Dugout Dick of Idaho...

One of Idaho's historical signs intrigued us so, we had to stop and explore more. We've talked a lot about Idaho's sights but not enough about its people.

Let me introduce you to Richard Zimmerman. In 1948, after more than a decade on the road and riding the rails, this interesting character got an idea. Working along the banks of Idaho’s Salmon River, fishing and doing some small-scale mining, he figured it was time to settle down. At the age of 32, the restless hermit figured the best place to settle was right there in Salmon, Idaho—inside the hill, in a cave dug with his own hands. The people of Salmon soon coined a new name for Zimmerman, who became “Dugout Dick.”

The construction of the original cave took several months, and once it was done, Dugout realized he needed a way to make some money. Although the original promise of the land had been its seclusion, Dugout hammered out 14 more caves over the next few years to draw people in. This photo is Dick and his 'hotel'.
And draw them in he did. Dugout’s caves became a local sensation, then a national one when he was featured in National Geographic and Life. The magazines branded Dugout as the “Original Mountain Man” and further rocketed Dugout to international stardom, where he became the subject of several documentaries in Scandinavia. At one point he was invited to appear on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, but declined because he didn’t want to fly to California for the taping.
Dugout was never actually deeded the land, and although essentially a squatter, local authorities and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) understood his place in the history of Idaho wanderers and settlers. They granted him lifetime rights, with the understanding that the land would be reclaimed by the BLM after he passed away. He squeezed as much time as he could out of the deal, living off the land until the age of 94. After Dugout died, the BLM came in, and—to the dismay of locals and media alike—destroyed the caves citing health and safety concerns. Yet today, located on the hillside, along the Salmon River off US Hwy 93, one can see a glimpse of the former cave village. And by traversing the old wooden bridge and following a dirt road a memorial, the old cabin, and the story of an Idaho legend can be found. Cool stuff!

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2 comments:

Aquí Ahí Allá said...

Very interesting history about Dugout Dick.
I assume BLM didn't want more 'semi-permanent' residents... makes sense to me! At least there are pictures.
I couldn't imagine staying in one of those shanties. Decent maid service was probably hard to come by... :)
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Cyndy Brown said...

Good 'Ol Dugout Dick...even had his own lawn furniture!

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