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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Cambridge

Friday, May 10, 2019  
Posted by: Payton Grover
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City of Cambridge

Cambridge is a small farming community located in the upper Weiser Valley. The Weiser River flows about a mile east of the city. The Payette National Forest and BLM public lands, with mountains rising to over 7,500 feet, border the valley on the west, north and east. The city of Weiser is 31 miles southwest on U.S. Highway 95. Hells Canyon and three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs on the Snake River—Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon—lie about 25 miles northwest on State Highway 71.

Historical Tidbits

In 1899 the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad (P&IN), an independent railroad, began constructing a 90-mile rail line from the Oregon Short Line Railroad main line at Weiser to New Meadows. At that time, there was a small town named Salubria located two miles east and across the Weiser River from what is now Cambridge.

Salubria was then a thriving community, started in the early 1880s. It had several stores, several shops, a newspaper, a hotel and a saloon. The P&IN originally planned its rail line north from Weiser with a train stop in Salubria. However, one Salubria resident, who owned acreage that lay in the railroad’s path, raised the asking price for the land well in excess of what P&IN was paying.

Another area resident, Mose Hopper, owned acreage on the west side of the river. He contacted P&IN and offered to plat a new town with every other lot deeded to the railroad if they built their rail line and depot in the new town. The P&IN accepted Hopper’s offer. They named the new town Lewisville, after the railroad’s president, Lewis Hall. However, when they applied for a post office, postal authorities rejected the use of the name, probably because it could cause confusion with other communities with Lewis in their names. They resubmitted the application with the name of Cambridge—the city in Massachusetts where Harvard, Lewis Hall’s alma mater, was located.

With the train depot established in Cambridge, the Salubria business community moved to the new railroad town causing the town of Salubria to dry up. In addition to serving timber and agricultural businesses, the railroad anticipated significant business coming from mining interests that were attempting to develop mines in the Seven Devils region of Hells Canyon—a development that never materialized.

However, in the 1950s Idaho Power Company began construction of three large hydroelectric dams—Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon—on the Snake River. The State and Idaho Power constructed Highway 71 between U.S. Highway 95 and Hells Canyon to provide access to the dams, making Cambridge the eastern gateway to the canyon and the reservoirs and recreational areas created by the dams.

On April 22, 1902, Cambridge became an incorporated village. It became an incorporated city in November 1967, as required by a change in state law.

Amenities and Attractions Today

 The city has a small park under the water tower, Tower Park. The city sponsors or supports several annual community events. Each August the County puts on the Washington County Fair and Rodeo at the fairgrounds located in Cambridge. On the first Mondays of June, July, August and September, the City sponsors “Music in the Park” with an ice cream social at Tower Park. The first weekend in June, the City puts on Hells Canyon Days with a bull-a-rama bull riding rodeo and antique power show, a farm toy show, a library book sale and yard sales all over town.The Harvest Festival is held the beginning of October with the whole downtown putting out harvest decorations.

Cambridge has a small museum on the corner of Highway 95 and Hopper Avenue that has artifacts and exhibits displaying the history of the upper valley. The museum is open in the summer and staffed by volunteers. The 84-mile-long Weiser River Trail—a “rails to trails” project that converted the abandoned Pacific and Northern Railroad bed from Weiser, through Cambridge to a point about eight miles south of New Meadows—passes through the city.

With city support, in 1997 the Union Pacific Railroad donated the entire right-of-way to the Friends of the Weiser River Trail. The largely unimproved public trail is open to non-motorized traffic—including equestrian—and passes through a variety of terrain and wildlife habitat that borders the river—including desert hills, rocky cliffs and forested mountains. Deer, elk, bear, waterfowl, birds of prey, turkey and upland game birds are common sightings.

The city’s most prominent attraction is its location as the eastern gateway to Hells Canyon and the fishing, boating and camping facilities at Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon reservoirs. Each reservoir impounds Snake River water for several miles. The largest reservoir, Brownlee, extends upriver for over 30 miles.


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