Big Southern Butte — A Waypoint for Thousands of Years"Just passing through, ma'ma"The harsh conditions on the plain discouraged most long-term settlement, but Big Southern Butte was a clear waypoint. In the 1800s, travelers headed toward Fort Boise would often take the Goodale Cutoff, an Oregon Trail shortcut. They would leave Fort Hall on the Snake River (about 40 mi [64 km] southeast), and head toward the Butte's sharp silhouette, passing to its north. An 1878 stage line from Blackfoot to the copper mines near Mackay and Challis followed a similar path. Later, the Oregon Short Line Railroad followed the same route.
Travelers on the Oregon Trail, and later stagecoach lines and the Oregon Short Line Railroad, relied on fresh water from springs at the base of Big Southern Butte.
". . . travelers on the Challis Stage Road find the Big Butte Station a pleasant place to stop . . ."
Idaho News (Blackfoot, Idaho), June 25, 1887
A Source of Obsidian
Big Southern Butte was frequently visited by Native American groups. It was a source for obsidian, a volcanic glass used for arrow and spear tips. Archaeologists have found the Butte's unique obsidian at sites throughout Idaho, Montana, Utah and as far away as California's Joshua Tree National Monument. Today, the Butte and surrounding landscape remain spiritually impartant to the descendants of these groups, the Shoshone-Bannack Tribes.
People have lived on these lands for more than 10,000 years. Native American hunting and gathering parties valued the plain's resources as shown by archaeological evidence — stone tools, ancient campsites and pictographs.
Native Americans, specifically Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, contine to value the natural and cultural resources of these lands. The Idaho National Laboratory Site lies within the aboriginal lands of the Shoshone and Bannock people. Tribal members work with the U.S. Department of Energy to protect the significant resources found here.
Ancient Lake Terreton
Throughout most of the Pleistocene epoch—-about 1.8 million to 10,000 years before present—a large shallow inland lake and surrounding streams and wetlands provided abundant resources for the plain's nomadic people. Mammoths, camels and other ice Age fauna were abundant.
The lake and Ice Age mammals disappeared when the climate changed about 10,000 years ago. Mud Lake is the modern remnant of the ancient lake.
(Inscription under the photos in the lower left)
The pictograph panel (above) shows figure drawings that are unique to this area. Also is a photo of 1900s Shoshone, courtesy of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
(Inscription under the photo in the lower center)
Historic artifacts reflect the broken dreams of those who attempted to settle here.
(Inscription under the photo in the upper right)
The Oregon Short Line freight train at the Arco depot in 1912, 11 years after the line was completed.