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The Lochsa (pronounced “lock-saw”) was included by the U.S. Congress in 1968 as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Lochsa and Selway rivers and their tributaries have no dams, and their flow is unregulated. In late spring, mid-May to mid-June, the Lochsa River is rated as one of the world’s best for continuous whitewater.
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A writer from the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine toured the falls of the Missouri in the autumn of 1887 and reported: “The appearance of the Black Eagle Fall suggests its future use. Some day it will drive saws, spindles, and mill-stones.”4 Indeed, plans for harnessing the fall’s potential were already under way. The first dam, completed in 1891, provided both direct mechanical power and a limited amount of electricity for local use.
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“Despite their splendor the Great Falls presented much danger and hardship for the explorers. In one afternoon Lewis’s path converged with a bear, a mountain cat or wolverine and three buffalo bulls; to Lewis it seemed that “all the beasts of the neighbourhood had made a league to distroy me, or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at my expence” (140). Many members of the expedition were ill, including Sacagawea who had been suffering for more than a week from an unknown sickness. Clark, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and her baby nearly drowned in a violent storm of torrential rain and huge hailstones. Grizzly bears, rattlesnakes and mosquitoes were a constant worry, even to the dog, Seaman, who Clark noted was “in a constant state of alarm with these bear and keeps barking all night” (151) –nps.gov
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After passing one continued rapid and three small cascades of about four or five feet each[,] at the distance of about five miles I arrived at a fall of about 19 feet; the river is here about 400 yds wide. this pitch which I called the crooked falls occupys about three fourths of the width of the river, commencing on the south side, extends obliquly upwards about 150 yds.[,] then forming an accute angle extends downwards nearly to the commencement of four small Islands lying near the N. shore; among these Islands and between them and the lower extremity of the perpendicular pitch being a distance of 100 yards or upwards, the water glides down the side of a sloping rock with a volocity almost equal to that of it’s perpendicular decent.
For a time, later in the nineteenth century, it seemed to some viewers that “horseshoe fall,” would be more descriptive, but Lewis’s name has prevailed. The islands and sloping rock Lewis noted have been obliterated by the in-fill on the north bank, which covers three large pipes that carry water from an intake above Rainbow Fall to a powerhouse a short distance below Crooked Falls.
By Jim Wark
Of all the falls of the Missouri, this one remains the nearest to the way it looked to Lewis and Clark.
Just above these falls, the captain continued, “the river makes a suddon bend to the right or Northwardly. I should have returned from hence but hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued my rout across the point of a hill a fiew hundred yards further.” — lewisandclark.org
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