“If you cut down a forest, it doesn’t matter how many sawmills you have if there are no more trees.”
“Idaho has more than 107,600 miles of river, of which 891 are designated as wild and scenic.” (National Wild and Scenic Rivers System) The Boise, Payette, Little Salmon, Salmon, Clearwater, Owyhee Rivers and so many others within the state all pour down from snow covered summits to supply moisture to a stunning array of vegetation. Giant ponderosa, Douglas Fir, White Pine, Cedar, all seemingly endless renewable treasures, drew lumbermen and fueled mill towns, perhaps none greater than Potlatch, once the world’s largest mill. Founded in 1905, it was a company town through and through. The mill supplied all that was needed by it employees; houses, a church, hotel, school, general store, recreational amenities and WORK. Modeled after company logging towns in Illinois, it ran full tilt until cheap timber fell short and logging profits started to fall in the 1970’s and 80’s. In 1981 the mill closed and the town was sold to the residents. Spending the night there, we found deep community pride in its history and a town that is in the midst of reinventing itself. Small by many standards, we found Potlatch, Idaho picturesque and a great place to camp as we made our way up the panhandle of Idaho.