and most important road to Yellowstone since it was the most direct route to the Park’s signature attraction, Old Faithful, and since it was nearest to the population centers in Montana. By 1890, Butte, Montana held a population of near 100,000 and was the second largest city in the West. Only San Francisco was larger. Henry’s Lake and Island Park were famous for their beauty and their abundant game. Others would come in the 1880’s to exploit both.
Sawtell’s Ranch would eventually be sold to Elma Winnemucca Smith, a Paiute Indian princess and her adopted son, Edwin Staley and would become known as Staley Springs.
A few days ago we headed up to Mt Sawtell to hike along the ridge line of the Centennial Mtns (with our friends Bruce and Pat and their hiking goats Zack and Jesse). At some point on the trail, you cross over the continental divide from Idaho into Montana and the Hell Roaring Creek drainage. You can see the creek and the ridge line trail below in the Google Earth screenshot.
The spring is named for Jacob V. Brower who in 1896 declared it to be the source of the Missouri in The Missouri: Its Utmost Source. He visited the site in 1888 and buried a copper plate with his name and date.
The spring is 100 miles (200 km) further than the spot Meriwether Lewis reported in 1805 as the source of the river above Lemhi Pass on Trail Creek. Both sources are near the Continental Divide in Montana. It is 298.3 miles (480.1 km) upstream from where the name “Missouri River” is first used.
On August 21, 2017 the sun was eclipsed by the moon. A total eclipse was seen on a path across the US from the west coast to the east coast. We were able to observe the eclipse from a ridge high above the Snake river plaign, overlooking the Tetons and the high mountain meadows.
Sandy and I were joined by our 9 of our good friends. World traveler Jens von Schéele from Sweden; David and Jamie Squires from Port Angeles, Washington; Eric and Kumiko Rupp from Santa Cruz; Our friends Sue Munroe and Terry Merritt from the SF Bay Area and Sue’s sister Chris and her husband Larry Lovitt from McCall, Idaho. It was a wonderful group to experience this cosmic event with.
Jens, Chris and Larry
We camped at the Indian Meadows trailhead the night before the event in a beautiful meadow. We basically had the place to ourselves which was unexpected after all the hype
The next day we climbed about a thousand feet up the Rammell Mountain trail onto a ridge overlooking the Teton high country.
On the way up to the ridge, Sandy got a bit lost on the wrong trail and stumbled into a Blueberry patch and encountered two bears. Inspired by this situation, she climbed a boulder field in record time and managed to find the right trail. She was a pretty happy camper to find us on the ridge.
David Squires brought his astronomy gear including a Celestron telescope with solar filter.
As we waited for the eclipse, the sky gradually became darker and suddenly at totality the light disappeared as it became an eerie version of dusk.
David’s Amazing Pics
Unexpectedly the temperature dropped dramatically during the eclipse into the 40’s. After totality we were all rather cold and spent the next hour or so warming up on the rocks waiting for the sun to return to normal.
Cabin is surrounded by Serviceberry or Saskatoon Berry bushes, and late August is the perfect time to pick them, This year they are so lush that I was able to pick a quart in about 20 min from a single bush.
Serviceberries are a great food, rich in everything good for you. I love them raw, but they do have some seeds so they might be an aquired taste. The seeds are actually pretty good, I think the raw berries taste a bit like a cherry, grape and peanut all in one.
Apparently the service berry got its name because the coming of the flowers signaled the beginning of spring for the snowed in communities of the north, and their flowers were used in the funeral ‘services’ for those who departed during the long winter months.
Serviceberries are also known as Saskatoon berries, and in fact the name Saskatoon means this berry in Cree. So that is probably the best name to use. The native americans used Saskatoon berries to make pemmican, a long lasting winter staple.