... the rise of Lava Hot Springs
(This marker consists of series of photographs and their captions.)
The community of Lava Hot Springs is located at a strategic crossroads between the Rockies, the Great Basin, and the West. The year-round availability of natural hot and cold running water has long been an irresistible draw to the area.
The quest for beaver drew trappers and traders to the region in the early 1800s. A few mountain men settled in, trading their traps for the tools of farmers, miners, and merchants. By the late 1800s, they were joined by homesteaders who were enticed by the government's offer of free land.
The railroad''s arrival in 1882 provided farm-to-market transportation. It also brought tourists anxious to soak in the hot springs. The community first called Dempsey, then Hall City, was renamed Lava Hot Springs in 1915 and a resort town was born.
Twentieth century fires and floods devastated the town. Residents, as reliable as the water in the hot springs, cleared away ashes and mud each time and rebuilt their community.
Fur trader and trail traveler
(photo: top center)
Bob Dempsey, an Irish trapper, and his Lemhi Indian wife Margaret set up camp on a creek about 1-1/2 miles west of Lava Hot Springs in 1851.
In addition to trapping, Dempsey traded
horses to Oregon- and California-bound pioneers in need of fresh stock.
Trains and tourists
(photo: center, 2nd from top)
Passengers and products of all kinds rolled in and out of town on the Oregon Shoreline Railroad. By 1905, Lava Hot Springs was a popular destination for train-traveling tourists.
Farms and families
(two photos at top right)
By 1896 there were businesses, farms, and families in Hall City. A little log schoolhouse built that year was replaced with a fine brick one in 1905.
(side-bar across the bottom)
Fire in Lava Hot Springs
In the early hours of November 20, 1936 a devastating fire destroyed half of a city block leaving six businesses in ashes.
The fire engine, parked in a local garage, was blocked by 20 automobiles, delaying critical fire-fighting efforts. Pocatello's fire department dispatched a crew but their engine broke down on the road.
After a four-hour fight, the flames were brought under control, Nye Drug Store, the local state liquor dispensary, was damaged by the fire. During the blaze, the store was reportedly "relieved" of 20-30 cases of liquor.
Flooding on the Portneuf
On the night of February 9, 1962, most of Lava Hot Springs residents were attending a fund-raiser when someone ran in yelling that the Portneuf River was flooding.
Rain and unseasonably warm temperatures melted snow, saturating the ground and sending more water into the river than its banks could contain.
For three days, citizens and the National Guard frantically filled sandbags in an attempt to save lives and property. Despite their efforts, the worst flood in Lava Hot Springs' 100-year history caused millions of dollars of damage.
Photo captions: Townspeople survey damage after the 1936 fire.; The wild Portneuf River rushed through the heart of town in 1962, leaving devastation is its wake.