Visiting the Railroad on Stilts-Grangeville to Cottonwood

Last summer, we picked up our grandkids in Kamiah, then drove up the mountain to Grangeville. Everyone thought were going home to Boise, but I wanted to visit the railroad on stilts.

On previous trips to the area, I became mesmerized by the Camas Valley Railroad. I even spent time on Google, learning all I could about the railroad on stilts. This time around, I wanted to do some exploring and show the kiddies history up close.
The first leg of our trip was a 17-minute drive from Grangeville to Cottonwood. Parallel to US 95-N and to the left side of the highway, one can see the raised berm of the now defunct railway. Every so often, heavy wooden timbers spanning a gully or roadbed hinted at what was to come.
Arriving at Cottonwood, the kids pointed out the Dog Bark Park Bed & Breakfast.Dog Bark Park B&B-Cottonwood, Idaho Needless to say, it’s a B&B, in the shape of a Dog! We’ve never stayed there, but it’s on the bucket list.
We continued the drive through Camas Prairie. Halfway between Cottonwood and the old town of Ferdinand, we passed Frei Lane. From this vantage point, one gets a glimpse of one of the wooden trestles, that span the rolling hillside.
Dog Bark Park Image, Copyright © 2017 by R.H. Vincent. All Rights Reserved.
Wooden Trestle-Attribution Vance Boyer-
Creative Commons License-

Railroad on Stilts-Camas Valley Railroad

What’s better to see, than a railroad on stilts? Nothing! That’s my conclusion, after seeing part of the amazing Camas Prairie Railroad last year.

The nickname “Railroad on Stilts,” refers to a section of the defunct Camas Prairie Railroad of northern Idaho. In one five-mile section, there are more than a dozen wooden trestles. Each one assumes a different height and length, as determined by steep canyon walls.
The Union Pacific and Northern Pacific owned and operated the line. Constructed in 1908, the railway on stilts, operated for 92 years. It transported agriculture and timber from Central Idaho to the Pacific Northwest.
The scenic and spectacular scenery of the railway on stilts spawned interest by Hollywood. In 1975, filming took place, for Charles Bronson’s Breakheart Pass. In 1999, portions of the movie the Wild Wild West were also filmed.
Featured Image Copyright © 2017, By R.H. Vincent. All Rights Reserved.

The Battle of White Bird Canyon, Idaho

In 1877 a small band of Nez Perce sought revenge on settlers for a murder of some of their own in 1875. The settlers, in turn, requested intervention by the military.

The Battle of White Bird Canyon took place below what locals know as White Bird Hill. It’s anything but a hill, though. The summit of the “hill”-(4,425 ft.) is a mountain pass, in north central Idaho. It stands midway between the small community of White Bird and Grangeville, Idaho.

At about the 2,700 ft. mark is small pull-out. Overseeing the canyon’s rim, stands a shelter, for visitors. It contains information on how, why and when the battle took place and shows a map of the area.

White Bird Battefield Close-up
The V shaped gut between the two high slopes is where the Battle took place.

Without binoculars, it’s easy to see the location of the battle. A five-mile long canyon, 1 mile wide.

In 1877 a small band of Nez Perce sought revenge on settlers for a murder of some of their own in 1875. The settlers, in turn, requested intervention by the military.

A garrison of Calvary and volunteers from Fort Lapwai, gave pursuit, lead by General Howard. Knowing this, the main tribe of Nez Perce moved from their meeting place at Camas Prairie to Salmon River country.

Cooler heads of the tribe tried to initiate a truce. Before

Nez Perce Chief Joseph
Nez Perce Chief Joseph

the meeting could take place, a shot rang out from one of the volunteers.  In response, an Army Trumpeter was killed.

Like the Nez Perce, Capt. Perry of the First Calvary had prepositioned some of his men in case things went wrong. Without his trumpeter, he lost communication with other units. Because of this he dismounted and set up a skirmish line.

In the ensuing battle, most of the volunteers grew afraid and deserted their positions. Those that made it to the Calvary on the ridges, retreated in panic.

Thirty-four soldier’s died along with 3 Nez Perce.   Knowing General Howard would pursue them the Nez Perce fled across the Salmon River. It took another four long months before Howard would catch up to them.

*To read more, check out the .pdf of “Forlorn Hope”:  A Study of the Battle of White Bird Canyon Idaho and the Beginning of the Nez Perce Indian War. (This account contains a court inquiry after the battle with the surviving members and gives excellent first-hand accounts).

*Another great .pdf resource comes from the U.S. Army-“Staff Ride Handbook and Atlas Battle of White Bird Canyon 17 June 1877.”


Panoramic View of White Bird Canyon