A Ranch's History

A Ranch's History

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Since the 1940s, the Gill Ranch has operated on a big patch of private land above the Salmon River in Lucile, and on a large grazing allotment that runs over the mountain into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

This is mighty steep country! The Gills joke that their cattle are equipped with special built-in low-range 4-wheel-drive, or they’d fall off the mountain. “We’ve lost a couple of different bulls that fell out of the pasture right into the river,” says Melvin Gill. “You look at the pasture and yeah I can see why.”

The Gill family is well-known locally because of their deep roots. If you visit the Kirkwood Museum in Hells Canyon, you’ll learn about early Idaho County settlers. The late Governor Len B. Jordan and his wife, Grace, ran a sheep ranch at Kirkwood Creek for a decade.

Melvin Gill, now 80 years old, worked for Bud Wilson at the Kirkwood sheep ranch from the mid-1940s to 1975, when Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was created by Congress. “I had no time to play. Ever since I was 8 years old. I took a man’s place in the hay field, driving teams. We hayed with horses. I used to think my parents were the meanest people you ever saw. Because the kids I was running around with were out swimming, or playing, and I was up here on a field on a hot day behind a team.”

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