The original ferry was built by William Campbell around 1890 and provided the only dry means of crossing the river for 50 miles. With the construction of the Three Blaze Trail, prospectors and supplies came down from Dixie and were ferried to connecting trails that lead to Thunder Mountain. During the boom years of 1900-1902, nearly 2,000 people crossed the river. Campbell died in 1901. Subsequently the ranch and ferry were operated by a succession of people, two of whom married and widowed the ranch’s longest resident, Frances Wiser. The ferry operated until 1956 when the bridge was completed.
Frances Wiser Memorial Bridge. Frances lived at Campbell’s Ferry from the mid-40s until her death in 1986. For 40 years she wrote a column for the Idaho County Free Press about life in the canyon. Through her columns and letters to the Idaho Congressional Delegation she was largely responsible for getting funding for construction of this bridge, completed in 1956.
“My personal belief is to make successful crossings on the Salmon when the river is high, the boatman must be (1) at least as high as the river, or, (2) a grade “A” idiot. To combine (1) and (2) should make a perfect boatman for high water boating.” – Frances Wiser, on crossing the river at high water.
In 2013, Steve Coyle, the great-nephew of Frances, wrote this on his Flickr account regarding his great aunt and bridge: “This pack bridge was constructed in 1956 as a result of the tireless efforts of my great aunt Frances. Before the bridge was built, she and her husband ran Campbell’s Ferry on this part of the Salmon River, but due to high water in the spring and winter conditions for much of the year, there was only a short window of opportunity that the ferry could be operated. Trying to cross by any other means was to take your life in your own hands. In 1994 this bridge, the only crossing of the Salmon River for over 40 miles in either direction, was dedicated to my great aunt. The Frances Zaunmiller Wisner Memorial Pack Bridge is in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. It connects 2 national forest (Nez Perce on the left, Payette on the right) and 2 time zones (Pacific on the left, Mountain on the right). It is also on the Idaho Centennial Trail that runs from Nevada to Canada.” You can see his photo of the bridge and read his account here.