When the often mild-mannered Shoshone Falls roared to life this spring with its largest flows in two decades, it attracted thousands of people who wanted to see the spectacular water show.
And those big flows turned into a big flush of money for the city-owned Shoshone Falls Park northeast of Twin Falls. The park brought in nearly $85,000 in revenue in April, compared to just $31,000 in April 2016.
The park is self-supporting, funded primarily from vehicle entrance fees and season passes, said Twin Falls Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Davis.
“The dollars that come in here, stay here,” she said.
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The park has brought in $168,000 already this year. Last year’s total revenue was $264,000.
Davis said the extra money will be used for some much-needed improvements, including repairs to trails, retaining walls and parking lots.
Located on the Snake River, Shoshone Falls is 900 feet wide and features a 212-foot drop, making it one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States. Most of the year it flows around 300 cubic feet per second, but heavy runoff from winter snow increased its flows to 21,000 cfs this spring. (By comparison, the roaring Boise River is right now flowing in the neighborhood of 8,500 cfs.)
People are still flocking to Shoshone Falls, said Davis, expecting to see big flows like those of the nearby rivers. But instead, they are met with a trickle.
“It does not make sense to people. They get really frustrated,” said Davis.
The waterfall itself is a natural feature, but its water flow is human-controlled, which is why a couple of weeks ago its flow turned to more of a drip. The Bureau of Reclamation cut off the flow of water through Milner Dam to save it for irrigation.
That flow was at 7,000 cfs on May 17, but by May 20, it had dropped to its “scenic flow” of 300 cfs — the minimum required from April 1 to Labor Day.