updated 9/2/2008 8:56:08 PM ET 2008-09-03T00:56:08

A wildfire that damaged or destroyed nearly 20 homes in Idaho last month also revealed remnants of the Oregon Trail, a famous path left more than 100 years ago by pioneers as the United States expanded west.

Members of the Idaho Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association plan to mark portions of the Oregon Trail now visible after the Aug. 25 fire.

Before the blaze, two parallel paths totaling about a half-mile had been covered by sagebrush and cheatgrass. The paths, which are light depressions in the ground, stretch across a field below a ridge where the homes burned.

The paths were discovered in satellite photographs taken days after the fire.

Association member Wally Meyer told the Idaho Statesman that the last wagon through southeast Boise probably crossed the plain about 1890 on the property, now owned by the Idaho Power Co., which is negotiating with the group to allow signs along the newly found paths.

Investigators have concluded that an equipment failure on one of the company's electricity lines ignited the fire.

During his 30-year career with the Bureau of Land Management, Meyer said he marked about 150 miles of migrant-trail remnants on public land in southwest Idaho.

The recent discovery is not a major surprise, given what's known about the Oregon Trail's route through Boise, Meyer said.

"Nobody's ever really looked before," Meyer told The Associated Press. "I've always kind of wondered. But it didn't pay to check these because there was pretty tall sagebrush and growth there."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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