The One Way Club

Figure 1. A Wooden boat for floating the Salmon River. Marshall.
Edson Collection.
September is National Wilderness Month and the library has lots of resources for those interested in Idaho’s wilderness. You can learn more about the dangers and thrills you can find when visiting Idaho’s wilderness areas by stopping by the Special Collections and Archives (Room 222). Idaho’s Salmon River, one of America’s wildest rivers and is often called “The River of No Return.” Today, both the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon rivers are popular destinations for whitewater rafting and kayaking. This sport gained popularity after World War Two when the Army and Navy sold off its surplus of rubber rafts. Before then, the primary way to float a river was in a wooden boat called a skiff.

Figure 2. Marshall Edson (left) and another crew member operate
two large oars for maneuvering the boat. Edson collection.
Figure 3. The One Way Club navigates white water on the
Salmon River.  Edson collection.
You can find a perfect example of the end of the wooden skiff era for river rafting in the Marshall C. Edson Papers. In 1946, Edson and a crew of five other rafters took a trip down the Main Fork of the Salmon River – they called themselves the “One Way Club”. While they were not the first to accomplish this – in fact Lewis and Clark made a similar trek over 140 years earlier, but Edson’s trip was rare enough to make local news. Edson worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the goal of his trip was to document the variety and quantity of big game along the river. The wooden boat had two oars on front and back, a gasoline motor to navigate flat water, and even a small refrigerated box to preserve food. The trip took about two weeks and provided some publicity for the growing tourism industry in Idaho’s central mountains.

Edson’s trip down the Salmon River was in many ways an indicator of what was to come for Idaho’s wilderness. The recreation industry was slowly growing in Idaho’s mountains, while at the same time mining, timber, and conservation groups debated proper use of Idaho’s land. The 1964 Wilderness Act defined wilderness to be “where man himself is a visitor, who does not remain,” which essentially reserved select areas exclusively for conservation and non-motorized recreation. Sixteen years later, Congress added the River of No Return Wilderness to the list of protected wilderness areas. In 1984, it was renamed the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. To view Marshal Edson’s scrapbook of his trip down the Salmon River, request MSS 155 from Special Collections and Archives.

Figure 4. The One Way Club give the hand signal for “everything okay.”
Edson collection.
Jim Duran,
Special Collections & Archives 


Mary A said...

What time of year did they go down the river? It looks like they are wearing coats. I know the river water is super cold, and maybe old fashioned life jackets required sleeves -- but I wouldn't want to fall in the river wearing one of those.

Jim Duran said...

The trip started on March 20th, 1946, so yes it would have been a very cold plunge!