Southeast Idaho Fieldwork Survey Part 3: Caribou County
This short series is a snapshot of a month’s worth of work conducting folklife fieldwork in the far southeastern corner of the state. Unless otherwise noted, photos were taken with Jack Daly’s camera and text was taken from Jack Daly’s field notes.
One common theme that binds all of these counties is that they are comprised of long stretches of highway dotted with small towns that ultimately lead to the county seat. This is absolutely the case in Caribou County, home to Soda Springs.
I drove towards Grace and stopped at the Last Chance Dam & Canal. These fluvial markers represent an important aspect of the area’s history, as they were formed by early settlers in a last-ditch effort to get water to both sides of the valley – an endeavor that was successful and allowed for settlement. The overlook of the Last Chance Canal was one of the more beautiful places I’ve traveled to so far during my fieldwork, as the wide river sits far below a ridge, with awe-inspiring views in the background. I also visited the Last Chance Dam, which is only a few hundred yards beyond the canal, and was struck by the ingenuity of the early settlers to create such a system (which has of course been modernized for current usage). Along the way, Niter Ice Cave sits mysteriously in the ground, and if you have the gall to enter be aware that it feels like you are descending into the abyss. [The Niter Ice Cave] is an eerie hole in the ground that leads to a deep cave. A family that had owned it in the past used it as storage for milk and cheese. I went into the dark cave but was intimidated by the darkness so I quickly turned around.
When I arrived in Soda Springs, I first stopped at the Camp Conner complex: a historical marker denoting the original settlement of Soda Springs. I drove through Main Street, and luckily arrived at the geyser right as it was going off (which is once every hour on the hour). The geyser seems like a noteworthy tourist attraction, and there were several groups of people there.
I drove to Soda Springs, with my first stop being Caribou Jack’s, which is a hardware store that doubles as a BBQ joint. I asked the workers if I could drop off new brochures, which they obliged to, and I also asked if they knew anyone in town who was a folk artist or musician. One of the workers asked their dad, who said he knew a folk musician named Jason Greene. They gave me his work number, and I called to see if I could stop by. Luckily, he was there, so I drove down to his shop.
Jason Greene is the proprietor of a hardware store in Soda Springs. I spoke with him and asked about his influences as a folk musician. He said that much of his early songs were about the mining industry in Butte, Montana, as he grew up in Helena. Now, he writes songs that focus on social commentary. For example, he said he has a song inspired by being on stage and seeing everyone looking down at their phones. He performs in Lava Hot Springs and records his music in Pocatello.
Finally, [at] Soda Springs, [the] entrance is marked by Sheep Rock, a sublime rock protrusion that was used as a marking point by indigenous people and settlers alike. Part 3