Three Island Crossing re-enactment will return to Glenns Ferry

A past crossing, after an ox slipped and fell, pulling a wagon onto its side on a treacherous stretch of the river.
A past crossing, after an ox slipped and fell, pulling a wagon onto its side on a treacherous stretch of the river.

Lovers of history will once again be able to see a reenactment of Oregon Trail pioneers crossing the Snake River at Glenns Ferry after a six-year hiatus.

The Three Island Crossing will take place at noon on Saturday, Aug. 13, at Three Island Crossing State Park.

A group of residents began the reenactment tradition in 1989. It became an annual event and grew in attendance until 2010, when it was suspended; organizers told the Statesman in 2009 that an aging pool of participants and a lack of wagons and equipment made it difficult to keep the event going.

“The cowboys are now using four-wheelers,” Dale Smith, then-president of the Three Island Crossing Committee, told the Twin Falls Times-News at the time.

Animal deaths were also an occasional problem, including the loss of a mule in 2008. The committee said in 2009 those didn’t factor into the decision to end the event.

This year, an area businessman, Dale Jeffrey, has offered to supply horses and lead the river crossing for the reenactment in August.

Organizers had decided last fall to perform the crossing again, but had been waiting for approvals from various agencies. A lot goes into producing the crossing, said Douglas Jones, Crossings Winery owner and one of the organizers of the event. “We got the go-ahead. Now we are all scurrying to put it all together,” he said.

Idaho Power will lower water levels in the river. Accommodation must be made for music systems, vendors and parking for thousands. More than 10,000 people have attended the event in the past, said Jones; media reports estimated the final crowd in 2009 to be at least 2,000.

For all the focus on history, there will be one nod to modern times: Cowboys crossing the river in August will wear GoPro cameras to give viewers an up-close view of the crossing.

The community has missed the event, Jones said, as the crossing was a key part of local history and lore.

“It’s interesting to put yourself in the place of someone who made the trek on the Oregon Trail, and then two-thirds through the trip, came to the roughest part,” he said.

The “Three Island Crossing” was the most difficult river crossing on the 2,200-mile Oregon Trail. Between 300,000 to 400,000 pioneers made the crossing between 1841 and 1871, until Gustavus Glenn established a ferry crossing nearby. Millions of Westerners today have at least one ancestor who made the crossing, say organizers.

In addition to the horse and wagon crossing, the event will include live music, food, craft and cultural vendors at the park. Admission is $10 for adults (13 years and up) and $5 for children (5-12 years). Children 5 and younger are free.

In the 2008 video, Pete Zimowsky says it's not that hard to hike the Oregon Trail near Three Island Crossing State Park.