Stanley, Idaho -- As beautiful as the Sawtooth area is, the scenery wasn't enough to draw people here in the early days.
The harsh environment of the mountainous town is known for being the coldest place to live in the
lower 48 states.
That makes for some pretty interesting history lessons about the kind of people who would stick it out and call Stanley home.
"Well it's a pretty special story," said Gary Gadwa, President of the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association. "Before white man the Indians came here only in the summer becaues they thought of this as the land of the deep snows."
And indeed it was, but in the 1820s, some trappers got the great idea that treasure was hiding in that deep snow in the form of beaver pelts to be had. They were wrong.
"They came and they found the beaver trapping to be not that great," said Gadwa.
So for some thirty years, time marched without the foot print of development until 1863 when a man named John Stanley and 23 of his followers thought gold might make the effort worth it. They too were wrong.
"They found gold but not enough to really satisfy their hunger for gold so they only
stayed once year, said Gadwa. "So the Stanley area stayed in limbo until 1979."
Thats when the discovery of silver put Stanley on the map, and miners flooded into the
area making Stanley a growing supply town.
One of the people who was part of the mining migrantion was Frank Shaw, a mining
engineer who fell in love with the area. His cabin is the second oldest building in the sawtooth valley, built in 1902.
"It was known as the friendly place and among their guests at the friendly place
was Senator Borah," said Gadwa.
By then the silver mining had petered out, but more people were discovering the beauty
of the Sawtooth Valley, and its value as a recreation area. The first of three efforts
to create a national park here came in 1912. The final push was in the 1960s by conservationists and Senator Frank Church. They thought the time was right to set the land aside and finally create a
Sawtooth National Park. They were wrong.
"Frank Church was a very wise man," said Gadwa. "He surveyed the state, and they found every
county in the state was in favor of the national park except Custer County. And so he said, well,
let's look at other avenues."
That other avenue became a the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1972. Some
people will disagree with Gadwa, but he thinks finally someone got it right -
preserving something very special now to be enjoyed by those willing to make the effort
to see it.
"When you see the front range here, you're just getting a taste of what it's really like
and until you've been on the peaks and in the over 300 high country lakes and the
awesome pristine meadows and high alpine areas, it's just breathtaking. I mean you
think it's breathtaking now, when up there right in the peaks then it's truly breath taking."
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