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The Snake River History

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The Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. One of the most important rivers in the region, it rises in the mountains of the Continental Divide near the southeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park and flows through Idaho and Oregon before finally emptying into the Columbia River in Washington. Fifteen dams have been built on the 1040 mile Snake River and its tributaries, mainly for purposes of providing irrigation water and hydroelectric power, ranging in size from small diversion dams to major high dams. While the many dams have transformed the region's economy, they have also had an adverse environmental effect on wildlife, most notably on wild salmon migrations. Nearby Hells Canyon is one…show more content…
Later American explorers, some of whom were originally part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, journeyed into the Snake River watershed and records show a variety of names have been associated with the river. The explorer Wilson Hunt of the named the river as Mad River. The Snake River likely got its name from the first European explorers who misinterpreted the sign made by the Shoshone people who identified themselves in sign language by moving the hand in a swimming motion which appeared to these explorers to be a snake. It actually signified that they lived near the river with many…show more content…
Early fur traders and explorers noted regional trading centers, and archaeological evidence has shown some to be of considerable antiquity. One such trading center in the Weiser area existed as early as 4,500 years ago. On the Snake River in southeastern Washington there are several ancient sites. One of the oldest and most well-known is called the Marmes Rockshelter, which was used from over 11,000 years ago to relatively recent times. Eventually, two large Native American groups controlled most of the Snake River: the Nez Perce, whose territory stretched from the southeastern Columbia Plateau into northern Oregon and western Idaho, and the Shoshone, who occupied the Snake River Plain both above and below Shoshone Falls. Below Shoshone Falls, the economy centered on salmon, who often came up the river in enormous numbers. Salmon were the mainstay of the Nez Perce and most of the other tribes below Shoshone Falls. Above the falls, life was significantly different. The Snake River Plain forms one of the only relatively easy paths across the main Rocky Mountains for many hundreds of miles, allowing Native Americans both east and west of the mountains to interact. As a result, the Shoshone centered on a trading
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