Traveler's Rest & Ft Fizzle...
Oct 3, 2014
|Thursday Larry & I decided to head north on US 93 to the town of Lolo where we made a left onto US 12. We wanted to see a bit of the Lolo Trail, between the Bitterroot Valley in Montana and the Weippe Prairie in Idaho, in case we decided to take I-90 into Idaho on Friday's departure. Ultimately we decided to take US 12 so we actually backtracked. But, it would have a made a much longer trip & would have been more difficult to stop for the 'sights' so we were glad we did it this way.
Our destination today was Traveler's Rest State Park, a place where visitors can say with certainty that they are walking in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. The Park is at the core of a campsite used by the Corps of Discovery from September 9 - 11, 1805 and again from June 30 - July 3, 1806.
In the summer of 2002, archaeologists uncovered evidence of the Corps of Discovery's visit to the area, including a trench latrine tainted with mercury, fire hearths, and lead used in the repair and manufacture of firearms. The discovery makes Travelers' Rest the only campsite on the Lewis and Clark Trail with physical evidence of the expedition. Interactive displays were also available to examine replicas of the different equipment Lewis and Clark used to navigate, look at what they wore, read journal entries, etc.
The onsite museum holds a private collection of memorabilia collected over the years by Bill and Ramona Holt. Stories of cowboys and their evolving equipment are on display in different collections, including the Cowboys and Indians & the Rodeo's and Pow Wow's collections. This eclectic museum includes saddles, tacks, boots from famous people as well as artifacts from the Salish/Kootenai and Nez Perce tribes. For centuries Native Americans also used the area as a campsite and trail junction. Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Nez Perce peoples were among those who traditionally occupied the area.
After spending an hour or so inside the Visitor's Center we decided to take the half-mile loop trail on a self-guided tour along the Lolo Creek. The trail guide made it a bit more interesting as to be honest, other than the small museum there isn't much to see on the actual trail. A few markers show where the fire pits were located & of course the all important latrine area is clearly posted. But, it was a lovely day & the creek was bubbling as we crossed the bridge which is always nice. I wouldn't drive 100 miles out of my way for this particular stop but if you are in the area it is worth a short visit.
After leaving the SP we traveled just a few more miles down the road to 'see' Fort Fizzle. I expected it to be a small 'Fort'...But, no, after searching by the river & walking the path we could find no 'Fort'...Just a couple of informational boards. As we prepared to leave we finally located the 'Fort'. Fort Fizzle was a temporary military post erected in July 1877 to intercept the Nez Perce Indians in their flight from Idaho across the Lolo Pass into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. The name describes the fate of the fort.
White settlers and U.S. Army soldiers in the Bitterroot valley, informed by telegraph that the Nez Perce were coming their way, prepared to defend themselves. Captain Charles Rawn had only 35 soldiers to defend the valley. On July 25, Rawn, his 35 soldiers and 50 civilian volunteers constructed a fort of logs and earth two or three miles below where the Nez Perce were camped and about five miles west of Lolo, Montana. On July 26, Rawn met with Looking Glass who requested to traverse the Bitterroot Valley without violence. Rawn demanded that the Nez Perce surrender their arms and ammunition and the meeting terminated without any decision.
The next day, 216 armed men, including 15 or 20 Flathead Indian scouts were gathered at the improvised fort and the Governor of Montana, Benjamin F. Potts, had arrived. Rawn and Looking Glass met again and each repeated their demands. When Rawn returned to the fort and said that he anticipated a battle with the Nez Perce, most of the volunteers left, declaring that “no act of hostility on their part should provoke the Indians.” The next morning, July 27, less than 100 men were left to man the fort and oppose the Nez Perce. Governor Potts had also found reason to depart.
The fort where Rawn and his men were entrenched was in a constricted 200 yard wide passage in the canyon enclosed on both sides by precipitous ridges where “a goat could not pass.” Nevertheless, on July 28 the Nez Perce – men, women, children, and livestock—climbed the ridges and bypassed the fort, leaving the defenders in their rear. Hence the name, Fort Fizzle!!!!
So, there you have it. An interesting day at Traveler's Rest & Fort Fizzle & a bit more Lewis & Clark & Nez Perce Indian trivia to put into our unk & Wagnall :) We move on tomorrow, crossing most of Idaho. Looking forward to a new, unexplored route as we continue our trek west. Hope you are enjoying the ride!