Conservation Project Profile: Idler's Rest

Idler's Rest: A place for community and conservation
by Colleen Kulesza

My first visit to Idler’s Rest Nature Preserve was on the recommendation of friends who had been living in Moscow for a few years. They said it was a unique place very close to town, the perfect spot for a quick hike without driving too far, and a beautiful patch of protected old-growth cedar forest. I couldn’t pass up a recommendation like that and so I drove northeast of town on Mountain View Road until there was a fork in the road; veered right; left the farm fields behind and entered the forest at the base of Moscow Mountain. My friends were right, Idler’s Rest is a very special place.

I hiked there many times over the years and started to wonder about the history of Idler’s Rest. Where did the name come from? Who used it 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 200 years ago? These questions led me to do some research. What I found is that there is currently not a lot of written history specifically about Idler’s Rest. It shows up on a map from 1914 but I haven’t found any origin story for the name. We know that the Patten family was associated with the land in and around the preserve before 1909. But I couldn't find any older historical accounts.

Of course there were Nez Perce living in or near the forests and field at the base of the mountain. Their population once thrived throughout the Palouse but our knowledge of their presence at this specific location is limited. If readers know of stories about Idler’s Rest that pre-date western settlers, please let us know.

We do know that the original homesteaders of the area logged much of the cedar, pine, and fir forests all over Moscow Mountain but for some reason, Idler’s Rest’s section of forest was protected and never harvested. There was also mining activity on the mountain and you can see evidence of this in the preserve as large pits in the ground. People were prospecting for gold and when they were done, the holes were left and erosion and plants worked to disguise them. Evidence of the homesteaders working the land is evident in the old, overgrown orchard and grazing field that is being taken over by ponderosa forest and meadow. 

In the first half of the 20th century, there were other names for Idler's Rest based primarily on the names of the summer cottages that were along the creek. Berrigan cabin. Kenjockety Camp. Dingle Dell. Dewdrop Inn. Linger Longer. Terryawhile. Names that evoke rest and relaxation and welcome folks to enjoy the cool forest.

By the 1960s Idler’s Rest was well known as a place to take scout groups and to go for a family picnic. The owners at that time decided to put their land up for sale and people in the community were concerned that it would be subdivided and developed, or that the forest would be clearcut. A dedicated group of people appealed to the owners to let them try to raise funds to purchase the land. They also sought the assistance of The Nature Conservancy which had just created a local chapter, the Inland Empire Chapter. Together they were able to raise the $7,000 it took for The Nature Conservancy to purchase the land in January of 1967. Idler’s Rest officially became a Nature Preserve*.

During the early years, management of the preserve was in the hands of a committee of local professionals including professors, TNC staff, foresters, and biologists. Field trips for elementary students were led by students from the U of I College of Natural Resources. Scout groups and other volunteer groups dedicated time to creating the trails, signs, and exhibits in the preserve. Use of Idler’s Rest increased over the years. On occasion there were challenges with disruptive visitors but overall, the preserve was well loved by the community.

In 2000, The Nature Conservancy decided to transfer ownership and stewardship of Idler’s Rest to a local organization. The Palouse Land Trust was a perfect choice, as our mission is in alignment with what the Nature Conservancy wanted to see as the future of Idler’s Rest. They gifted the property to us with the agreed upon condition that Idler’s Rest Nature Preserve will be kept in a natural state and always available to people to visit for recreational and educational purposes. People can visit the property on their own or schedule educational group use of the property by contacting us (208-596-4496). We manage the property with these intentions always at the forefront of our minds when we plan volunteer work days, trail improvements or modifications, signage, access, and activities. It is our honor to be the caretakers of such a special place for our community, visitors, and all the animals that use the forest.

If you haven't yet had a chance to visit Idler's Rest, please do and tell us all about your trip. We'd love to hear stories and see photographs of people's experiences over the years. In particular, if you or someone you know, frequented Idler's Rest many years ago, please share your stories. Knowing the history of a place can deepen its value for those who visit.

View a 50th Anniversary video about Idler's Rest produced by The Nature Conservancy and read about their work in Idaho over the last 50 years here.