During the 20th century, sheep ranching was one of central Idaho’s largest agricultural enterprises. Sheep traditionally spent summers in the Stanley Basin and Sawtooth Valley before being herded back south.
Forest rangers often had dealings with sheep in the area, assisting herders when necessary. William H. Horton was the ranger on the Pole Creek District, a 131.46-acre tract of agricultural and pastureland in the Sawtooth Valley, from 1908-1929. He had a multitude of tasks, including marking boundaries for various sheep outfits, predator control, riding sheep trails over Galena and keeping bands from tangling. Horton’s career is recognized with the naming of Horton Peak (9,896 feet), several miles north of Pole Creek. Over the course of his career, Horton worked with dozens of ranches and bands of sheep in the same landscape featured in the photograph.
The rich history and celebrated culture of sheep ranchers both past and present in central Idaho is preserved by the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. It is also present throughout the vast and varied collections held by The Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History at The Community Library. A forthcoming display focused on the cultural impact of sheep in the Wood River Valley will be on exhibit later this autumn in The Betty Olsen Carr Reading Room at The Community Library.