Orofino
Pop. 3,247

In 1860, the gold rush hit Orofino Creek. The name means “pure gold,” or “fine gold” in the Spanish language. In 1895, when the Nez Perce reservation was opened to settlement, Clifford Fuller staked a claim and established a trading post. The town itself was founded a year later under the direction of the Clearwater Improvement Company. In 1898, Fuller built a ferry across the Clearwater River, and the Northern Pacific Railroad further enhanced transportation to and from the area when it arrived in 1899.

The post office was established in 1901, and in 1911 the first bridge was built over the river to replace the ferry. Local legend states that the first schoolhouse required too far of a walk for some of the youngest school children. Despite parent pleas to move the school closer to town, school officials declined. So, one morning the locals woke to find the schoolhouse mysteriously and conveniently “relocated” one mile upstream. In 1906, a fire tore through town, destroying the entire Main Street. Brick buildings were constructed to replace the burned wooden structures. Another form of heat, not related to fires, has also been recorded in Orofino. The community holds the record for the state’s highest recorded temperature: 118 degrees Fahrenheit on July 8, 1934!

Today the town occupies both banks of the Clearwater River and its economy revolves around around the logging industry. Recreation also abounds here, drawing anglers, boaters, hikers, and camping enthusiasts. Heavy winter snowfalls bring in a multitude of snowmobilers and a host of skiers.

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