Three Island Crossing

Three Island Crossing paintingAt Three Island Crossing emigrants on the Oregon Trail reached a critical junction. Here they had to decide whether to make the difficult crossing of the Snake River or take a longer alternative route along the south side of the river.

"Some of the hardest things the emigrants had to do were crossing rivers. When you read the diaries there are a lot if incidents of deaths at the river crossings. So when they get to Three Island Crossing they’ve got a decision to make. They could continue on down the south side of the Snake which was known as the dry and the longest route and the more desolate Wagons crossing riverroute or they could risk crossing. …. So it was whether you wanted to risk drowning or take the long route."
--Larry Jones, Idaho State Historical Society, retired

Today, local residents in the Glenns Ferry area honor their pioneer heritage during the annual Three Island Crossing event. Every August, since 1985 they’ve reenacted the crossing at this historic spot.

Roy Allen crossingThe area is now an Idaho state park complete with a history and education center. Yet, actually witnessing a crossing leaves a vivid impression on the hundreds of spectators who line the river. Roy Allen has been part of the event for over twenty years and has participated in all but two of the reenactments. In his late seventies he’s the oldest man still crossing the river.

Julie crossing"It’s a little bit exhilarating when you know you’re coming into the swimming water, pretty quick you feel your old horse start swimming instead of walking, you hope he can swim good."
--Roy Allen, long time Three Island Crossing participant

For many onlookers seeing this crossing is more real than any history book could ever be. And for the participants there’s great meaning in continuing this tradition.

"Both sets of Great Grandparents crossed this river, so it’s a way to honor them and remember them and when we make it across its such jubilation you know when you think about your heritage and how your ancestors must’ve felt and you thank God that you’ve made it and everybody’s safe."
--Julie Blackwell—Three Island Crossing Participant