About the Area
Along the Gold Rush Historic Byway
Rich 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.
Begins at the junction of U.S. 12 and Idaho 11 on the Clearwater River
42.5 miles. Allow 2.5 hours round trip.
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
- 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; Idahos
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.
Three RV parks in Pierce, two in Weippe; campgrounds in Fraser Park
and both Hollywood and Campbells Pond. There are many camping
areas in the surrounding Clearwater National Forest and the North Fork
of the Clearwater River recreational area.
Full services in Weippe and Pierce; partial services in Greer. Headquarters
has no services.
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 Fords Creek, named
after a pioneer wood dealer from Lewiston.
Soon after the Corps of Discoverys 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
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.
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