~ Snake River Canyon ~

Back in 2002, I had driven the Hells Canyon Road along the Snake River where it is the border between Idaho and Oregon. When I saw a road up the Snake River Canyon where it is the border beyween Idaho and Washington, I decided to take that drive. The road follows the river closely for about 25 miles up into the canyon.

While I was on this drive I received a very pleasant surprise.

Snake River

The Canyon

Because I was driving on the Washington side of the Snake, most photos are of the Idaho side. I was surprised at the number of people living and ranching in the canyon.

The canyon wall were magnificent and already starting to cover in green.

A beautiful day

A boater enjoying the day and the river

There's a cave up there

Two Canadian geese skimming the river


My surprise

Buffalo Eddy and Nez Perce Petroglyphs

There are many eddies along the Snake River. Nez Perce Indians would use the circular currents to cross, when the river was high. You can actually watch the water flowing in a counterclockwise direction here.

In the photo on the right the water on the near side flows south, while that on the far side flows north. At either end of the eddy are crossing currents. It is Nature's way of making travel easier and safer. Chief Joseph made use of an eddy to cross his people heading from the Wallowa Valley in Oregon to the reservation in Idaho before the outbreak of hostilities in 1877.

Buffalo Eddy Trail

The trail is short but travels far into a mysterious past. The level path leads 200 yards to the edge of the Snake River, where clusters of rocks display hundreds of ancient images pecked in stone. Ancestors of today's Nez Perce, Nimi'pu, created the petroglyphs between 4,500 and 300 years ago.

Because they were painstakingly created, large numbers of images pecked into the rocks on both sides of the river hold powerful significance. To the Nimi'pu, it is not necessary to study or understand them in order to repsect them and hold them sacred.

Some of the shapes look familiar, bighorn sheep, deer or elk. It is tempting to speculate on their meaning. Whatever their intent, the artists and their people left no written record and the specific significance of the petroglyphs remains elusive.

The images are pecked into the rocks as if with an arrow or knife point. This is different from prtroglyphs I have seen elsewhere. Those other sites utilized rubbing or painting as a medium.

The large number of images found here is clear evidence of longtime occupation. The location suggests that the petroglyphs were meant to be seen by any passerby, implying that this site was an important communal spiritual place. These petroglyphs continue to bear witness to an ancient past and provide a spiritual connection for today's Nimi'pu.

More petroglyphs are on these rocks on the Idaho side

End of the road

I see Mama Bear with her cubs in the photo on the left. The right photo shows the road heading up into the mountains after crossing into Idaho. Where it goes, I have no idea. Neither the road nor the bridge are any of my maps. The Chief Joseph Wildlife Area does require an entrance fee and perhaps it extends into Idaho. However, I was heading to Oregon to visit the gravesite of Old Chief Joseph, so I didn't explore farther. This was, for me, the end of this trail. It was a very enjoyable drive with beautiful scenery and one very pleasant surprise in the Nez Perce petroglyphs.

The following photos were taken on the return trip.

There's another cave up there. The cave is the dark spot near the center of the photo on the left.

Music is "No Place That Far"

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