The Lewis and Clark Trail, The Nez Perce Indians, Kamiah, Idaho, and the Clearwater River
Older than the recorded history of the West, Kamiah was the winter home of the Nez Perce Indians. It was here they came to fish for steelhead, a staple in their diet, and to manufacture “Kamia” ropes, hence the name Kam-Me-I (Kamiah) meaning the place of “many rope litters”. The Valley is rich in the heritage and legends of the Nez Perce and it was here, among the ancestors of the present day Nez Perce, that the Appaloosa horse was first bred, primarily for use as a war animal. The Appaloosa is also the official State horse.
President Thomas Jefferson’s Corp of Discovery and its Captains Merriwether Lewis and William Clark made Kamiah, Idaho the third longest stopover in their journey to the Pacific Ocean and back.
The Corp occupied Camp Copunnish (Long Camp) on the north shore of the Clearwater River across from the present townsite of Kamiah for almost a month in the spring of 1806. While waiting for the snows to melt so they could cross the Bitterroot Mountains, the Corp members explored the area, held shooting and running contests and shared cultural differences with the Nez Perce. The valley remains the home of many Nez Perce. The Nez Perce Historical Park site, the “Heart of the Monster”, an important part of the Nez Perce legend is here. Two festivals highlight the summer, the Mat’a-Lyma Root Feast in May and the Lookingglass Pow Wow in August.
The “Heart of the Monster” National Park borders Long Camp RV Park and is very accessible for hiking, exploring, fishing, swimming, rafting and birdwatching. The 1870 Corbett Ferry Landing was on the west corner of the Long Camp RV Park.
On May 14, 1806, Lewis wrote of the Clearwater River that ran along the camp site: “The river is 150 yards wide and extremely rapid. Though it may be safely navigated at this season, as the water covers all the rocks which lie in its bed to considerable depth.” It was here, too, that one of the Corp members brought Lewis a black and white bird with red face. Lewis named the bird in his own honor, Lewis’ Woodpecker, the only zoological specimen to survive the trip east.
The Kamiah valley is well situated for development with lumber and logging being the major industries, augmented by agriculture, cattle raising and gardening.
Kamiah nestles on the banks of the beautiful Clearwater River in a valley surrounded by scenic foothills. It lies along the Lewis Clark Highway, (U.S. Highway 12) “Scenic Byway”, which is the shortest route from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast. It is the longest highway within a National Forest in the Nation.
The City of Kamiah offers an excellent public school system, an up to date Police and Fire Department, an outstanding emergency medical unit and a modern medical clinic. The airport has a 3,000′ turf runway and accommodates local pilots and other small aircraft. Kamiah also has a competition size swimming pool, tennis courts, Riverside Park, and a modern sanitation facility and water filtration plant.
Kamiah has a very mild climate with an average yearly rainfall of 22 inches. Our average daytime temperature is 63 degrees and an average night time temperature of 35 degrees. We have a population of 1,100 and an elevation of 1,250 feet above sea level.
Our Saturday Farmers Market is held annually, April 25th through October 31st and is located at Long Camp RV Park between Kamiah and Kooskia.
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