Smith's Ferry, Idaho is a tiny hamlet located along Highway 55 about 45 miles south of McCall. It is not a huge tourist trap like its northern neighbor, but it has some of the best scenery along Highway 55 along with a great history based on the logging trade and the railroads. Smith's Ferry has a hotel (Cougar Mountain Lodge), but nothing much after that. If you are speeding through Smith's Ferry, you will miss several of the sites it has to offer.
Smith's Ferry was founded on the logging trade in the late 19th Century. From its founding until 1912, most of the logs taken from the Payette National Forest were shipped to the sawmills in Horseshoe Bend and Emmett via the Payette River. By 1903, a better way was needed to get logs to these locations after being kept in storage for the winter.
So $100,000 was provided for the logging companies to dynamite a clear way in the river to the mills in the south. These were known as Splash Dams, and it allowed the logging companies to store most of the logs felled by loggers in the fall to be stored in a 36-acre pond during the Winter of 1903-1904. Come Springtime, the logs were blasted out of their winter home, and the splash dam was opened. Less than half of the logs made it to Horseshoe Bend and Emmett, and many loggers lost their lives cutting trees down and transporting the logs via the river.
After the logging heyday, the Splash Dams were used by the railroad company to ship railroad ties up north to the construction sites along the Payette, and after 1912, shipment of logs was done by the rails.
About 3 miles north of Smith's Ferry, the history of the railroad in Idaho is prevalent with the World's Shortest Railroad Tunnel. At 37½ feet long, this tunnel is short on size, but rich in history, and it had a lot to do with the founding of Smith's Ferry and Long Valley.
Another beautiful sight near Smith's Ferry is the North Fork Payette River Bridge or "Rainbow Bridge." This bridge dates from the early 20th century and is an important crossing of the Payette River. At the time of this writing, the bridge is going under construction, and when I passed over it last week, it looked like a Christo art piece with blue tarp draped over the bridge's arch. When I was traveling Highway 55 every week to go to Donnelly, this bridge was the marker to say I only had a half hour to get home.
Smith's Ferry is less than 100 miles north of Boise, Idaho, and is a great place to hike or white water raft. There are many rafting places further south that you can take trips from, but with the Payette River being as high as it is this year, many companies might not be doing as many trips. Just last month, a man was killed while rafting the river. So, take the proper precautions for a safe trip down the river. There is a train that leaves Horseshoe Bend for day trips through the area every summer. For more information on that, see my buddy ducksunset's journals on his adventures on this train and his photos.