Raft River Valley, Idaho & Utah
This is pioneer country. It is also where the Oregon and California Trails connected and crossed each other. Back in the 1849 – 1860 range, over 100,000 horse covered wagons traversed this valley along the California Trail from the origins of St Louis to the destination of California. The Raft River derived its name from the makeshift rafts that pioneers built to cross through the valley at the crossing of the Oregon Trail. The Oregon trail continued west and the California trail headed south into Nevada. There were battles with Native Americans that were recorded in nearby Massacre Rocks State Park where Shoshoni attacked wagon trains and killed the emigrants.
The Raft River itself is a tributary of the Snake River and is part of the Columbia River Basin. Land to the south of the Snake River is part of the Great Basin. The river is dry for most of the year as it is more of a snow and spring run off of surface water supply. The headwaters are mostly on the east side of the Albion Mountains. Two creeks drain into the river from surrounding Utah and Idaho mountain ridges – Clear Creek and Cassia Creek. Surrounded by ridges the valley is now used as ranching land associated with cattle. Since the area has a concentrated level of geothermal energy, it is now also used as a geothermal energy source which is important as we try to use other sources of energy that are not derived from oil reserves.The valley lies at 4,500 ft above sea level and the mountains rise to a height of 10,240 ft ( Cache Peak).
I first came to this beautiful valley in 1995 and to me it is the most special place. It is the place where I first saw a mountain lion as part of a study team. The Blackpine, Jim Sage, Sublet, Cotteral and Albion ridges are all abundant in big game wildlife. Apex predators such as mountain lions roam through the tree and rock covered slopes. Deer, antelope, moose, big horn sheep, elk roam through there as well. It is an excellent spot to see many different species of raptors. My good friend and mentor,Ken Jafek, is a resident of this valley and a lifelong outdoorsman. He has taught me a lot of what I now know about tracking and animal behavior. He is the historian of this place. And for me it is sort of a homecoming every time I visit this magnificent valley.