It’s very similar to City of Rocks.  Pioneers passing through Idaho on their way to the west coast would sometimes stop and leave their names behind, often the year they were passing through.  Sometimes they used axel grease.  Some, who had more time, carved into rocks.

It’s what one little boy did at what’s now Massacre Rocks State Park near American Falls.  He made his carving a few feet away from the much larger Register Rock, which was covered in pioneer graffiti.

Little J.J. Hansen and his family were traveling the year after the Civil War ended.  The Golden Spike wouldn’t be pounded into the ground at Promontory Point for another three years.  Movements across the continent at the time were slow and often dangerous.  Now you know how the state park got its name.  Indigenous tribes weren’t always welcoming of so many newcomers crossing the plains, mountains, and high desert.

Hansen survived.  A new century came and he was nearly 50 years old when he returned to view his artwork.  It was only six years prior when the first cross-country trip by car had passed through Idaho.  There was no serious highway system.  Eleven years after the sculptor returned to the rock, Dwight Eisenhower would lead a team across the country scouting routes for a modern highway system.  Hansen’s life was a bridge between eras.

I visited the Register Rock site a few days ago.  There are picnic tables, bathrooms, and green leafy trees.  It’s now a place of contemplation.  An Interstate highway passes nearby.  Traffic screams along at 80 miles per hour (and sometimes more).  The large rocks and the place where the massacres took place are split between the four lanes of the road.  Both are worth your time.  I have a yearly park pass and I would highly recommend everyone buy one.  We need to witness the past.

Credit Bill Colley.
Credit Bill Colley.

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