Bingham County is served by the Union Pacific line from Salt Lake to Butte, also by the Mackay branch line and the line to Aberdeen. The extreme eastern end of the county is mountainous and well timbered; the central part, along the Snake river, is a rich agricultural section, and the west portion is available for non-irrigated farming. This last land resource was until recently little esteemed, but now immense areas are being taken up in sections where farming was once believed impossible. There is considerable real lava desert that can not be utilized in any possible way; but, where there is tillable soil, it is going rapidly. The United States Land office at Blackfoot has had more land filings in the past year than any other similar office in the West. These non-irrigated lands are within reasonable distance of the two Union Pacific branches above named. The entire county lies at an altitude of 4,500 feet and
more above sea level.
There is good timber on the upper Blackfoot River, in the east part of the county, and an excellent livestock range adjacent, mostly in the Caribou National forest, which is leased to stockmen. The office of the reserve is at Soda Springs, in Bannock County, the general shipping point for stock from the reserve.
Blackfoot, the county seat, is one of the oldest settled portions of the State. It has a sugar factory, the first in Idaho; the State infirmary and hospital, a mill, elevators, and extensive pork-packing plant, two banks, two newspapers, two nurseries, the United States Land office, 4,000 inhabitants, 1,600 school children, and an annual county fair. It is on the State wagon road north and south at the junction with the State highway east and west. Land is worth from $60.00 per acre upward. The elevation is 4,600 feet and the average annual precipitation is 10.5 inches. The growing of sugar beets is one of the most profitable industries, though many hogs are raised and dairying is proving profitable. A large acreage of apples is grown with profit. The Indian reservation is within two miles of the town. The Indians are becoming quite good farmers, and the land is being developed. The valley is underlaid with gravel, and water is easy to get for domestic purposes. A very large acreage of irrigated land lies tributary to the town, which is the principal community of the county. All the water supply was developed by private enterprise and is deeded; the land titles are good.
Shelley, the second town in size, has about 600 inhabitants and is in the midst of a thickly settled community with over 1,000 voters. Land is worth from $50.00 to $125.00 an acre. There are a flouring mill, an alfalfa mill, an elevator, two R. F. D. Routes, water works, bank, newspaper, four churches and a commercial club. It is an important distributing point for a large territory. The land immediately tributary to it is irrigated but there is much non-irrigated farm land on the higher plateaus. Some of it is still open for filing at the Blackfoot office. Firth, also, is an important shipping station.
Aberdeen, in the extreme southwest part of the county, overlooks the Snake River. It is an irrigated section and the first Carey Act project in the State. Land is worth from $50.00 to $75.00 an acre. The town has 500 people, with 200 pupils, and eight free wagons to take the children to and from their homes. It has a bank, a newspaper, two churches, two elevators and water works. Water can be had at a depth of 50 feet or a little more. Many beets are grown at Aberdeen and all along the branch line for the sugar factory at Blackfoot. Alfalfa yields from 4 to 5 tons to the acre and potatoes, hogs, and dairy products are important products. The State has a fine agricultural experiment station at Aberdeen, on grounds donated and improved by the Aberdeen Commercial Club. They have specialized on non-irrigated crops and methods; the results are available in bulletin form upon application. A little gold is being mined from the sands on the Snake River near Aberdeen.
The same conditions in general prevail at the towns of Springfield, Pingree, and Sterling, so far as crops and industries go. At Springfield has been developed a lucrative business of growing alfalfa seed for the United States government. One of the largest private fish hatcheries in the West,
(the Crystal Springs Hatchery), is located there. Countless springs furnish ideal conditions for propagating trout, and the business is growing to large proportions.
Lumber along the branch lines is worth from $27.00 per M, upwards. The precipitation is light, but still there are excellent possibilities for the (as yet) undeveloped non-irrigated farm industry.
Blaine County is served by three branches of the Union Pacific System-the Shoshone-Ketchum branch, the Camas Prairie branch from Richfield to Hill City, and the Mackay branch, on Big Lost River, in the eastern part of the county. The highest mountains in Idaho axe in Blaine County, above Halley, the county seat. Most of the eastern portion of the county is known as an arid desert, though an enormous acreage is being taken up under the 320-acre homestead law. South from Arco the settlements go out for 20 miles from the railroad. What streams there are in this district flow for some distance on the surface and then are lost in the desert, sinking mysteriously, to be seen no more. The main ridge of the Sawtooth range, the most picturesque mountain chain in the West, forms the north boundary line of the county. Beyond is the watershed of the Salmon River and its tributaries. The Boise River drains the west portion of the county. No point in the county is under 4,600 feet in altitude.
Blaine County has almost one-half of its area within the Sawtooth National forest, the best Stock range in the West. The Wood River branch of the Oregon Short Line has shipped out as many as 3,000 cars of sheep in one season, from this territory. The annual shipment is now less, owing to cutting down the range apportionment and to shipments being divided with
other points. Several hundred cars of cattle also go out from Blaine County
Camas Prairie, the valley of the Malad, has 300,000 acres of land that can be farmed, either by irrigation or by non-irrigation methods. It is the · granary of Southern Idaho. Lands can be had from $20.00 per acre upwards, depending on their location and their water supply. The snowfall is usually heavy. Water can be had at a depth for domestic purposes of a few feet almost anywhere on this prairie. Native lumber can be had from the reserve for a minimum of $18.00. Posts and firewood can be procured upon application to the forest station at Hailey. The chief towns of the valley are Hill City, at the end of the railroad from Richfield; Corral, Fairfield, Soldier, and Blaine.
The Big Wood River valley is fertile and well watered, and produces Wonderful crops. Land is worth from $60.00 an acre upwards. Adjoining are the Silver Creek and Little Wood River valleys. Silver Creek is nationally famous for its trout and its wild fowl shooting. This valley is a wonderful producer of hay and oats. The snowfall is heavy in winter, but thousands of cattle are fed on the hay that is raised. Land here is worth from $60.00 an acre upwards, with water for irrigation. The State has a fish hatchery at Hay Spur, on Silver Creek. There is some dry homestead land to be had on the foothills overlooking the valley.
The Carey valley, at the upper end of the Little Wood River, contains about 30,000 acres, surrounded by hills and shut in. Land prices run from $50.00 upwards. Enormous quantities of hay are grown here, and much small grain. The place is off the railroad, being reached by wagon road from Picabo or Tikura. The State wagon road to the Yellowstone Park passes through Carey.
The Lost River country, on the Mackay branch of the Union Pacific System, has some fine irrigated farms. Until the settlement of the litigation over building the great dam to water 100,000 acres of land there, this section will not be at its best. Arco, however, is a prosperous town, doing a large stock and dairy business, and with an enormous acreage of non-irrigated land tributary to it that is fast being developed. Other towns are Darlington, Moore and Powell. The dairy business is growing rapidly.
Hailey, the county seat, has about 1,500 people; the county has about 8,000. A United States Land office is located here, as is also the Sawtooth Forest Reserve office. There are two daily newspapers, two banks, a commercial club, excellent schools and four churches. There are some good hot springs near town. Halley is the outfitting point for many stockmen on the Sawtooth reserve, and has been a shipping point for sheep and wool. It was a famous mining center in the boom days of the Wood River mines, and there are still a number of mines working forces of men. The indications are that there will be a great revival of mining, which would make a great home market for all kinds of farm products. All the upper Big Wood River (from Hailey, Ketchurn and for ten miles farther toward the Sawtooth summit), is a noted summer resort. The supply of trout, birds, and big game is almost inexhaustible. The elevation at Hailey is 5,280 feet; at Ketchurn, the terminus of the railroad, it is 6,000 feet. There is a splendid opportunity for those who want to buy small ranches, along the upper Wood River, where there is fishing, hunting, and good farming combined.
At Bellevue, where the Big Wood valley begins to open out into a wide plain, the real farming country begins. Bellevue has about 600 people, and was a great mining center in the early days. It is the supply point for much of the stock range and the marketing point for grain and livestock. There is a commercial club, one bank, a newspaper, four churches, and a high school, with 200 pupils. The city has water works and electric lights, and is on the Sawtooth State highway. Land sells at from $60.00 an acre, upward, Considerable dairying is being done; the largest, finest private dairy in Idaho is located nearby. About 15,000 acres of irrigated land is tributary to the town, and this amount can be doubled. The fishing in Big Wood River is unsurpassed.
There are hot springs above Halley--the Clarendon Hot Springs, 7 miles from town, a noted home camping ground, and the Guyer Hot Springs, at Ketchurn, where an elaborate summer chalet and bathing resort is maintained. There is no more attractive place in the Northwest to spend a hot summer.
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