When dawn breeds a new day in the Owyhee country, it might be possible to get a glimpse of a desert Bigfoot.  It is known in these parts that there once roamed a legendary giant haunting the ridges and wild remoteness of this isolated  badlands.    Large foot tracks laid down  in many places for a good number of years during the mid 1800’s, give evidence of its presence.  Measured tracks were around 18 inches long and were found in far-ranging areas, often covering over 80 miles in a single night. Depredations against the local settlers and miners  were often a result of encounters with Bigfoot. But not, against the indigenous Indians in the same area.  Why?  Because this Bigfoot of yester-year, was actually an Indian who was almost the size of modern-day bigfoot, as so described by those claiming a hairy encounter with such.

Bigfoots real name was “Oulux” to his Indian friends. They also called him “Nampuh,” which is where the name of Nampa, Idaho, comes from. He stood 6’8″ tall, had a chest girth of 59 ” and weighed around 300 pounds – all muscle and bone.  No fat, as that would work contrary to the almost miraculous feats Bigfoot left in the wake of his travels. For years the whites were terrorized by his presence, with a little help from the repetitively  enlarged fantasies of their own making. Such is the mechanism that many legends are made of.  Filtering out truth from fiction is always a historical challenge.

But, no doubt, Bigfoot was real, and he made an ever lasting place for himself in the mirages  of the Owyhee landscapes.   His ghost might still be seen today, from time to time, by those with larger imaginations. He was also blamed for many murders and attacks on wagon trains along the Oregon Trail.  Some legitimate, some not. But, the rumor mill has always been a way to cast dispersion and unsupportable evidence for many irrational concoctions.  Specially so, in Bigfoots case, as was indicated  by the $1000 price tag on his head.

He also had light skin, and in reality was not a full-blooded Indian. He was part white, part black, and part Cherokee, none of which were of native blood to the area. But based on his mean personality, one might conclude this was a bad gene mix.  Before his Indian  name, he was known as Starr Wilkinson.  As a kid, he was bullied about his size by other kids, which boiled his blood and ignited  enough  anger that he almost killed a few of them. So, more likely it was by poisonous  social norms, than a bad gene inheritance that  rendered his inclination towards the darker side of character that  normally gets revved up by anger.

Later on he had troubles with a woman whom became his girlfriend on a wagon train heading west, when another man stole her away. One thing led to another, and soon he killed the rival ( a white named Hart), by choking,  then threw  him into the Snake River.  But only after having first  been shot by him in the side. Not long after that, near the Boise River, he met a french trapper named Joe Lewis. He had been in party with the Indians of the  Whitman Massacre at Waiilatpu, and still lived with them.  So Bigfoot joined this nefarious band of trouble makers and  continued on with them in their raids and murderous rampages.

Eventually, around 1857, Bigfoot and his blood thirsty companions attacked a wagon train at the confluence of the Boise and  Snake rivers. All of these immigrants were killed, including his girl friend of old, who,  by chance alone was on that wagon train.  Afterwards, many more raids were made over the years,  with Bigfoot having killed so many people, he soon lost count. Thus, spawned his “Dead or Alive” price tag, not to mention a raised level of fear for all who traveled through the Owyhee country.

He continued to amaze the brave souls who pursued him, with his unbelievable abilities to cover so much ground in such a short time. It also gave him a reputation of  being able to outdistance a good horse.  One time, he escaped capture when two of his compatriots were shot beside him, by jumping into the Snake River and swimming to the other side. His camp was found later on, where only the bones of two salmon remained, as Bigfoot had doubled back and re-swam the river again to escape.

Eventually, the consequences of cause and effect caught up to Bigfoot. He was killed in July of 1868, with 16 bullets that was required for such, by a questionable lawman named John Wheeler.  This lawman turned outlaw shortly there after, and has a personal history worthy of another story all its own.

Bigfoot is now gone, but his spirit still rides the scowling winds of the lonely Owyhee landscape. Even shapes of the landscape itself give stone  testimony to a hint of Bigfoots presence.

You might still get a chance to see his ghost. That is, if you are of the mind-set which favors a vivid imagination and is easily swayed by the legends and fanciful lore of times gone by.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

For more river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.com

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