Idaho hikers, historians aim to uncover trail to gold mine

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Historians and hikers in Idaho have teamed up to uncover a 120-year-old route used by gold miners that was partially rediscovered near Thunder Mountain, the Idaho Statesman reported.

The Idaho Trails Association has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to survey three sections of the trail, which was originally about 50 miles (80 kilometers) long, according to Morgan Zedalis, assistant forest archaeologist for Payette National Forest’s Heritage Program.

The Heritage Program history of the trail said it was created after brothers Ben and Lou Caswell struck gold in the late 1890s in what is now part of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in southern Idaho.

The Caswells sold their mining claims to investor William H. Dewey in 1900, spurring a gold rush, officials said. William Campbell and W.A. Stonebraker then created a more accessible route for miners.

“There was no real easy way to get (to Thunder Mountain), especially for the miners north of the Main Salmon River in Florence, Dixie and those areas,” Zedalis told the Statesman.

The U.S. Forest Service historians, including Zedalis, are seeking to rediscover the original route of Three Blaze Trail, much of which is obscured by plant growth or burned by wildfires.

The Heritage Program identified three sections to investigate and partnered with the state association to scout the area. Experienced hikers John Platt, Art Troutner and Dave Beck helped find previously unidentified portions of the trail along Little Trout Creek.

“It’s over 100 years old, so it’s really hard to find trail tread that still exists,” Zedalis said. “We’re talking about a trail that was just a couple of inches of distinction from the ground. That stuff erodes pretty well.”

Zedalis said the hope is to nominate Three Blaze Trail to be part of the National Register of Historic Places and potentially a National Historic Trail like the Oregon, Lewis and Clark and Nez Perce trails that pass through the state.