Fleming's Rock helps legacy live on

A mile east of Lowell on the Lewis & Clark Highway (US-12), you'll find an lTD maintenance station, one of a dozen throughout the region (13 if you count the one at Reed’s Bar, which is only manned in the winter). Yet it is a unique shed. What makes the Fleming maintenance station unique is the man behind the shed’s name.

On May 9, 1963, 59-year-old Carl Fleming drowned when his vehicle was knocked 200 feet into the Lochsa River after meeting another car on a sharp turn six miles west of the Powell Ranger Station. That stretch of road between Lowell and the Montana border had been finished and dedicated the year before.

A Bureau of Public Roads resident engineer from Kooskia, the 35-year veteran was likely working on the last major project before his retirement later that year. Fleming had supervised much of the work on that section. In a tragic, ironic twist, he was the first victim on a road that he helped build.

The Fleming legend has died a little since the site was renamed in 1967. A rock memorial out front helps shed light on the subject.

In the years after Fleming passed, the meaning of the rock was better known. At one time, there was even a garden of wildflowers surrounding it. Over the last many decades, however, the memorial had been overgrown by weeds and abused by the elements.

“It is kind of a forgotten thing,” said longtime shed foreman Mark Schuster.  “I have been here for 41 years and if it was not for the strange name of the Fleming shop, I would not know anything more than the name on the plaque.”

The station is still referred to by locals as the Fleming shed, although ITD began officially calling it the Lochsa shed a few years ago. Whatever the name, as long as the Fleming rock/plaque exists, the man behind it, and the story behind him, continues.

Published 12-21-18