Filmmaker Makes Idaho History 

Short documentaries will focus on little-known stories

Not far from Idaho, there's an Oregonian with a passion for telling Idaho stories. Filmmaker Steve Wursta of Bend, Oregon, hopes to reveal the history behind some unique Idaho places in two upcoming documentaries.

"There is just a treasure trove of stories that have not been told," Wursta says. He's already finished one project, Among the Craters of the Moon, which recently screened in Boise, telling the story of Idaho naturalist and adventurer Robert Limbert in the early 20th century. Wursta aims to undertake a few more of those unfamiliar stories in two new films, both of which are essentially one-man projects for which he does all of the research, photography and editing.

Few people even know the name Robert Limbert, yet the explorer was one of the most interesting and important figures in Idaho history. During research for Among the Craters of the Moon, Wursta followed leads to other neglected stories that piqued his interest. "There are so many stories that are just under the radar," he says. "It's just amazing how much content is out there. There are many more stories that are exciting and neat but just haven't been told." Much like the innovative voyager he characterizes in his first film, Wursta is an explorer of history, working to unearth and relay Idaho's forgotten stories.

One of Wursta's upcoming films highlights the history of Redfish Lake Lodge and another tells the story of Robert Limbert's journey to find the mystical Lost Valley near Craters of the Moon National Monument. Both films will be shown in Idaho this summer.

Wursta's hope is to bring people who know and love places like Redfish Lake closer to the history that makes those places special. Many people have memories and histories associated with beautiful destinations in Idaho, he says. Providing an opportunity to learn about the local history is another way to grow more intimate with a place. "Take Redfish Lodge—people enjoy going up there. But they have no idea what the background is. The idea behind my films is to provide a sense of what happened there. It gives you the consciousness of being a local. You'll know all the things that came together to make Redfish Lodge a special place."

Although the film is still a work in progress, Wursta's vision for the Redfish documentary is to explore the period when homesteaders settled Stanley, and to venture into the present to interview modern day outfitters working near Stanley. He'll look at the different owners of the lodge and how each attracted tourists to the lake.

"The concept of being able to entertain people and attract tourists through the lure of hiking, hunting and horseback riding still continues today," he says. He hopes to appeal to the large audience of people who love Redfish Lake, and to breathe life into the stories behind the well-known place.

His other documentary-in-progress tells the story of the Lost Valley in the volcanic desert of central Idaho. The valley became a subject of folklore and mystique in 1862, when a fur trapper named George Goodhart was blindfolded by the Shoshone and taken onto a two-day journey into lava flows south of the monument. At the end of the journey Goodhart found himself in a secret green valley, with little sense of direction of where he was. Goodhart was friends with the Shoshone, but the area was a protected and secret place whose location they were unwilling to disclose. Robert Limbert heard Goodhart's story and determined to locate the Lost Valley. Wursta's documentary tells the story of Limbert's quest, the legends surrounding the valley, and his own modern day journey to secure the valley's location. "The myth just kept growing ... the valley was supposed to be this incredible place with beautiful, lush grass that you could build a ranch in. It was actually quite sensationalized."

Both new documentaries will be short, at just about 30 minutes each. Wursta will put all three of his films onto a DVD and have them available at screenings and on his Web site for purchase. "You'll be able to hear the Limbert story and learn a little about Craters of the Moon; you'll know about the history of Redfish Lodge—really it's not a bad start to understanding that time period in Idaho," he notes.

All of Wursta's films thus far focus on the early 20th century. He feels the time period is far enough in the past to garner interest from viewers, but not so far gone that he can't find interviewees with vivid memories of the period. He notes that people don't have patience for films shot in the near past, but going back a little further can spark some interest. "I still find people who can tell me these amazing stories from a time that's completely different from today. It's just amazing that you're able to go that many years [back] in history and yet there are people that remember."

Wursta hopes his films will encourage a greater sense of adventure in people, as well as a greater sense of appreciation for many unfamiliar Idaho stories. "There are so many people to whom figures like Limbert are an unknown. He was still discovering and naming places 35 years after statehood. You'd never see that on the East Coast ... I think it will give people a little more incentive to get off the beaten path, get out there and explore."

Wursta's historical documentaries will show in several locations throughout Idaho this summer. Visit www.robertlimbert.com for more information or to purchase the DVD.

Questions? Comments? E-mail screen@boiseweekly.com.

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