The Trail Connects Us All New Waysides Project Honors Shared Cultural History

Famed for its expansive and unique beauty, Idaho's outdoor adventures never seem to disappoint. From forest to stream and everywhere in between, there is always something new to discover.

City of Rocks National Reserve, co-managed by Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) and the National Park Service (NPS), is a vast park with nearly 15,000 acres, nestled amidst some of the most unique geologic formations that Idaho has to offer. Located outside the small town of Almo, City of Rocks (and sister property Castle Rocks State Park) boasts massive granite spires that tower hundreds of feet into the air. A truly stunning sight that you will get no where else in the Gem State.

Winding through these magnificent boulders are a series of trail networks, guiding park visitors through the historical, geological, and cultural significance of the land. But unless you were familiar with the ancestral stories, much of City's history remained untold--until now.

The Waysides Project

way·side (n): a sign at the edge of a road

The Waysides Project, funded by NPS's Trails to Parks Historic Trails Program, consisted of adding 12 (6 new and 6 replacement) wayside display signs along the trails, each illuminating ancient histories and cultural exploration in the area.

"We coordinated with the Original Territories and Historical Research Program of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall for the theme of the waysides and the text writing. Five of the panels have original artwork (oil on canvas) created by Derek No-Sun Brown that we commissioned specifically for the project," shares Assistant Park Manager, Tara McClure-Cannon.

She continues, "The theme we came up with through working with the tribe was “The Trail Connects Us All” – in the waysides, we tie into that theme by explaining that geology created the valleys and passageways used by animals. Then the Shoshoneans followed the animals creating trails, then Mountain Men learned the trails from the Shoshoneans and then the emigrants on the California Trail also followed these same routes. And now, these are also the routes that people today use through the park."

Alongside 2.5 miles of new trail, the waysides can be found at various prominent landmarks, such as Pinnacle Pass, Treasure Rock, and Circle Creek.

Park Manager and Superintendent, Wallace Keck, is excited to see this project come to fruition. Honoring a partnership with the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, the waysides will give park visitors a better glimpse into the past and bring about a greater sense of appreciation and understanding.

"For many years, we recognized the need to tell a more balanced account of the overland emigration along the California Trail. We did not quite know how to tell the story of the indigenous people. At times we were reminded it was not ours to tell. It took a great deal of trust (which we had yet to earn) for the keepers of those histories to help us understand more broadly that time period, and its affects on the Shoshonean people up to this very day," Keck explains. "I hope that the thousands of visitors that come to City of Rocks each year will encounter the interpretive wayside exhibits and discover a much richer history and deeper appreciation for the land."

"I am personally grateful to the Shoshone-Bannock tribal elders, Fort Hall business Council, the Language & Cultural Preservation Department and Original Territories & Historical Research Program for fully partnering with us on the interpretive wayside exhibits project. We hope that the modern tourist today, not only understand that they are traveling the California National Historic Trail, but also the trails of the Shoshone and Bannock people, who themselves followed the trail of the elk and mule deer, coyote and mountain lion. There are many stories yet to be told, and it is the "trail" that connects us all." - Wallace Keck

Explore the waysides through the images below, follow along the trail and experience the deep, meaningful history that truly does connect us all.