Chamberlain Ranger Station
Chamberlain Ranger Station Historic District
The historic significance of the Chamberlain Guard Station is related to the development of the United States Forest Service. Envisioned as early as the 1870s by various private forest conservation groups, a system of forest reserves began to be established in 1881 under the Department of the Interior. In 1905, these reserves were moved to the Department of Agriculture and reorganized as the United States Forest Service. In 1907, the reserves were designated National Forests. The Payette National Forest has undergone a series of boundary changes that both decreased and increased its acreage. For example, on July 1, 1908, the Idaho National Forest was created from the Payette National Forest, but then rejoined the Payette on April 1, 1944. In 1931, the Payette National Forest was designated an Idaho Primitive Area. The area was renamed the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980, and then legislatively changed to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in 1984.
The early Payette National Forest encompassed vast forests and rugged mountain landscapes. These large mountain ranges created isolated settlements, and transporting supplies from the valleys to mountain mining communities was a considerable undertaking. Chamberlain Basin lies at the convergence of several pack trails that provided a network of supply lines throughout this backcountry.
At the turn of the century, miners who were traveling between the mines of north-central Idaho used the trails and passed through the Basin. One such trail, the Three Blaze Trail, was built in 1900, funded by prospectors, miners, packers, and businessmen for transportation, communication, and supply lines to the mines. It is still used and maintained today as a vital route into the backcountry.
By 1906, rangers were being assigned stations in the reserves to administer the protection of the agency’s resources: they provided trail maintenance; fire control; conducted research; and, in the early years, inspected homesteads. In the spring of 1906, Ranger David Laing built the Chamberlain Ranger Station (no longer extant) at the south end of Chamberlain Meadow, on the north side of Ranch Creek.
Various rudimentary buildings were used as the Ranger’s residences in the early years. In the spring of 1916, Al Stonebreaker, under USFS contract, built a two-room, log ranger station (no longer extant) 2,000 yards southeast of the current Chamberlain Guard Station, for $350, under direction of Ranger Frank Foster.
In 1925, the USFS cleared lands near the Ranger Station for hay and pastureland. In 1930, an officer in fire control wrote to say, “that the Forest Service was studying the possibilities of opening more airstrips in the backcountry so fire crews could be stationed in the hinterlands during fire season and transported and supplied by air.” As a result of this policy, the Chamberlain meadowlands were gradually improved so that by 1932, it also served as an emergency airstrip (prior to that time Forest personnel used an airstrip at Stonebreaker’s ranch). Additional clearing of small timber was an annual task and the Chamberlain landing field was continually improved between 1932 and 1940.
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places
link to entire docuement w/photos:
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Chamberlain Basin Airstrip
Historic Stonebreaker Ranch – Chamberlain Basin – Frank Church Wilderness
Landing and Fishing Chamberlain Guard Station
Link to Stonebraker Family
page updated October 21, 2020