Blue North Mill Site
Former lumber mill located on the “Kamiah Bend” of the Clearwater River at Kamiah, Idaho (46.24168156095757, -116.02757343740886). Former lumber mill is located on 114 acres of riverfront property and is the site of a former winter village of the Nez Perce that hosted the Lewis & Clark expedition on their return east in 1806 as they waited for spring snowmelt to subside. The origin story for the Nez Perce Tribe centers on a basalt outcropping just upstream of the former mill site, indicative of the immediate area’s cultural significance to the Nez Perce Tribe. The site operated as a lumber mill from 1940 to 2016 under three operators; Potlach Corporation (1940-1980), Weyerhaeuser (1980-1995); Blue North Forest Products, LLC (2010-2016). The Tribe purchased the property from Idaho Forest Products, LLC in December 2018 who purchased the defunct mill from Blue North Forest Products and were in the process of salvaging mill equipment prior to sale to the Tribe. Recognized environmental concerns center around legacy contamination from decades of industrial-scale lumber milling; including boiler ash stockpiles, a 60-acre log yard, heavy equipment maintenance, fuel storage both above and below ground, transformer storage areas, and a sewage lagoon. Due to the age of the buildings on site, hazardous building materials including; asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury, and PCBs were enumerated and an abatement estimate generated by a Qualified Environmental Professional in August 2020. Currently, the site comprises of a 60-acre log yard with compacted and acidic soil, 17 remaining mill buildings, 4 building material debris piles, and 4 building foundations destroyed in a January 2018 fire during salvage operations across the 114-acre site. The site is also bisected by a defunct rail line, owned by Mike Williams, that once allowed transport of finished lumber down the Clearwater River towards coastal markets.