I have many reasons to love Idaho, the diversity of the landscape and the four seasons are two of them. I hope you enjoy these photographs of Camas Prairie as much as I enjoyed making them.
Writer Gina Knudson’s roots run deep in this part of the country. I will let her tell you about this special place in Idaho.
By Gina Knudson
“When my people refer to Camas Prairie, they mean the prairie around Fairfield and what remains of Hill City, Idaho. Because the bulbs were such a staple for indigenous tribes, other Camas Prairies are also on the map and recorded in history. There is the Camas Prairie of Nez Perce lore near Grangeville in Central Idaho, and the Camas Prairie of the Northern Shoshone near Dubois in Southeast Idaho.
The Oregon Shortline Railroad made it to Hill City in 1911, and soon after my great-grandfather capitalized on this opportunity, selling his dairy farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to purchase the General Store and some land in Hill City. The Oregon Shortline’s terminus, Hill City at one time shipped more sheep than any other part of the world. It was only a matter of time before the place would rival Chicago as an economic hub, or so my folks guessed. We guessed wrong, and today Hill City is more of an outpost than a community.
Although the boom town days faded fast, the beauty of the place remains virtually unchanged. The views of the Soldier and Smoky Mountains frame the expansive prairie, and the bloom of the camas lily turning fields into ocean mirages is without question a rite of spring.
My grandparents met on the prairie, my mom was born in Hill City, my parents wed in Fairfield. I am not bothered by my great-grandfather’s real estate miscalculation. This is our Camas Prairie.”