Ranch History & Local Area
How Idaho got its name:
Truth is, no one knows. In the 1860s a man named George Willing suggested the name Idaho claiming that it was a Shoshone Indian name for “gem of the mountains”, but later he admitted to making up both the name and the definition.
Local folklore is that when explorers were in the area the question arose as to where they were… Someone drunkenly slurred “Idunno” and it was written down as Idaho… and it stuck.
I guess at this point we will never actually know how the name came about, but I kind of prefer the folklore version.
Lewis and Clark & the Nez Perce Indians
Scotlyn Ranch is located on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation and the area is rich with history. The three canyons on Scotlyn Ranch all have creeks that run year round and flow into the Clearwater river, only three miles from the ranch. In 1805 on their way to the west coast and again in 1806 on their return trip, Lewis and Clark traveled along the Clearwater, exploring along the way, only a few miles from the ranch. From the back patio at the lodge you look out on Coolwater Mountain and the Bitterroot forest where Lolo Pass is located. It took Lewis and Clark’s Expedition twelve days to cross this difficult terrain and when they reached the Clearwater they were met by the Nez Perce Indians who fed them and helped nurse them back to health. They befriended the Nez Perce and stayed with them for a month before moving on (partially because they also found this part of the country amazing!). When they were unable to cross Hells Canyon on horses (just west of our ranch, 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon), Lewis and Clark left their horses with the Nez Perce. Upon their return the following year, the Nez Perce returned their horses and even gave them additional horses that they refused payment for, for their journey back.
Lewis and Clark’s Expedition were the first Americans to ever visit Idaho, although there is evidence that some French-Canadian trappers and traders had been there before. It is unknown exactly how long the Nez Perce Indians had lived in the area, however an archeological dig in southern Idaho found human artifacts that dated back 14,500 years, some of the oldest in all of North America.
In the 1870s when Native Americans were being moved to reservations and settlers began moving into Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe broke into two groups, one group agreeing to relocate to a reservation and the other refusing to give up their fertile land in Idaho and Oregon. This led to a war between American troops and the Nez Perce in 1877 that ranged over 1,000 miles and 18 recorded battles which resulted in the deaths of over 300 U.S. soldiers and 1,000 Nez Perce Indians. The remaining Nez Perce surrendered on October 5, 1877, ending the war.
The Nez Perce Reservation was opened for general settlement on November 18, 1895, and settlers moved into the area from 1895 until the 1930s. Homesteaders who made the difficult trek to Idaho were given a 160 acre parcel of land to farm. Here at Scotlyn Ranch we have found the remains of six different homesteads. The Nez Perce Indians sold a lot of their land and currently own only about 12.5% of the land that makes up the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, however the tribe has been making efforts to buy back land in recent years. I was told by the director of the Indian Affairs office that we were lucky to have been able to purchase our ranch, had the tribe known it was available for purchase, they certainly would have bought it due to the amount of live water on the ranch and the fact that our canyons are wintering grounds for multiple herd of Elk.
The Nez Perce are friendly people and enjoy sharing their stories. While you are visiting the ranch, if you would like for one of their families to come talk about their history, sharing some of their tribal songs and rituals, we can arrange this. They do not officially charge a fee for their time, but they usually come as a family or two or three tribal members come and we have found that a tip of $100-125 is welcomed and greatly appreciated. They will usually bring small gifts as souvenirs, but each visit is different, expect little and you will likely be happily surprised. Since Scotlyn Ranch is located on the Nez Perce reservation, this can be a nice touch to add some history to your visit.
Scotlyn Ranch’s address is Kamiah, Idaho for the purposes of mail delivery. Oddly enough, we are not even in Kamiah’s mail district, we are officially in Stites, Idaho’s district, but although we are only a few miles from Stites, there is a large canyon between us and the city of Stites and to get to Stites takes around 40 minutes by road, so it is not practical for the mail service to come all the way around to service just our ranch. Stites is at the bottom of our canyon, roughly 1,800 feet below us and is where our main canyon, the Cottonwood Canyon dumps into the Clearwater River. By roads, Kamiah is the closest post office and services many residences and other farms and ranches to the west of us.
Our postal address is Kamiah, but we are actually in the unincorporated town of Winona (Originally called Lowe, Idaho). It is not much more than a road district and a ghost town today, but Winona once played an important part of this history of this area. It once had a trading post, a post office, a boarding house, a saloon, and more. What made Winona important was its tramway. Let me explain… the Camas Prairie is at an elevation ranging from 3-4,000 feet. The prairie is where most of the wheat in the area is grown. Farmers needed to get their wheat to market, and although the Clearwater river is only a short distance away and provides a direct route to the west coast via the Columbia River, the river is at an elevation of only 1,200 feet and it is extremely steep and rugged terrain to get from 3,000 feet where Winona sits to the 1,200 feet of the river. It simply was not practical to attempt to get wagons loaded with grain down to the river. Around 1900 a tramway was created that consisted of two cables – somewhat similar to gondolas or a chair lift at a ski resort, but probably nowhere near as safe, that had 30 buckets capable of carrying 190,000 pounds of grain or materials a day. The tramway started in Winona and ended in Kooskia, which is right on the Clearwater river. Kooskia also had a flour mill so it could process the wheat that was being delivered via the tramway and then it could be transported down the Clearwater to the Columbia river destined for the west coast. In addition to delivering grain from Winona to Kooskia, the tramway was also used to carry tools and equipment upwards from Kooskia to Winona. In the 1930s highways began to be built and eventually the tramway was no longer needed. I have seen photos of the tramway at neighbors houses where they actually were carrying mules in harnesses on the tramway. It was truly an amazing feat of engineering. The tramway was a total of 1.25 miles long and dropped 1,800 feet in elevation.
The tramway was eventually disassembled in 1939, but there is a county maintained road that follows roughly the same route called “Tram Road”. This road is NOT for the faint of heart! It is a single lane gravel road that is barely wider than a pickup, there are no guardrails, and there are many places where you have a 400-600 foot sheer dropoff inches from the road. We take our side-by-sides down it, many will take pickups and cars (I won’t! Did once, scared me too much!). If you are arriving to the ranch in a rental car and following Google maps, pay attention to the road signs. Tram Road is only about 75 yards before Red Rock Road and more than one person has made the early turn and ended up on Tram road instead of Red Rock Road.
For more information and pictures of Winona (Lowe), a blogger who goes by “DustyWindshield” wrote a nice piece you can find here: https://dustywindshield.wordpress.com/2017/12/05/ghost-towns-in-the-upper-clearwater-river-corridor-region/
Obviously, Scotlyn Ranch did not get that name until we (Scott and Jaclyn) bought the ranch and changed the name. Prior to that it was known as the Lamb Ranch, not because of the animal, the owner prior to 1956 had the surname of Lamb, the Lambs still own some farm ground at the top of Lamb lane, the last 1.5 mile drive when you arrive at Scotlyn Ranch. The ranch dates back to the earliest days of the homesteaders of Idaho starting in 1895. When people traveled west to claim their stake they were given 160 acres of land, some better, some worse. Since Scotlyn Ranch today is 3,000 acres there were several homesteads that existed on the property. We have located six of the homesteads on Scotlyn Ranch, today they are mostly nothing more than rocks built to form a rectangular foundation for a settlers house, but there is other evidence as well, apple trees, cherry trees, orchids, and other plants that were brought here and planted by the earliest settlers.