History & Culture

Explorers, miners, ranchers, and loggers—these are just some of the colorful characters who bring the past alive on the Boise National Forest. Today, historic mining camps and homesteads are visual reminders of this heritage.

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Idaho as early as twelve thousand years ago. Today, the Shoshone, Paiute, and Nez Perce Tribes continue to exercise off-reservation treaty rights such as fishing, hunting, and plant gathering in the Boise National Forest.

Shortly after Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery explored Idaho, British and American fur trappers moved into the area. The Hudson’s Bay Company sent its “Snake Brigades” to trap out the Snake River and its tributaries. In 1818, a party of fur trappers for the company named the Payette River in honor of their comrade Francois Payette.

In 1862, gold was discovered on Grimes and Mores Creeks. Thousands of miners converged on Boise Basin, where they built Idaho City, Centerville, Placerville, and Pioneerville. Idaho’s mining camps, like those elsewhere in the West, were remarkable for their ethnic diversity, with many miners from Europe and China. In fact, by 1870, Chinese comprised thirty percent of Idaho’s population.

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Boise National Forest to protect timber and watershed resources in southwestern Idaho. The Forest Service added lookouts, campgrounds, and roads, assisted by hundreds of young men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, Deadwood Lookout and Atlanta Ranger Station were built by the CCC—now available for overnight rental.