ISU Magazine

Volume 40 | Number 2 | Spring/Summer 2010

A view of the land donated by Paul and Katie Link. Eight acres of this land was donated to ISU to provide an opportunity to engage in field-based geoscience research.

Photo provided by Paul Link

Professor Gives Idaho Land and Field Camp Facility to ISU

Spring 2010 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

For more information on ISU geosciences visit

When Idaho State University geosciences professor Paul Link and his wife Katie bought 10 acres of land on the Big Lost River north of Mackay in 1996, they thought it would be the ideal place for a geology field camp.

Today, the Lost River Field Station hosts geosciences students from across the country and is one of the top-rated field camps in the nation.

Earlier this year, the Links donated nearly eight acres of land and buildings located on the banks of the Big Lost River in the shadow of Borah Peak, Idaho’s tallest mountain, about 20 miles north of Mackay. It has some of the most stunning views in Idaho, with the Big Lost River Range to the north and the Pioneer Mountains to the south. The $200,000 donation will allow ISU to provide a quality research and teaching facility into the future.

“It seemed like now was the time to take that next step and lock in the goal we’ve had for 29 years,” Link said.

ISU President Arthur Vailas said the field station is a vital part of ISU’s geosciences education and research.

“Having the opportunity to provide a field-based research and teaching facility enhances ISU’s recognition as a leader in geosciences,” Vailas said.

During a ceremony celebrating the donation this spring, Link was visibly touched by the large turnout of participants.

Katie and Paul Link
Photo by ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

“It is very satisfying to see this thing through and it has been very rewarding to see all the efforts in creating the field station come to fruition,” Link said. “We have a field camp that attracts students from all over the country and is very competitive to get into.”

When Link came to ISU in 1980, Tom Ore, director of the field geology course, told him that the geology department needed its own field camp facility. In 1985, David Rodgers, current ISU geosciences chair, took over the field course, moved it to central Idaho in 1990, and operated the field camp from several different ranches for the next 10 years.

The Links purchased the land in 1995, with the idea that this might be the ideal spot for a field camp. In 2001 at a department retreat, Link and Scott Hughes, former chair of the geosciences department, decided to build a facility. It was constructed in 2002, directed by Allan Priddy, a local contractor and adjunct instructor at ISU. The facility has been upgraded over the years, primarily by geology students and faculty.

“Paul has been very generous with his time and resources for years,” Rodgers said. “This is one more example of how he has shared himself with the University, by making this long-lasting gift to the department that will be used by ISU students and faculty for years to come.”

The Lost River Field Station, which hosted its first students in 2002, is one of the top-rated in the country. Rodgers attributed its success to the high quality of instruction at the facility, the topnotch accommodations, the geological diversity of the area around Mackay, the camp’s proximity to other geological wonders such as the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Yellowstone National Park, and the hospitality of people in the Lost River Valley.

“The field camp is a critical component of the education for our undergraduate students in particular,” Rodgers said. “It’s a capstone (five-week) course that takes everything they’ve learned in the classroom and puts it in a field setting. It teaches the scientific method and how to distinguish data from interpretation.”

The camp not only attracts ISU geosciences majors, but also brings in students from across the nation. It serves as a primary recruiting tool for the ISU geosciences graduate program.

“Many of the students who come to our camp go on to attend high-end graduate schools, including ours,” Rodgers said. “Every year we get at least one or two graduate students from the camp, many of whom end up pursuing their careers in the Northern Rockies. In this way, the field camp attracts high quality scientists to Idaho.”