Larry checks out the farmer's market at Indian Creek
The most interesting fish in the world flopped into one of Caldwell, Idaho’s most interesting features: Indian Creek, a humble little stream that once pulled a several-decades disappearing act.
A summer oasis in the heat of downtown Caldwell, Indian Creek bustles with activity. It is the site of a newly developed half-mile of green space where people walk, relax and swim. The Caldwell’s Farmers’ Market meets there every Wednesday (Lonesome Larry enjoyed a fresh-squeezed lemonade as he chatted with vendors), and a branch of Treasure Valley Community College is located nearby. Until 2002, however, none of this existed. The creek ran unseen below the city’s paved surface.
In the 1800s, Indian Creek was the center of life for settlers, who used its water for washing, bathing, cooking and drinking. Railroad tracks were built along the creek in the 1880s, and it became part of the New York Canal irrigation route in 1882.
As the area’s population and industry grew, Indian Creek became increasingly polluted by residential garbage dumping and from agricultural and industrial runoff. To cover its foul look and smell, the creek was paved over as the city developed. It flowed beneath shops, restaurants and roads, disappearing from sight and mind for many years.
After the passage of the Clean Water Act and other regulations in the 1970s, the state of Indian Creek’s water was much improved. In 2002, volunteers, business leaders, and city leaders embarked upon a plan to “daylight” the creek and create six acres of new green space. Using both public and private funds, the city has invested millions of dollars in the uncovering, rerouting, and landscaping of Indian Creek and the downtown area.
Over the past decade, the creek has become an appealing environment in which to live, work and play, and the project continues. In November, the city received a $500 thousand grant from the federal government to continue making improvements.
This is the kind of environmental restoration project Lonesome Larry likes best. Like Larry himself, Indian Creek was a treasured resource taken for granted. It was community awareness, community action and collaborative problem solving that made Indian Creek the success story it is today. When people get together to focus on collaborative solutions for Idaho’s sockeye and chinook salmon, as well as steelhead, a similar widespread success story will follow.