TOLO (Tolo Lake)

A small community near the lake was established in the early twentieth century.  The rural farm town has vanished entirely, nothing remains.  Located only six miles west of Grangeville, it had no long-term future after automobiles made larger communities more accessible. Tolo Lake lies on the southern edge of Camas Prairie.   A natural attraction and an important Nez Perce Indian center particularly during camas season,

In early 1877, the United States Army attempted to force Nez Perce bands based along the Salmon River and in the Wallowa Valley (directly west in Oregon) to leave their ancestral homes and relocate on a relatively small reservation carved out ten years earlier from a larger reservation established in 1859.  En route to their intended new home, the bands led by White Bird and Joseph held a council near Tolo Lake.  While they were there, on June 13, hostilities broke out on some ranches along the Salmon River to the south.  Both groups retired to the southern slope of the prairie, where the opening battle of the Nez Perce War was fought on June 17.

After a long campaign, several non-treaty Nez Perce bands were exiled to Canada and Oklahoma and the Tolo Lake area was opened to settlement.  One result of that change was that carp were planted in Tolo Lake in 1882--to be replaced by bass sixty years later.   In 1890 Tolo Lake became state property, and it continues to be a natural as well as historic attraction.  

In 1994 the lake was being drained for a wildlife improvement project.  When the water was gone, the drew was digging, when a few gigantic bones were unearthed.  They immediately called in a group of experts.  After careful study, it was revealed that they were from a Columbia Mammoth that live in Idaho over 11,000 years ago. Eventually, they unearthed remains of possibly eight mammoths and three ancient bison beneath where the lake was.   For more information on this, click on this link .  The lake has now been filled back with water and remains at rest.

Click HERE for the Free Press article about the new town in 1887


This is the bell from the Tolo Schoolhouse


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