Located at the downstream edge of what is now Celebration Park is Guffey Bridge. Built in 1897, by Colonel William Dewey, Guffey Bridge connected the mines of Owyhee County to the rail hub in Nampa, carrying train-loads of ore headed to the smelter. Colonel Dewey’s interest in crossing the Snake was for his own financial interests.
In 1884 Dewey fatally shot a bartender in Silver City. Serving only ten months in prison until he was acquitted, Dewey vowed to get out of debt. Colonel Dewey searched for gold, sometimes on his hands and knees crawling down stream banks, and eventually found what is known as the Empire State Mine. In just a few months Dewey not only paid off his debt but was able to accumulate approximately half a million dollars from the mine. In 1900, he purchased 2,000 lots in the town of Nampa and built the Dewey Palace Hotel for $250,000.
Today visitors to Celebration Park can walk across the restored Guffey Bridge viewing spectacular vistas of the Snake River.
Along the Snake River near the town of Melba lies Celebration Park, Idaho’s Archaeological Park. Established in 1989, Celebration Park is a must-see attraction with its melon gravel fields and bounty of wildlife and wildflowers.
Hiking trails take the visitor to amazing vistas of the Snake River. While hiking, keep a lookout for birds of prey swooping down to catch a late breakfast or early dinner. Some trails will wind past the rock homes of miner’s from the late 1800s early 1900s, some with running water. Each season will provide a different view of the foliage, each dramatic in its own way.
The melon gravel fields are filled with petroglyphs painted 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Images of humans, animals and abstracts decorate various rocks throughout the park. We are still trying to interpret the messages these ancient people left for us. More recent petroglyphs appear pinkish because they have accumulated less rock varnish, while older petroglyphs appear much darker.
Hiking trails, bird watching, ancient Indian art, and an afternoon of atlatl throwing provides an outdoor experience unlike any other.
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
The Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge was authorized by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. It consists of 800 acres spread out on 101 islands in the Snake River and over 10,000 acres around Lake Lowell. It is home to thousands of songbirds, Canadian geese, herons, cormorants, and ducks. The islands are riparian nesting areas. Pheasants, quail, and deer thrive in the farmed areas of Deer Flat. The native habitat provides a food source and nesting habitat for rabbits and gophers. The predator/prey relationship flourishes in Deer Flat.
Lake Lowell was created by the Boise Project as part of the Bureau of Reclamation’s design to bring water to the farmlands of Western Idaho. One point three million dollars were allocated in 1905 to build an extensive irrigation canal system and a large reservoir. By damming the Boise River, the Boise Project created irrigation water for the rich agricultural lands of Canyon County and a massive lake in an otherwise arid region. Lake Lowell became the perfect wetland habitat being fed by the Boise River via a series of canals.
Today Lake Lowell serves as not only a wildlife preserve, but a water recreation area in an otherwise dry desert region. Weekends bring hundreds of boaters to the lake to enjoy waterskiing and sailing.
Caldwell Train Depot
Caldwell was founded as a railroad town in 1883. The city center grew up around the train depot since it was the only permanent structure in the town. Tents went up housing railroad workers and businesses. Caldwell was a thriving center for the sheep trade because of the railroad. The sheep could easily be transported to large markets further west. In 1889 The city determined they needed a larger depot. It was constructed in 1906 made of brick with stone trim.
Over the years the increased use of automobiles decreased passenger train traffic. Soon only freight trains stopped in Caldwell. Eventually that stopped too and the depot closed in the mid-1980s.
Caldwell secured a 99 year lease from the Union Pacific in 1989 and began to rent the depot out for community events. In 1995, the depot was listed on the National Register for Historic Places and restored in 2006. The original brickwork and stone trim was kept during the restoration process. Careful examination of the bricks will reveal signatures left by passengers through the depot.