McCall is a resort town on the western edge of Valley County, Idaho, United States. Named after its founder, Tom McCall, it is situated on the southern shore of Payette Lake, near the center of the Payette National Forest. The population was 2,991 as of the 2010 census, up from 2,084 in 2000. Originally a logging community whose last sawmill closed in 1977, McCall is now an all-season tourist destination for outdoor recreation. The resort town is known for its Winter Carnival, extended winters, and the highest average snowfall in the state.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the land in and around McCall. Three tribes, the Tukudika (a sub-band of the Shoshone known as the “Sheepeaters”), the Shoshone, and the Nez Perce inhabited the land primarily in the summer and migrated during the harsh winter months.
In the early 19th century, the nomadic French Canadian fur trapper, François Payette, roamed the area alongside other mountain men including Jim Bridger, Peter Skene Ogden, and Jedediah Smith. During the 1860s, miners temporarily named the settlement “Lake City”, but only alluvial gold was discovered, so the temporary establishment was abandoned as most mining activity moved fifty miles (80 km) north to the town of Warren.
The settlement of McCall was established by Thomas and Louisa McCall circa 1889-91. For a cabin and assumed rights to the 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land, they traded a team of horses with Sam Dever, who held the squatter rights. Tom, his wife, four sons and a daughter lived in the cabin located on the shore of the lake, near present-day Hotel McCall. He established a school, hotel, saloon, and post office, and named himself postmaster.
McCall purchased a sawmill from the Warren Dredging company and later sold it to the Hoff & Brown Lumber Company, which would become a major employer until its closure in 1977. During this time Anneas “Jews Harp Jack” Wyatte provided the first recreational sailboat rides around the lake for tourists and advertised in the Idaho Statesman a “30-foot sailing yacht for the use of parties who might visit the lake”. The Statesman referred to McCall as a “pleasure resort”.
Tourism continued in the early 20th century. In June 1902, the Boydstun Hotel in nearby Lardo opened as a “place to stay and camp on Payette Lake”.
In 1906, Charlie Nelson opened a tented camping area known as Sylvan Beach Resort along the west side of Payette Lake. In 1907, Lardo Inn opened for business. The arrival of the Oregon Short Line Railroad (a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad) in 1914 secured McCall as a viable community and tourist destination. Three years later McCall was incorporated as a village. In the 1920s, the state land board started leasing home sites along the lake.