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Wilderness Gateway or Boulder Flats is the answer for Number 521 of Orofino History Trivia a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country.

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Monday: It once had a ferry.

Tuesday: A cabin

Wednesday: Two different names

Thursday: A popular place

Friday: Has suffered severe fires

Saturday: Piled up snow

Monday: Sometimes it grew and sometimes it shrank.

Tuesday: A moraine

Wednesday: A take off point

Thursday: A campground

Friday: Prominent feature formed by glacial action

Saturday: A series of these in the creek gave the area its earlier name.

Wilderness Gateway or Boulder Flats has been developed as a campground and a take-off point for people packing up Boulder Creek and into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. For a number of years, it was known as Boulder Flats taking its name from Boulder Creek which is shown on maps as early as 1895, according to The Clearwater Story: A History of the Clearwater National Forest by Ralph Space.

For a time, about 1922 to 1925, there was a Ranger Station consisting of a cabin and corral on the north bank of the Lochsa River below Sherman Creek. There was also a ferry across the river. The cabin was later taken apart and floated piece-by-piece down the river and skidded to the Lochsa Ranger station where it was reassembled.

In his book, Space said the area had had two severe wildfires in his lifetime, 1910 and 1934.

During the Glacial Age, snow falling in the high country around the Crags at the head of the various forks of Boulder Creek failed to melt during the summers and eventually formed glaciers. For a time these glaciers grew and moved down the creek to the Lochsa River pushing millions of tons of mud, rocks, boulders, sand, and ground timber. The river washed the material away and scattered it downstream as far as the Pacific Ocean. But as the glacier inched forward it forced the river against the north bank where it undermined the hillside and made a cliff into the river. Then the glacier drove its nose hard against the north bank and dammed the river forming a lake above the glacier. The lake flowed over the glacier and the Lochsa River and Sherman Creek moved rocks, sand, mud and debris into the lake partially filling it.

Space says the glacier started to move down the Lochsa Canyon and shoved a huge pile of mud into the mouth of Zion Creek and formed the bench where the Lochsa Work Center is. Then the whole process reversed as there was less snow than the melt in the summer. The ice melted until the lake broke through the mud and rock that was no longer reinforced by ice. The river cut a channel through the glacial debris which collected in the lake leaving the flats around the mouth of Boulder Creek and remnants of the glacial moraine at Lochsa Station.

Glaciers made other advances and formed lakes behind the piles of debris. The lakes would fill with mud and the creek would wear a channel through the moraine. These old lake beds with the rich soils became meadows. There are a number of these on the upper Boulder, Surprise and Cliff creeks.

As the glacier melted, it dropped boulders, rocks, sand and mud all along Boulder Creek. The creek being much larger tha it is today, due to the melting ice, removed much of the finer materials, leaving the creek channel a series of boulders from which the creek gets its name.

For more details about the area see:

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Window on the Clearwater
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Orofino, ID 83544
Orofino 476 0733
Fax: 208-476-4140