AIC Shines Its Spotlight on Grand View
Monday, August 29, 2016
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
Grand View wildlife.
Grand View lies on the south side of the Snake River about 25 miles southwest of Mountain Home and about eight miles downriver from the hydroelectric C.J. Strike Dam and Reservoir. The Owyhee Mountain Range and the restored mining town of Silver City are about 45 road miles west. Homedale, the largest of Owyhee County’s three incorporated cities, is 65 miles northwest of Grand View.
The city sits among irrigated fertile farms and fields of alfalfa hay, corn, sugar beets, wheat and barley that extend along both sides of the river.
Beyond the farmland are vast tracts of public land. To the north is the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, which includes the Ada County National Guard Maneuver Area. East and northeast is the Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gunnery Range. To the west and south is a broad expanse of high-desert land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and interspersed with private farms and ranches and six national wilderness areas that comprise 517,000 acres. This type of landscape encompasses most of Idaho’s second largest county, the 4.9 million-acre Owyhee County, and adjoining lands in the neighboring states of Oregon, Nevada and Utah.
Until the first explorers and trappers began passing through the area in 1810, the grass and sagebrush-covered high desert that is now Grand View was once the exclusive domain of nomadic American Indians—principally of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribes.
In the early 1840s emigrants from the East began an overland migration on a route that would soon be known as the Oregon Trail to what was then a disputed land called Oregon Country. After the Treaty of 1848 with England that established the boundary between the two countries at the 49th parallel, England released its claim to Oregon Country and Congress established it as Oregon Territory.
Oregon Trail pioneers, who were fearful of crossing the Snake River at what is now Three Island Crossing State Park and Glenns Ferry, took the South Alternate of the Oregon Trail. The South Alternate passed through what is now Grand View and proceeded in a northwesterly direction along the south and west side of the Snake River before rejoining the main trail northwest of Parma.
In 1862 prospectors found gold in the Boise Basin. A year later, 16,000 fortune seekers were scouring the region in search of the precious metal. The U.S. Army also established a new Fort Boise—the original Fort Boise near what is now Parma having been destroyed by flood—and settlers platted a new town around the fort that they named Boise City.
That same year, Michael Jordon—the namesake of Jordon Valley, Oregon—led 29 men from the Boise Basin gold fields to the Owyhee Mountains. They found large quantities of gold at Jordon Creek and started a boomtown they named Ruby City.
The Owyhee Mountains are named after three natives of the Hawaiian Islands, who were members of Donald Mackenzie’s 1818 Snake River exploring and beaver-trapping party. The name Hawaii was originally phonetically spelled and recorded by 1778 Pacific Ocean explorer Captain James Cook as "Owyhee." Mackenzie sent the three men to assess the beaver-trapping potential of the mountains west of the Snake River. They never returned. Mackenzie named the mountains in their honor and the name and spelling stuck.
Mining activity encouraged settlers to divert irrigation water from nearby streams onto their homesteads to raise and sell fresh food to the miners. Some of these settlers established farms and ranches near what is now Grand View.
The first Idaho Territorial Legislature, meeting in the temporary capital of Lewiston, created Owyhee County in December 1863 and made the mining boomtown of Ruby City its county seat. By 1867 the Ruby City mines had played out. However, prospectors found rich silver ore bodies to the south. They named the new boomtown Silver City and voted to move the county seat to the new town. In 1934 voters moved the county seat again—this time to the former railroad terminus town of Murphy, 30 miles northwest of Grand View. Today, Murphy is an unincorporated hamlet with a population of fewer than 100, but it is still the Owyhee County seat—the smallest county seat in Idaho.
In 1887 the Snake River Land Irrigation Company of Rhode Island (SRLIC) began construction of an earthen dam on the Bruneau River about 10 miles southeast of Grand View. They planned to sell gravity-flow irrigation water to the farmers settling the area.
A Mr. Hall established a ferry across the Snake River several miles above the mouth of the Bruneau River in the late 1880s. To meet his competition, another man named Dorsey moved the ferry he was operating on the Bruneau River to the Snake River several miles downriver from Hall’s Ferry. A small community began to grow up around the Dorsey Ferry landing on the south side of the Snake River. Those promoting the irrigation project established a townsite at Dorsey’s Ferry and successfully applied for a post office that they named Grand View.
Three years later, the Bruneau River flooded again, washing out the dam. Undeterred, leaders in the SRLIC began rebuilding but were unable to complete the irrigation system until the turn of the century.
Prospectors found gold in the Snake River gravels in 1892 and filed 26 placer mining claims near Grand View.
The irrigation dam on the Bruneau River broke for the last time in 1910. At that time, water users created the Grand View Irrigation District, rebuilt the dam and completed the system of irrigation canals and ditches. In addition to producing livestock feed, many farmers planted orchards and began raising commercial quantities of fruit, berries and melons.
Sheep ranchers found the mild temperatures of the Grand View area attractive to winter their lambing ewes. Local farmers raised alfalfa hay for the large herds of sheep. In 1915 the Elmore Times newspaper estimated that 150,000 head of sheep wintered in the area. In the mid-1900s the demand for lambs and wool declined, and the sheep industry ceased to be an important contributor to the Grand View economy. However, in 1945 the J.R. Simplot Company built a cattle feedlot four miles north of Grand View that had the capacity of fattening up to 150,000 head.
The Idaho Bureau of Highways—now known as the Idaho Department of Transportation—built a bridge across the Snake River at Grand View in 1921. At that time the community’s downtown consisted of a four-room brick schoolhouse, a two-story brick band building, a dance hall, an ice cream parlor, two general stores, a saloon and a pool hall.
Idaho Power completed the C.J. Strike Hydroelectric Dam on the Snake River in 1952. The earthen dam is 3,220 feet long and 115 feet high. The reservoir extends 36 miles up the Snake River and 12 miles up the Bruneau River. The backwater from the dam covered the original Bruneau River dam and several of the early farms and ranches. As a condition for licensing the dam, Idaho Power has made many significant improvements to enhance camping, fishing and recreation facilities and wildlife habitat.
On October 27, 1971, Grand View became an incorporated city.
A Grand View, Irrigation, and Gold
"Grand View is to be the name of the town situated at Dorsey Ferry on the Snake River in this (Owyhee) county, the Owyhee Avalanche newspaper reported in 1887. "We suppose it is so named by the reason of the view that can be had from that point of Old War Eagle and Quick Silver Mountain (location of the Silver City mines in the Owyhee Mountains) to say nothing of the serpentine Snake River flowing near the hotel now being built."
Facilitated by the ferries that transported agricultural commodities and supplies across the Snake River in the early years, the agriculture industry has underpinned Grand View’s economy from the beginning. Pumping water from the Snake River and from deep wells accompanied by the advent of pressurized sprinkler system technologies has transformed Grand View into the agricultural oasis that exists today.
The discovery of placer gold and subsequent filing of mining claims had a significant, albeit short-term, effect on Grand View’s early economy.
Amenities and Attractions Today
In 2014 Grand View dedicated Riverside Park, a new day use park located at the intersection of Main and Riverside Avenue on the Snake River.
The city’s Centennial Park features a children’s playground and covered picnic areas. The Bruneau-Grand View School District also has, for public use, an athletic field for baseball, softball and soccer.
Other amenities include the Rio Lindo Boat Launching Ramp on the Snake River. The Lawson’s Emu-Z-Um, is a private museum with exhibits of early settlement artifacts dating back to the late 1800s—the name of the museum is reminiscent of the time the Lawson’s raised emu on their ranch.
Many tourists drive through Grand View on their way to Silver City, the one-time county seat of Owyhee County and now a mining ghost town with many restored buildings.
Each year on the last week of June, the city celebrates Grand View Days. The celebration includes a parade, carnival, crafts, rubber duck race, softball tournament, pit barbeque, "adopt-a-pole contest" and fireworks.
The Bureau of Land Management operates 26 camp units around the 7,500-acre C.J. Strike Reservoir. Free restrooms and drinkable water are available. There are also private camping facilities near the reservoir. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game manages a 10,664-acre Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on the Bruneau River side of the reservoir. The WMA provides habitat for 240 species of nesting and migrating birds and is popular with birdwatchers, anglers and hunters.
Each Sunday following Labor Day, about 10,000 people come to Carl Miller Park in Mountain Home to celebrate Air Force Appreciation Day with a parade and barbeque.
The Desert Mountain Visitor Center at the Junction of Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 20 is another excellent source of information about the area.
Anderson Ranch Dam and Recreation Area is about 45 miles northeast of the city. The dam is 456 feet high and creates a 17-mile-long lake with 50 miles of shoreline. It is part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Boise Project, a complex system of dams and canals that primarily irrigates farms in the Treasure Valley.
Anderson Reservoir is popular for boating and fishing for trout, bass and Kokanee—landlocked salmon that spawn in the creeks during late August and early September. The recreation area includes 380 miles of marked snowmobile trails. Some of the trails wind up to the Trinity Mountains and lakes eight miles above the north end of the lake and rising to 9,451 feet.
The 4,800-acre Bruneau Dunes State Park and Observatory is 30 miles southwest of the city on State Highway 78-51. For thousands of years blowing sand has settled in this natural basin producing a landscape of sand dunes. One of the dunes rises to 470 feet, the highest in North America. At the base of the dunes is a lake with bass and bluegill.
The observatory is the largest public observatory in Idaho. Generally, its telescopes are open for public use on Friday and Saturday evenings.
To protect the serenity and ecology of this environmentally sensitive area, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation restrict use of the dunes and lake to non-motorized vehicles.
Five miles north begins the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The half-million-acre area has high concentrations of falcons, hawks, eagles and owls.
The 103-mile Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway—a gravel and paved road that runs from Grand View to Jordon Valley, Oregon—offers a view of the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem and habitat for more than 180 bird and mammal species.