City of Rocks
Historic Resources Study
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Aridity and aridity alone, makes the various Wests one. The distinctive western plants and animals, the hard clarity . . . of the western air, the look and location of western towns, the empty spaces that separate them, the way farms and ranches are either densely concentrated where water is plentiful or widely scattered where it is scarce, the pervasive presence of the federal government as landowner and land manager, . . . those are all consequences, and by no means all the consequences, of aridity. [1]

In September of 1994, Historical Research Associates, Inc. (HRA) contracted with the National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Region, to prepare an Historic Resources Study (HRS) of the City of Rocks National Reserve in southcentral Idaho (Contract No. 1443-CX9000-93-03 1). [2] The following HRS is derived from research in primary and secondary records related to travel routes, land use, settlement patterns, and infrastructure development. It is designed to provide a foundation for the formal evaluation and nomination of City of Rocks historic resources to the National Register of Historic Places. To this end, the project included a field review and the HRS concludes with the identification of extant resources within the boundaries of the reserve, arranged on the basis of shared historic association or "property type."

The HRS is also designed to address deficiencies in previously completed City of Rocks cultural resource studies. These deficiencies are the result of changing cultural resource management theories and practices and of changing management needs arising from increased use and an expanded land base.

In 1964, the National Park Service designated the City of Rocks a National Historic Landmark for its association with Overland Migration, roughly spanning the years 1843 through 1869. Emigrant inscriptions and vestiges of the California/Oregon Trail represented this historic use. Landmark status was expanded in 1974, with designation of the city as a National Natural Landmark. And, in 1988, Congress established the City of Rocks National Reserve, an area encompassing the city and California Trail ruts as well as land witness to the Kelton-Boise stage route, the free-range cattle industry, range wars, the birth of forest reserves, dryland and irrigated farming, and the growth of stable communities. This expanded land base demanded additional research in postmigration land use. Increased tourism, encouraged by establishment of the National Reserve and by the area's growing reputation as a climbing mecca, also necessitated a more carefully considered identification of those resources critical to our understanding of the historical use and significance of the region.

Finally, cultural resource managers are placing increased emphasis upon cultural landscapes — on the totality of resources that formed a system of land use or that now form a multiple-layer depiction of use over time. Natural features (as they influence cultural development), vegetation, land use patterns, and circulation systems are a few of the important elements of cultural landscapes. Addressing these elements resulted in a modified assessment of the character of National Register eligible cultural resources within the reserve.

HRA's research and survey methodology is presented in Section 2.0 of the following report. Section 3.0 contains a brief description of the physical characteristics of the reserve. The historical context forms Section 4.0, and HRA's management summary and identification of known extant resources is presented in Section 5.0. The report concludes with an annotated bibliography (Section 6.0).

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Last Updated: 12-Jul-2004