All this is by way of giving you a little history on Malad. The river. Okay, both rivers. Idaho is blessed with two Malad rivers, one in Oneida County, the county seat of which—and only town of any size—is Malad City. The other is the Malad River in Gooding County. That one runs through Malad Gorge, the spectacular canyon where the river tumbles into Devil’s Washbowl right below the I-84 bridge near Tuttle. You can see the gorge while traveling on the interstate for 1.35 seconds if you happen to look south while going 80 miles per hour. Next time you drive by, don’t. Stop for a few minutes at Malad Gorge State Park. Walk across the gorge on the scary but safe footbridge and gaze down at the Malad River 250 feet below. Just don’t eat the beavers.
Ah yes, the beavers. Early trappers working for the Pacific Fur Company, called Astorians after company owner John Jacob Astor, encountered the river and its tasty beaver in 1811. That’s when Donald Mackenzie led them on an exploratory jaunt after the Wilson Price Hunt expedition met disaster in the rapids of the Snake River at Caldron Linn.
Long story short: They ate beaver and got sick. Mackenzie named the river Malad or Malade, which means “sick” in French.
Much speculation has ensued in the centuries following the illness the men experienced as to its cause. Had the beaver eaten some poisonous root? Had selenium concentrated in the fat of the beaver tails? No one knows.
By the way, the naming of Idaho’s other Malad River has a similar story with different players. The lesson here might be to stick to the Canadian pastry if you insist on adding beaver tails to your diet.