The Payette River is named for Francois Payette, a French-Canadian trapper and early explorer of the major tributaries of the Snake River. At that time, British, Canadian, and American fur companies competed for the region's abundant natural resources.
In 1821, Britain's Hudson's Bay Company tried to gain control of the Oregon Country. The Company's "Snake Brigades" worked to completely trap out beaver from the Snake River country, creating a "fur desert" — a barrier to encroaching American trappers.
The British abandoned their claim to the Oregon Country in 1846 because of the fur trade decline, and a growing American presence. With this ownership question settled the door to rapid American settlement was opened.
Francois Payette and the Fur Trade
Francois Payette's career spanned the fur-trade period of the Pacific Northwest's history. Payette came into the country in 1811 with the Pacific Fur Company, an ill-fated American enterprise. When it disbanded he transferred to the North West Company, which merged with the Hudson's Bay Company, a British corporation, in 1821.
For years he trapped with the Snake Brigades. His reputation as a steady man with great knowledge of the Snake River country helped his rise within the Company's ranks. In 1837, Payette took charge of Fort Boise, the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trading post at the mouth of the Boise River, near present-day Parma, Idaho. Managing the post until he retired in 1844, Payette greeted missionaries, explorers and emigrants on the Oregon Trail.
Managed today by the Forest Service, the river corridor is still the scene of diverse values and uses. The signs located along the Banks-Lowman highway illustrate this story.