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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Parker

Friday, December 1, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Parker in Winter

Parker is an agricultural community located on the Upper Snake River Valley Plain. Lush fields of potatoes, wheat, barley, alfalfa hay and corn border the city. The famous trout fly fishery—the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River (Henry’s Fork)—flows on the southeast corner of the city.

The St. Anthony Sand Dunes, a designated Unique Natural Feature, is two miles northwest. The dunes cover an area 35 miles long and up to five miles wide. They rise from 70 to 365 feet—a height greater than the dunes in Death Valley, California.

North and west of the city are vast tracts of high desert plains and hills managed by the BLM. The Caribou-Targhee National Forest lies about 20 miles northeast. St. Anthony is five miles east and Rexburg is about 12 miles south.

Historical Tidbits

In 1810 Captain Andrew Henry led the first party of explorers/trappers into the area of the Henry’s Fork. They built a log stockade and shelter, which they named Fort Henry, on a river bench about five miles downstream from what is now St. Anthony. They spent the winter in their fort and trapped for beaver. In the spring, they moved on.

In October 1811 the Wilson Price Hunt party stayed at the deserted Fort Henry for two weeks while they built canoes on which they unwisely hoped to navigate the Snake River to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. When they reached what is now Twin Falls, they had a fatal accident and loss of supplies. They determined that the river route was impossible, abandoned their canoes and completed their harrowing journey on foot.

In 1863 prospectors discovered gold in what is now southwestern Montana. A stagecoach and freight wagon road, called the Gold Road, soon developed from Utah through Marsh Valley, Pocatello and Eagle Rock—now Idaho Falls—where the road crossed the Snake River and continued north over Monida Pass to Montana. Eagle Rock became a center of commerce that began to attract settlers into the Upper Snake River Plain.

In 1878 the Utah and Northern Railroad Company completed a narrow-gauge railroad that extended from Ogden, Utah, to the Montana mines on a line that generally followed the Gold Road. The railroad not only provided freight, passenger and mail transportation for the mines, it also facilitated the sale of farm commodities in distant markets and the movement of settlers coming into Eastern Idaho.

Around 1879 settlers began moving up from Utah to homestead on the fertile Upper Snake River Plain.

In 1882 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church) asked 54-year-old Thomas E. Ricks to be an ecclesiastical leader (Bishop) of the immigrant settlers going to what is now the Rexburg area. Within a few years, the emigrants from Utah had established several settlements in Eastern Idaho. One of these settlements was Parker.

Settlers platted the town of Parker in 1883—named in honor of Wyman W. Parker, the local bishop of the Church. They then successfully applied to the postal authorities for a new post office named Parker.

In 1899 the St. Anthony Railroad Company began construction of a rail line from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony—later extended to West Yellowstone. This brought railroad service to within five miles of Parker.

On February 13, 1905, Parker became an incorporated village.

Irrigation—Building the Egin Canal

 In 1881 settlers in this area began constructing a 16-mile-long irrigation canal they named Egin. The settlers built the Egin Canal by hand and with horse-drawn Fresno scrapers. As they completed sections of the canal, they allowed the diverted river water to flow into the new section. In 1886 they completed the entire canal.

Amenities and Attractions Today

Fremont County conducts its annual fair each August at the fairgrounds in St. Anthony. The fairgrounds are also the location for the annual Pioneer Days Rodeo and fireworks show, demolition derbies and other events.

The white quartz St. Anthony Sand Dunes are popular for dune buggy, snowmobile and sand skiing enthusiasts as well as those who just want to experience an exhilarating walk on vast tracts of sand.

The 11,000-acre Harriman State Park is located 43 miles north of the city. The park features tours; fly-fishing; hiking; horseback riding; cross-country skiing; and viewing a variety of wildlife including Trumpeter Swan, moose, elk and Sandhill Crane.

The surrounding public lands—with the many rivers, streams, lakes and open space—are an outdoor sportsman’s paradise.


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