Winter runoff brings amazing flows to Shoshone Falls
It seems that springtime is still having a tug-of-war with winter when it comes to our weather this year. But going to see 212-foot Shoshone Falls in the Magic Valley is a perfect weather-proof activity because it’s still a great thing to see and experience no matter if it’s snowing sideways, raining, cloudy or sunny.
Granted, if it’s sunny, you can get rainbow pics next to the falls. And if you wait a few minutes after a snow squall hits, of course, the sun might come out. That’s springtime in the Rockies!
When you walk up to the closest observation deck in Shoshone Falls Park, you can feel the thundering power of the “Niagara of the West” as water pours over the falls. Believe me, you will feel it shake your bones, it’s that powerful and moving of an experience.
Right now, there’s a spectacular show happening at Shoshone Falls with Snake River flood flows peaking at 15,000 cubic feet per second. The Bureau of Reclamation expects to continue high-water releases over Shoshone Falls for the remainder of April, and in May water levels will slowly taper as irrigation canals open for the season, officials say.
Longtime Idahoans know that it’s a rare opportunity to see Shoshone Falls roaring in all of its glory. In drought years, the bureau rarely runs any water past Milner Dam, and once summer irrigation kicks in full-bore, the flow at Milner is zero. Return flows and side canyons keep Shoshone Falls running during the summer, but the flow is very low.
Hence, the opportunity to seize the day and go see one of your state’s most magnificent scenic and natural features in a year like this one, when water is aplenty.
When you plan your spring trip to Shoshone Falls, add some flair by going on a waterfall tour along the way. There are six distinct waterfalls that you can visit in the Magic Valley region. See details below.
Cap off your trip with a visit to one of three hot springs in the Thousand Springs region near Hagerman — Miracle or Banbury Hot Springs (both under same ownership) or 1000 Springs Resort. Bring your swimsuit. Banbury and 1000 Springs have large swimming pools and private soaking rooms. Miracle has smaller pools, private soaking rooms and spa services.
And then for lunch or dinner, plan on stopping at the Snake River Grill in Hagerman. They’ve got unique items such as alligator appetizers, grilled sturgeon and grilled catfish. Plus a full menu of other tasty items and a salad bar, and prices are geared to Idaho families.
Shoshone Falls is 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Water flows down the Snake River over a rocky rim that’s 1,000 feet wide. There are two viewing decks where people can take photos and video of the falls from the vantage point of a county park on the south side of the river.
This is an activity that’s family-friendly, and great for seniors, too. The Shoshone Falls Park entrance fee is $3 per vehicle. Dierkes Lake Park is located adjacent to the falls where people can go walking, jogging or rock climbing or enjoy a picnic lunch. Directions: Take I-84 east to the main Twin Falls exit. Cross the Perrine Bridge, then go left on Pole Line Road, which will take a 90-degree turn to the right and turn into Eastland Drive. Follow Eastland to Falls Avenue East, and go left. Take Falls Avenue to Champlin Road and follow signs to Shoshone Falls Park.
The waterfall tour
▪ Caldron Linn: A slot-canyon waterfall less than 40 feet wide where the Wilson Price Hunt party was forced to abandon the Snake River and take an overland route to the Pacific in 1811. You can read about the details in the book Astoria, which I read last summer. The pioneers were seriously disappointed to end their Snake River journey at this spot, but with more waterfalls ahead of them, it was the right decision. The only problem was they had to survive a long, hot overland hike on the Snake River Plain, where water was extremely scarce. At Caldron Linn, you may see some kayakers drop over the falls, also known as Star Falls. Directions: From I-84, take exit 188 and travel south of Valley Road. Turn left on 1000 East and, one mile later, go right on 1900 South (also known as Murtaugh Road) until you get to 4575 East, then follow the signs to the overlook next to Caldron Linn, located on BLM land.
▪ Twin Falls:A 125-foot falls that inspired the name for the City of Twin Falls. Idaho Power operates a park at Twin Falls, which is east of Shoshone Falls Park by several miles. Directions: Take I-84 to the main Twin Falls exit. Cross the Perrine Bridge, then go left on Pole Line Road, which will take a 90-degree turn to the right and turn into Eastland Drive. Follow Eastland to Falls Avenue East, and go left. Take Falls to 3500 East, go left. Proceed to 4050 North Road, go right and follow signs to the park.
▪ Auger Falls:A large, multi-layered rapids on the Snake River next to hiking and biking trails in the Twin Falls area. I highly recommend the hiking and biking trails — they’re well-signed and fun to experience. Plus, you have to either hike or ride to see Auger Falls. Directions: Take I-84 to main Twin Falls exit. Cross the Perrine Bridge, and take a right on Canyon Springs Road and drive down into the canyon. Go by the golf course to the end of the road and Auger Falls trailhead.
▪ Thousand Springs: A natural springs/waterfall complex that’s the outlet for the Lake Erie-sized Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer in Hagerman. Niagara Springs and Minnie Miller Springs are two springs that are part of the Thousand Springs complex in Thousand Springs State Park.Directions: Take I-84 to the Hagerman exit for the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. Follow the byway to either Niagara Springs park unit or Ritter Island unit. The State Parks website has a helpful road map of the Thousand Springs park properties.
▪ Box Canyon:A beautiful canyon where the nation’s 11th-largest natural spring pours 20 feet from basalt cliffs and flows through a short canyon into the Snake River. The cobalt-blue water is uncommonly pure. A hiking trail provides great views of Box Canyon in Thousand Springs State Park. Tip: You can paddle a canoe, kayak or SUP from Banbury Hot Springs on the Snake River to Box Canyon. Directions: Take I-84 to exit 155 at Wendell. Take a hard right on the Hagerman-Wendell Highway, E 2950 S. Go 3.2 miles to 1500 East, then 4.5 miles south to the signed parking area on the right. You will be hiking from there. Bring mountain bikes to shorten the hike.
▪ Devil’s Washbowl:At Malad Gorge State Park, a tall and narrow waterfall shoots out of a very narrow canyon into a natural feature known as Devil’s Washbowl. The water flows down Malad Gorge a few hundred yards before it pours into the Snake River. Directions: Take I-84 to the Tuttle exist. Follow the signs to Malad Gorge State Park.
For lodging, RV camping and hotel information in the Twin Falls area, see the lodging tab on the Southern Idaho Tourism website.
Steve Stuebner is a contributor to Idaho Outdoors. See his outdoor blog at Stueby’s Outdoor Journal, http://stuebysoutdoorjournal.blogspot.com