Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Mighty Spectacle of Splendor:" 1937 FWP

Ever since Lewis & Clark set foot in The Salmon River watershed, there's been no lack of authors, journalists, and writers of all kinds weaving words to describe water, wildlife, wondrous scenery and the people and places of Salmon Country.

Some of our favorite few paragraphs in praise of Salmon Country come from the 1937 WPA Federal Writer's Project (FWP) classic "Idaho A Guide in Word and Picture."  All 48 States where described in the "American Guide Series."  Writers were paid $80 a month during the Great Depression to describe the attributes and characteristics of all aspects of every State.

Most of the writing in each volume of the FWP is straightforward narrative.  Only on rare occasions were the writers allowed to roam free with their words.  We present here an unknown federal writer's words describing areas alongside The Salmon River.  These words continue to stand as timeless as the rocks and ramparts they describe.
"US 93 enters the upper gorge of Salmon River and follows it for more than a hundred miles.  This canyon under different light is never twice the same and can be realized for what it is only in late afternoon or sunset.  It is not, for the most part, a gorge of sheer walls and overwhelming heights.  It is remarkable rather in the variety of its mountains and in the exquisite coloring of its stone.  There are ridges that sharply climb the sky with the sculpturing reaching from shoulder to shoulder; there are huge monuments set apart by time and erosion; and there are rounded brown bluffs with slide rock spilled smoothly at their base like tons of copper.  There are picturesque collections of castles and towers, and in contrast with these are gently sloping flanks that look as if they were carpeted with green or golden velvet.  There are magnificent solitary crags, and down below them, piled against the road, are weird gray formations so pocketed and cupped that they resemble cliff dwellings."
"At about 94 m is Cronks Canyon, which is known as the Royal Gorge of Idaho, and it is here that the most beautiful coloring is to be seen.  The rugged bluffs here standing as walls against the highway are stratified in red and yellow, green and dark blue, and even under the morning sun are extremely rich.  At sunset, when burning evening streams up this forge, this mountainside in its bewildering loveliness looks as if a thousand broken rainbows had been drawn into the stone."
"Challis is even more remarkable than Salmon City for the beauty of its setting.  The mountains northeast of it are unusually picturesque under any light and in comparison with mountains anywhere.  They are unforgettable when seen at sunset under a cloudy sky.  The clouds lie low in blazing reefs and banks, with the distant peaks thrusting up like golden crowns; and down under the great flaming panorama the colored bluffs upon the river look like a shimmering fog banklost in an extravagance of colored mist."
"US 93 turns to the right and enters the miniature Grand Canyon of the Salmon River, with the walls sloping upward on either side for 2000 feet.  Though the coloring is no so rich nor the formations so various as in the Royal Gorge, this canyon is, nevertheless, a might spectacle of splendor under the evening sun."

From Pages 190-191 "Idaho, A Guide in Word and Picture"

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