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Picturing history: Soda Springs, Idaho

Located in Caribou County of southeastern Idaho, the little town of Soda Springs was an unusual but welcome stop on the Oregon Trail. Travelers enjoyed bathing in the natural mineral springs that bubble out of the earth there. The site became a landmark along the trail and a first destination to travelers in general.

This interpretive panel is near the site of Morristown, Idaho, a settlement established by Col. Patrick Connor that now lies under the waters of a reservoir. | Kenneth Mays

A state of Idaho interpretive panel near the town notes that Col. Patrick E. Connor (from Fort Douglas, Utah) established a settlement called Morristown, and adjacent army post near the mineral springs in 1863. In subsequent years, the population began to dwindle. In 1870, LDS Church President Brigham Young established what is present-day Soda Springs just east of Connor’s location.

In the early 1870s, the Mormon settlers built a cabin to be a summer home for President Young at the site he established. He set up the wide streets and square blocks of the settlement.

This historical plaque identifies and interprets the site of the Brigham Young summer home at Soda Springs, Idaho. | Kenneth Mays

An interpretive panel and marker at the site of this home explains that this second settlement was part of President Young’s grand vision of a State of Deseret, in which “self-sustaining colonies at strategic economic and defensive locations” would be established throughout Deseret. That summer home stood until the 1940s when the roof caved in when it was moved. The site is identified today by a historical plaque attached to a rock.

In 1937, men in Soda Springs looking for a significant source of water to supply a community bathing pool drilled into a natural geyser, unleashing the warm water. It shot out of the earth in a column over 100 feet high. After several weeks of the water running everywhere, they finally capped it. The community boasts that this is the only captive geyser on earth. They now allow the geyser to erupt once an hour for all to see.