The Mullan Road is the first engineered road connecting the Great Plains with the Northwest. Captain John Mullan and his crew built the 624-mile road linking Fort Benton, Montana, with Fort Walla Walla, Washington, between 1859 and 1862. This is believed to be the site of the first 4th of July celebration in Idaho. John Mullan's crew completed the work on this segment of the military road during the week of July 4, 1861, and carved "MR July 4, 1861" on a tree here. The tree was blown down and the section of the tree with the blaze is on exhibit at the Museum of North Idaho in Coeur d'Alene. In the 1860s travelers and pack strings-including one camel caravan going to and from the Montana gold fields-used the road, but sometime after 1865 maintenance ceased and use declined.
Repair of Mullan Road
After an inspection tour of the West in 1877, General William T. Sherman ordered the construction of Fort Missoula and Fort Coeur d'Alene (later named Fort Sherman) and the repair of the Mullan Road, which was accomplished in 1879. Travel on the road increased immediately. The first automobile trip from Wallace to Coeur d'Alene on the Mullan Road, over Fourth of July Pass, was made in July of 1911 and took five hours. From 1914 to 1916, much of the Mullan Road was improved or bypassed and became known as the Yellowstone Trail (see below).