Mullan Road: Coeur d'Alene River Crossings Part 2

Robert H. Dunsmore

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Key: Mullan Road       Original River Channel
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KML file for Google Earth: dunsmore-crossings-nfcda-1.kml

Commentary by Kris Townsend and Robert Dunsmore

In Mullan's 1863 report to Congress, two listings of river crossings and other notable landmarks were included. The listing on page 124 of that report, dated January 2, 1860, was provided by W. W. Johnson, civil engineer. The list of river crossings and landmarks on pages 128–133 was provided by John Wiesner, meteorologist and astronomer. That report is dated January 25, 1860. Both lists were prepared under Mullan's supervision while wintering at Cantonment Jordan near the St. Regis river.

Johnson measured distance and elevation from a spring near the river's edge on the west side of the 'Mission Hill'—just inches above the river level at that time. Wiesner measured distance from Fort Walla Walla and elevation above sea level. Selected data from both listings were combined into the table provided below.

In today's Wallace, Idaho, Mullan called present Placer creek the south fork and today's South Fork Coeur d'Alene he called north fork. He also restarted the count of river crossings as if a new river was beginning.

On the "North Fork" crossings represented on this map, Mullan built two or three bridges in 1859 due to existing conditions. He bridged a slough and quicksand area at the fifteenth crossing and a bridge at the twenty-first crossing where the river dropped into a deep canyon.

In 1861, Mullan’s crews built sixteen major bridges for the second through seventeenth crossings on the "Coeur d'Alene". (See Crossings Part 1) Mullan also built a bridge at the first crossing of the "North Fork" near present Canyon Creek. This was his last bridge on what is now called the South Fork.

In the table below, the listed distances are for the 1859 route. The 1861 route added approximately 10 miles between Walla Walla and the Coeur d'Alene mission. Thus, to determine distance using the newer 1861 route, add 10 miles to the numbers provided here.

Johnson Wiesner
Elev. Miles Elev. Miles
Placer Creek (Mullan's South Fork) 606 24.50 2806 222.89
Crossing 1 625 25.05 2827 223.48
Crossing 2 645 25.50 2841 223.88
Crossing 3 653 25.65 2850 224.03
Crossing 4 675 26.00 2862 224.39
Crossing 5 707 26.53 2896 224.91
Crossing 6 717 26.75 2906 225.14
Crossing 7 720 26.80 2910 225.20
Crossing 8 756 27.37 2952 225.76
Crossing 9 826 28.40 3008 226.74
Crossing 10 838 28.55 3024 226.92
Crossing 11 854 28.75 3038 227.13
Crossing 12 862 28.85 3045 227.26
Crossing 13 868 28.97 3062 227.13
Crossing 14 871 29.03 3065 227.40
Crossing 15 892 29.25 3084 227.62
Crossing 16 907 29.50 3100 227.89
Crossing 17 915 29.60 3104 228.00
Crossing 18 936 29.85 3126 228.26
Crossing 19 948 30.05 3139 228.42
Crossing 20 956 30.20 3148 228.62
Crossing 21 968 30.32 3168 228.73
Crossing 22 1007 30.55 3197 228.91
Crossing 23 1010 30.60 3209 229.00
Crossing 24 1023 30.75 3218 229.13
Crossing 25 1028 30.80 3223 229.17
Crossing 26 1042 31.02 3241 229.14
Crossing 27 1045 31.05 3243 229.46
Crossing 28 1452 35.35 3648 233.75

Sources:

Mullan, John. 1861. Military Road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla Walla, House Executive Document No. 44. 36th Congress, 2nd Session (1860-1861), Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

—.1861. United States Military Road Expedition from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Benton, W.T., Senate Executive Document 1. 37th Congress, 2nd Session (1861-1862), Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

—. 1861. Military road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla-Walla : letter from the Secretary of war, transmitting the report of Lieutenant Mullan, in charge of the construction of the military road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla-Walla. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

—. 1863. Report on the Construction of a Military Road from Fort Walla-Walla to Fort Benton. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

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