Squaw Butte Mountain (“the Squaw”) is a long dominating Butte, 8300′ at its highest, but with long gentle slopes easily traversed, and with a commanding view of 200 miles in any direction. The mountain was given its name, supposedly, by the Indians as from its western aspect it looks like a reclining woman. As the dominant mountain viewable from anywhere within 200 miles, it gave a sense of direction to easily navigate anyplace in the vicinity. Anywhere in the vicinity one can always spot the Squaw and depending upon its aspect and relative size determine where you are with precision–very valuable in 1800s.
I spent six weeks in 1950 bailing hay for Dave Little on the old Van Dueson Ranch — at foot of the Squaw — the earliest settled ranch around — and prominently situated on a large creek that drains the west slope of the Squaw, and always has water. Dave owned the entire west slope and had bought out Indian Jake and his brother, Jack — two Indian ranchers now buried on the summit, that had owned a large portion on the top.
The Squaw is beloved by all as a beautiful mountain clothed in snow thru nine months. Very scenic, it was our most visible geographic feature. In the winter time when milking our cows, looking east before the sun came up, was the bright Morning Star (Venus) framed most beautifully right over beautiful snowy Squaw Butte. A picture postcard moment, every morning. And, it was very prominent in most of the traveling done in the area, as both a reference point, an obstacle to get around, and a means of traversing the local portion of Idaho’s mountainous western approach.
Today you can drive to the summit of the Squaw to an overlook made by BLM. Spectacular view. The Squaw is a butte — so somewhat flat on top. There is nothing up there but weather stuff, microwave towers, and BLM turnarounds, and magnificent view!
It was such a visible and notable landmark that the Indians had used it for many centuries as a landmark for the gatherings of many tribes in Treasure Valley to catch and dry salmon and other fish, harvest berries and roots and trade.
Many times in early Payette Valley you would hear over and over the term “Dry Buck.” Someone got their lumber from Dry Buck, or they were going to Dry Buck. Dry Buck was a very handy mountain with timber on it, that had special characteristics. It was the “Home Depot” of the times. It was easily accessible in any season. It had lots of timber of whatever size you wanted. It was right next to the Payette River where logs could be rolled own the slope and floated down to Emmett or Boomerang (Payette). In the spring floods, the logs could readily be carried past any point on the river, any rapids, and any braided portion. The last characteristic was actually the best, and gave the mountain its name Dry Buck (Buck is a lumberman term meaning to cut logs at a certain length easily managed. It was a relatively dry mountain, with no scrub or brush, just wide open spaces between trees that was kept clear by recurring fires that swept thru from time to time. An ideal timber grove.
A man could simply get on his horse, go up Big Willow (which pointed directly at Dry Buck), or from Emmett go up Van Duesen Road, and go over the Squaw at an easy summit portion, then down into Squaw Creek area about where Ola is today, then another gentle climb up Dry Buck mountain and along its length to pick whatever area best suited your needs. About a day’s ride if hurried, or easy two day with pack mule or buggy. Or, you could go up Squaw Creek on the east flank of the Squaw. This access had steeper sides, but the stream had nice easily traversed flood plain, and water the entire way. These were dry hills, easily covered by horse, pack mule or even buckboard if need be.
Dry Buck was basically another version of the Squaw but with timber. So it was really gentle rolling hills with timber. A man could fell a tree, then “buck” it into lengths of 8-10.’ Then he could simply roll these easily handled timber logs downhill and into the river. Very simply, very easy. Such work was usually done in winter, when nothing could be done in the valleys because of mud, snow — or not the growing season. Then a man could spend what might be wasted time felling as many logs as he needed, then stockpile them just uphill from the river. He had only to wait for the spring ice going out to get all the water in the river needed to float his logs as far as he wanted.
Dry Buck supplied virtually all the limber used in Payette Valley until 1917, when the Boise Cascade Mill was built in Emmett. Even after that opening, much of the mills lumber continued to come from Dry Buck, however it was all regulated by gov’t by then. The railroad was extended to Cascade — mainly because it paralleled Dry Buck the entire distance — still getting logs rolled down the hill, but with the railroad it could operate all year long, not dependent upon spring floods to lift logs over the big rocks and debris dams.
The nature of easy travel over the area’s dry hills, and even major mountains like the Squaw, was a major plus in early days of Payette Valley. Which fact is completely unrealized by present day population.