Idaho wildfire reveals new stretch of Oregon Trail
September 2, 2008
BOISE, Idaho ” A wildfire that damaged or destroyed nearly 20 homes in Idaho last month also revealed remnants of the Oregon Trail.
Members of the Idaho Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association plan to mark portions of the pioneer trail now visible after the Aug. 25 fire.
Before the blaze, two parallel paths totaling about a half-mile had been covered by sagebrush and cheatgrass. The paths, which are light depressions in the ground, stretch across a field below a ridge where the homes burned.
The paths were discovered in satellite photographs taken days after the fire.
Association member Wally Meyer told the Idaho Statesman that the last wagon through southeast Boise probably crossed the plain about 1890 on the property, now owned by the Idaho Power Co., which is negotiating with the group to allow signs along the newly found paths.
“We are happy to help with this historic effort,” said Idaho Power spokeswoman Anne Alenskis.
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Investigators have concluded that an equipment failure on one of the company’s electricity lines ignited the fire.
During his 30-year career with the Bureau of Land Management, Meyer said he marked about 150 miles of migrant-trail remnants on public land in southwest Idaho.
The recent discovery is not a major surprise, given what’s known about the Oregon Trail’s route through Boise, Meyer said.
“Nobody’s ever really looked before,” Meyer told The Associated Press. “I’ve always kind of wondered. But it didn’t