The Payette National Forest has prepared a tape/CD which describes the area and its history available at their office at 102 West Lake Street, McCall, Idaho over the 45 mile drive to Warren. It includes descriptions of the geology of the area, history of the area, and other spots of interest.
You can call the McCall Ranger District (208)634-0400 for additional information or visit their web site at www.fs.fed.us/r4/payette/main.html.
Travel times are dependent on the traveler, vehicle speeds and number of stops for viewing. It is 45 miles and about a one and one-half hour drive from McCall to Warren.
Be cautious of hazards around abandoned mines. There are many dangers in and around abandoned mines. Great care should be taken when exploring any of the old mining sites.
The Warren Auto Tour takes you to the town of Warren through the Payette National Forest, private land and some of Idaho's most scenic and historically significant mountain country. This tour (taken from the Payette National Forest Warren Auto Tour) points out the highlights of this area's history, geology and scenery, including the influences of Native American Indians, miners, pioneer settlers, Chinese sojourners, wildlife and gold.
In 1862, prospector James Warren of Lewiston, Idaho, discovered gold on what became known as Warren Creek. News of the discovery spread quickly after Warren returned to Lewiston and reported his findings. People from all over Idaho, particularly the former boomtown of Florence, flocked to the Warren country to stake mining claims. Within four months of the discover, the population of Warren's Camp reached 375. By the following summer, Warren's Camp had become northern Idaho's leading camp with a population of 660 by the end of the season. Many of the buildings that were built over 100 years ago are still around today.
Miles 0.0 - McCall Ranger District Office -
The building housing the McCall Ranger District Office was built in 1936 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, Company 1997, camp S-223. The CCC camp was situated across the road on the lake shore. This group also built six of the other buildings located on this compound, as well as eight of the buildings located on the west end of the block at the Central Idaho Cultural Center Museum. These fifteen structures are all listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places - the largest concentration of listed CCC buildings in the state of Idaho.
You will see Lardos Restauran on your left and Warren Wagon Road to your right.
Mile 0.9 - Warren Wagon Road -
This road was originally one of several pack trails upon which goods sent to and from warren were transported on the backs of horses, mules, and men. As the demand for heavier mining equipment grew, so did the need for a road. The road was built in sections from both the north and south.
Mile 4.9 - Payette Lake -
Payette Lake was carved by an alpine glacier about 75,000 years ago. Glaciers from this same ice age also created many of the mountain lakes and meadows in the area. Careful observation of some of the larger rocks along the road will reveal striations, or scratches left by the glacier as it scraped along the sides of the mountains. The glacier extended as much as 500 feet above the current surface of the lake. The lake has been measured to be 290 feet deep at its deepest point, although some people claim it is 600 feet deep and provides a home for a mythical Loch Ness-type monster named Sharlie.
Mile 8.2 - Payette River -
Payette River is the link between Upper Payette Lake and Payette Lake. In the fall, you may see landlocked salmon in the river. However, don't be tempted to snag one since angling is restricted at certain times of the year to protect Idaho's threatened salmon and steelhead fisheries. Please check Idaho Department of Fish and Game's regulations to determine legal fishing dates. Also, if you see salmon or steelhead in this river, they are most likely here to spawn and should not be disturbed. Spawning fish have a noticeable red color along their sides and are quite vulnerable.
Miles 16.5 - Upper Payette Lake -
Upper Payette Lake provides you with several campsites along the lake with wonderful views. This lake was also created by a glacier. An interpretative trail with information about wildlife, archaeology, and fire ecology starts at the end of the campground road. To reach this trail, drive past Upper Payette Campground and Upper Payette Group Campground.
Mile 18.4 - Fires of 1994 and 2000 -
Undoubtedly, you have noticed the large burned-over areas along both sides of the road. The wildfires that created theses burns were started by lightning in August 1994, and were fueled by hot, dry weather, spruce beetle epidemics and a prolonged drought. When the fire started, it moved through the dry lower branches to the crowns of the dead spruce trees and then to the adjacent live trees. Over 300,000 acres were burned that year. Six years later, the Burgdorf Junction Fire picked up where the 1994 fire stopped. This fire burned over 60,000 acres southeast of Burgdorf. More information about these fires can be found on interpretive signs located at miles 18.6 and 20.5. These signs are Rebirth of an Ecosystem, New Wildlife Habitat and Nature's Unseen Story.
Mile 23.6 - Secesh Summit -
Your ears may be popping now that you have reached the summit, at an elevation of 6,434 feet above sea level. the town of McCall is at 5,038 feet in elevation, so we are ascending Idaho's mountains at at rate of about 63 feet per miles. During the winter, snow depths here are regularly more than 14 feet.
You might want to keep your eyes peeled for the larges animal on the American continent - the moose. This area has a large moose population because they prefer the cooler temperatures that the terrain at this elevation offers. You may or may not see a moose during your tour because they are remarkable adept at staying out of sight. If you do see a moose, observe it from a distance. They have been know to charge trains in Alaska. You are probably much smaller than a train.
Mile 29.7 - Lake Creek -
This creek is part of the headwaters of the Secesh River and is another spawning ground for Idaho's migratory salmon population. Over 30 percent of the Chinook Salmon populating return to this area to spawn every year. Fishing on Lake Creek and the Secesh River is restricted at certain times of the year in order to protect spawning salmon. We have one of the last of two wild salmon runs in this area.
Side Trip - Burgdorf -
The old town site of Burgdorf is about two miles off Warren Wagon Road and is well worth seeing. The town is historically interesting and still offers its original attraction - natural hot water springs. Burgdorf was originally known as "Warm Springs" and was located on one of the trails leading to Warren. The two-story log hotel was one of the first sites in Idaho to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mile 33.2 - Echo Mine -
Echo Mine is located at the head of Secesh meadows and was one of several mines in this area. This mine was used as the base camp for almost 700 army soldiers who helped fight the Burgdorf Junction Fire in August 2000.
Mile 34.7 - Secesh Meadows -
Secesh Meadows is an excellent spot to see wildlife, especially during early mornings and late evenings. Keep an eye out and your camera ready for deer, elk and moose that come to the Meadows to feed. You can also see remnants of the 1989, 1994 and 2000 fires in the mountains around the Meadows.
Mile 40.1 - Steamboat Summit -
Elevation - 6,996 feet above sea level.
Mile 44.6 - Chinese Miners -
During the last half of the 19th century, the people of China were undergoing a series of struggles which included warfare, slavery, famine, floods, earthquakes, over-population and environmental degradation. In order to improve their standard of living, thousands of Chinese sojourners and immigrants came to western America in search of economic opportunities.
When the Warren Mining District was organized in 1862, there was an exclusionary policy among the Euroamerican miners that prevented Chinese immigrants from working mining claims. However, a few Chinese arrived in Warren shortly after the discover of the area's placer gold.
In 1896, after the Euroamericans miners had taken most of the easily recovered gold out of the placer claims they began selling and leasing their claims to the Chinese. Between 1870 and 1900, Chinese miners reworked existing claims and placer mined new mineral-rich ground in the Warren area. Chinese placer miners used labor intense methods to extract gold nuggets and flour gold. It is estimated that from 1862 to 1935, the Warren Mining District produced approximately $15,000,000 in placer gold.
The Chinese population within the Warren Mining District varied yearly and seasonally. Many of Warren's Chinese population wintered in Portland, Oregon, and other coastal and inland cities which had Chinese communities. The US census records for hte Washington Precinct list 355 Chinese people living in the area in 1870, 393 in 1880, 22 in 1900 and 6 in 1910. The population figures are probably low, since tallies were taken in April, May and early June when snow makes it impractical to travel or mine and not all miners wintered in McCall.
Today, Warren and the surrounding area is the site of frequent archaeological excavations which yield relics that enhance our understanding of Chinese history in Idaho. Displays of recovered artifacts are available for viewing at the Warren Guard Station and the Winter Inn in Warren.
Native American Culture - Unfortunately, the Native American culture did not fare as well as the Chinese culture in the Warren area. The war with the Sheepeater Indians in 1879 is a good example of this conflict. In the late 1800's settlers had become uneasy because of the events such as the Nez Perce War and the Bannock war. The paranoia of the settlers grew to the point that any depredation in the county was attributed to the local tribe of Native American Indians. After the Sheepeaters War, things calmed down in Warren and the mining continued.
Mile 45.5 You have arrived in Warren - You can pick up with the walking tour.