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About the Area
Along the Gold Rush Historic Byway

Gold Rush Historic BywayRich in scenery, history, and wildlife, the route along Idaho Highway 11 begins in Greer at the junction of US 12 with an easy climb up the Greer Grade, providing a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Clearwater Valley. At the crest of the mountain lie the beautiful rolling fields of grains and grasses cultivated by local farmers. Just down the road is the historic town of Weippe, not far from where members of the Nez Perce Tribe met and fed starving members of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery in 1805.

Minutes later, the scenery changes again, as the vast fields transform into a lush forest thick with wildlife. Nestled among the trees is the town of Pierce, where early pioneers discovered gold in Idaho for the first time. It also boasts the state's inaugural government building, the old Shoshone County Courthouse.

Other attractions include a logging museum, the city library's artifact collection from the adventures of Chinese miners in the area, and five more historical sites featured along the byway.

Twelve miles north of Pierce is the village of Headquarters, marking the end of the Gold Rush Historic Byway and the beginning of the area's other "gold mine" – the majestic and seemingly endless Clearwater National Forest. Click here for map.

  • Location
    Begins at the junction of U.S. 12 and Idaho 11 on the Clearwater River at Greer.
  • Length
    42.5 miles. Allow 2.5 hours round trip.
  • Roadway
    Idaho 11 is a two-lane road with some passing lanes. It is well maintained with several turnouts for scenic viewing. It can be icy during winter months.
  • When to See It
    Year around. Summer offers camping, fishing, riding, and hiking areas. Winter provides skiing and snowmobiling on 350 miles of groomed and open trails, maintained weekly.
  • Special Attractions
    Lewis and Clark historical sites; Weippe Discovery Center; Idaho’s first county courthouse; Bradbury Logging Museum; Pierce City Library and historic downtown area; a Chinese cemetery; Bald Mountain Ski Area; and the Clearwater National Forest.
  • Camping
    Three RV parks in Pierce, two in Weippe; campgrounds in Fraser Park and both Hollywood and Campbell’s Pond. There are many camping areas in the surrounding Clearwater National Forest and the North Fork of the Clearwater River recreational area.
  • Services
    Full services in Weippe and Pierce; partial services in Greer. Headquarters has no services.

Gold Border

Lewis & Clark with Nez Perce Indians at WeippeWeippe
In earlier days the Weippe area was frequented by the Nez Perce Indians, who enjoyed the summer climate and profitable hunting grounds. They erected lodges, fished, hunted and dug the camas root in the surrounding area. In 1805, Lewis and Clark had their first encounter with the Nez Perce Indians on the Weippe Prairie, not far from the present townsite.

The word Weippe was originally spelled “Oy-ipe” by General Oliver Otis Howard, in his journals during the campaign against the Nez Perce and negotiations with Chief Joseph in 1877. Other spellings included Oy-iap and Wyap-p. Harry Wheeler, Nez Perce historian, believed that Weippe means a "very old place," "oy" means "all" in the Nez Perce language, but no meaning has been found for "iap". The Nez Perce also say it may have something to do with a spring of water or camas ground. The meaning of the name is still greatly debated.

The Homestead Act brought many families to the region and the area grew and thrived. Weippe was incorporated in December of 1964 and is located on the Gold Rush Historic Byway, Idaho Highway 11. The Weippe Prairie is one of eight registered national landmarks in the State of Idaho and is part of the National Lewis & Clark Historic Trail. It is a level meadow fringed by forest, and through it runs Jim Ford’s Creek, named after a pioneer wood dealer from Lewiston.

1860's Main Street Pierce with Hanging TreePierce
Soon after the Corps of Discovery’s expedition through the region, the fur trading industry came to Idaho. Then, in 1860, a party of gold seekers, led by Captain E. D. Pierce and a halfdozen others, was led by Jane, the daughter of Chief Timothy, through nearby mountains to Canal Creek. One of the party, Wilbur Bassett is credited with discovering the golden grains in the creek bed. The resulting rush, estimated at as many as 6,000 men, among them many Chinese, was reduced years later by another strike elsewhere. At that time, Pierce was actually located in what was then the Washington Territory. In 1861, Pierce became the first established town in Idaho, and the county seat of Shoshone County. In 1862, the county built a courthouse which was Idaho's first government building. The Idaho Territory was established in 1863 and the Pierce remained the Shoshone County Seat until 1885 when the county seat was moved to Murray. The courthouse still stands today, behind the J. Howard Bradbury Logging Museum.

In the 1890's, a father and son, C.D. and Nat Brown, came West seeking new areas of timber and found the "green gold" they sought in the largest stand of white pine and other coniferous types in north Idaho's Clearwater and Benewah counties and nearby hills. Word spread to their former workers in the timber depleted Great Lakes region, and many came out to establish homesteads which opened the land for lumbermen. In 1925 a railroad was built to facilitate hauling the harvest to mills, large and small, nearby. The logging industry is still a large part of the local economy.

Gold Border

Area Informational Links

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Pierce-Weippe Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 378 Weippe, ID 83553
Phone: (208) 435-4406

Gold Border

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Last Update: 18-May-2013

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