Trail of the Month: August 2006
Weiser River Trail, Idaho
The Weiser River Trail is the longest trail in Idaho extending 84 miles down the central, western side of the state. The trail offers nature enthusiasts a vast space to enjoy a variety of animals and plants while viewing the varying geography of the hilly and rocky terrain.
This extensive rail-trail follows the Weiser River along many of its miles and includes 1,400 acres of wildlife habitat. You can often spot wildlife like deer, elk, heron, a variety of birds and wild turkey while venturing along the trail. The southern end of the trail is mainly comprised of rolling hills and open canyons while the northern end tends to be more densely forested.
Beginning on the southern end of the old Union Pacific Railroad and the Idaho Northern Railroad Corridor, the trail has its roots in the city of Weiser, an agricultural town with a population of roughly 4,600. The town is known for its annual Old Time Fiddler's Contest, a week-long event internationally renowned as the most prestigious fiddling contest in the world, hosting nearly 350 competitors.
Continuing north on the trail, you will come across the Weiser River Canyons lining the banks of the Weiser River between the cities of Weiser and Midvale. The Galloway Dam Site is a part of the lower canyon and a popular fishing spot on the trail. North of the canyons you'll run into the small town of Midvale where you can call Eva's Place—a trailside bed-and-breakfast—home if you're on the trail for more than a day-trip. The next scenic site that you cannot miss is eight miles from Midvale in the city of Cambridge. Cambridge is the home of the deepest gorge in North America, Hells Canyon, which has a 10-mile wide expanse that demonstrates the differing terrain, climate and elevation of this rural landscape.
Nearly 21 miles up the trail you'll reach Council with a population of 800 people. The surrounding Council Valley is a beautiful, open, green space with wooded hills, farms and ranches. The city is said to have been named after the Shoshoni Indians who inhabited the area before the arrival of western settlers. Visiting pioneers told stories of the Indians gathering in the valley with their horses. To the pioneers, this seemed to represent an Indian council meeting, resulting in its current city name, Council.
The trail north of Council has a rougher surface which volunteers from the Friends of Weiser River Trail are currently working on to improve for future use. If you do continue north you will pass through the mill town of Tamarack and then slightly further up you will find the city of Rubicon at the trail's end.
If you are interested in camping, you can visit the Evergreen Campground, approximately five miles south of Tamarack and 14 miles from Council. The campground is an alternative to camping on the trail, which is not advised by park officials. There are restrooms, picnic areas and fishing spots on the campgrounds and the season runs from June to September.
As the year 2007 approaches, the Friends of Weiser River Trail will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their organization, started in 1997. The Friends hope to keep extending the trail by connecting the current 84 miles, with the unused railroad right-of-way from Rubicon to New Meadows, adding nearly eight miles more to the already lengthy trail.