The Ada County Oregon Trail Trailhead opens access to acres of pristine ruts formed by thousands of pioneer emigrants and their wagons. Beginning with the first Oregon Trail emigrants in the early 1840s, an estimated 50,000 people trudged across the area on their way to a better life in Oregon. Thousands of wagons traveled down the hill to the southeastern portion of the trailhead and across the Bench before locking their wheels and sliding down the basalt cliff to the river bottom. Freight wagons migrated through this area into the 1880s to deliver goods to the Boise area, and their wagon ruts are still evident today.
CSHQA developed a master plan of the area to provide an enhanced user experience with access to the trail network. The original plan included an interpretive kiosk building, but once construction and maintenance budgets were considered, we developed a concept using native basalt columns to mirror existing basalt cliffs as the framework for the interpretation panels.
Artistic symbolic elements have been extrapolated from the wagon trains of the Oregon Trail migration and attached to the basalt cliff band to provide visual and tactile interpretive opportunities and cover from the elements. The interpretation elements include information from a number of state and federal agencies and include the Oregon Trail, wildlife and native vegetation, and dams and waterways.
Primary materials include CorTen corrugated metal roofing, tube steel columns and horizontal bracing, and concrete footings. Over time the weathering steel will form a protective patina and blend seamlessly into the natural environment. An earth berm with native planting surrounds the kiosk, blending into the sage plain.