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The Snake Rivers owes its evocative name to the first white explorers who misinterpreted the S-shaped sign made by the local Shoshone people to mimic swimming fish. Many alternative names were used for the river throughout the years including Lewis river, after the Lewis & Clark expedition in the early 1800s.
The Snake river originates in the mountains of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming at 9.500 feet. It flows through the states of Idaho and Orgeon before merging into the Columbia River in the state of Washington. The river runs through several gorges, the most impressive one is Hell's Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, with a maximum depth of 7,900 feet (2,410 m).
The powerful flow of the Snake is controlled by several dams and reservoir and has been used for over a century to produce hydroelectricity. However, dams have proved detrimental to salmon runs and have also caused high levels of toxic algae, plans to remove the lower four Snake River dams are in place but these have brought about a great deal of controversy. The Snake is nevertheless still widely used for fishing trout, bass and catfish.
The area was once home to the Snake Indians, a collective name given to the Shoshone, Bannock and Northern Paiute Tribes. Contact with European white settlers, while peaceful at first, culminated with the Snake War in the late 19th century. Statistically, it was the deadliest of the Indian Wars in the West in terms of casualties, however as the nation’s focus at the time was on the American Civil War, the Snake War went largely unreported and overlooked.