A Landing a Day

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American Falls, Idaho

Posted by graywacke on June 1, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2271; A Landing A Day blog post number 701.

Dan:  This is only my second landing in Idaho since I changed my random lat/long procedure (55 landings ago).  Since Idaho’s big, it’s sure to be a USer (and it is); my Score dutifully went down (from 783 to a new record low, 768).  Haven’t a clue what I’m talking about?  Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” above.  DC?DB!*.

*Don’t Care? Don’t Bother!

Here’s my regional landing map:

landing 1

And my local landing map:

landing 2

My streams-only map is a little peculiar:

landing 3

While I thought that maybe I landed in the watershed of Sunbeam Creek, I knew I landed in the watershed of the Snake R (79th hit).  I’ll need to take a look on Google Earth (GE) to figure things out, so it’s time for my GE spaceflight in to SE Idaho.

Click HERE, enjoy the trip and then hit your back button.

So, my first job was to trace my drainage, which I did.  As far as I can tell, drainage from my landing takes a fairly straightforward route (the green line) to the American Falls Reservoir (and does not include Sunbeam Creek):

ge sv creek map

And you can see where I could take a Street View look at the “stream.”  Here’s what the orange dude sees (looking west, upstream):

ge sv creek (up)

And here’s what he sees looking in the opposite direction:

ge sv creek (down)

Peculiar that upstream is green and downstream is brown. . .

Since this isn’t the Sunbeam, my official watershed analysis is “unnamed tributary to the Snake River.”  Oh yea.  Before I forget – the Snake, of course, discharges to the Columbia (160th hit).    

So what about American Falls?  From Wiki:

American Falls was a landmark waterfall on the Snake River, named after a party of American trappers whose boat went over the falls. Power plants first sprang up at the falls in 1901 (and are the reason the surrounding county is called Power County).

American Falls was the first town in the U.S. to be entirely relocated; it was moved in 1925 to facilitate construction of the nearby American Falls Dam.

All righty now.  I don’t buy that American Falls was named after a party of trappers whose boat went over the falls.  That would be more like Holy S— Falls.  After a quick search, I can find no other info on the name origin, so I’ll make one up:

A party of French trappers was in the area and they set up a camp next to the falls.  They decided to call it les Cascades Française (the French Falls).    Just as they were breaking camp, a party of American trappers showed up.  One of the Frenchmen said “Bienvenu a les Cascades Française” (Welcome to the French Falls).  The non-French-speaking leader of the Americans snarled “What the hell did he just say?”  When he heard the translation from one of his party who could speak a little French, the leader wasn’t happy. 

It just so happens that he not only didn’t like the French, he despised the French.  His response?  “Over my dead body are a bunch of Frenchies naming these falls after their foul country.  We’re naming these the American Falls.” 

Fortunately, no violence ensued, as the French (sensing likely trouble if they stayed and defended the name) left in a hurry.  It was settled.  “American Falls” it became and American Falls it remains to this day. 

Much better. 

[ALAD disclaimer:  ALAD is a non-controversial, diversity-oriented blog.  The views and opinions held by the American trapper in the above piece of fiction are not the views and opinions of ALAD, its agents, employees or advertisers.  Oops.  ALAD has no agents, employees or advertisers.  Oh well, it sounds good.]

Moving right along to the town’s website:

In 1925, the Bureau of Reclamation began the job of moving American Falls to make way for the American Falls Dam. The most difficult part of building the 94-foot-high and 5,277-foot-long composite concrete and earthen dam was not its construction and financing, but resolving the problems that the 23 mile long reservoir would have on the town of American Falls.

In all, 344 residents, 46 businesses, three hotels, one school, five churches, one hospital, six grain elevators, and one flour mill were moved from the original town site, making this the largest government relocation project of its time! Depending on the quality of the building, dwellings would be relocated to one of three neighborhoods on the east, south and west side of the new town square.

The alignment of the streets was not without controversy. The streets were laid out diagonally; parallel to the reservoir shore. Residents complained. “How will we teach our children north or south?” The city planners responded that the city was laid out so that the sun could shine in every window.

[The sun shines in every window?  Maybe in the summer – when the NE and NW facing windows get some sun.  But the winter?  ALAD doesn’t think so.  By the way, the town really likes the slogan “Where the sun shines in every window,” as evidenced by their home page:]

american falls homepage

Back to the website:

The Oneida Milling and Elevator Company’s grain elevator was the only structure that was not moved. Its 40-foot-deep foundation and 106-foot reinforced concrete walls still stand with its top rising above the water. It stands as a silent reminder of the remarkable history of American Falls.

Here’s a shot of the old grain elevator surrounded by water (GE Panoramio shot by Ralph Mitchell):

pano ralph mitchell

This is the current GE shot of the elevator (you can see it mainly based on its shadow).

ge 1

 It looks like the water level in the reservoir must be way down.  You can also see traces of the old town.  I zoomed back a bit so you can see that the old town is very close to the new town:

ge 2

Here’s what the Falls looked like back in the 1902.  The building is an already-defunct power house (from Wiki):

P17-100-3941 American Falls Dam and Powerhouse. Minidoka Project, ID. USBR photo.

P17-100-3941 American Falls Dam and Powerhouse. Minidoka Project, ID. USBR photo.

Anyway, here’s what it looks like today – a GE Pano shot by long-time-yet-likely-unknowing ALAD contributing photographer, Ralph Maughan:

pano ralph maughan

By the way, I’ve used Ralph’s photographs in 9 posts:  3 Nevada posts, 3 Wyoming posts, 1 Utah post and now 2 Idaho posts.

I’ll close with another of Ralph’s shots, this of a Christmas Day sunset in the Deep Creek Mountains, about 10 miles east of my landing:

pano ralph maughan2

That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day


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