Southern Idaho Buried Treasure

Ritter Island Units

by Adam Sawyer

There’s a ton of buried treasure in Southern Idaho, but not the kind you might think. From the road or on foot, the Hagerman and Twin Falls areas look like, well, a mostly flat and semi-arid landscape. But don’t be fooled. In addition to the renowned Snake River Canyon and Shoshone Falls, Southern Idaho’s “Magic Valley” is home to a number of deep, fertile gorges and smaller spring-fed box canyons that, due to the region’s relatively flat topography, are all but imperceptible to the eye until you’re just feet away from them. But if you know where they are and how to access them, their rewards are many. With that in mind, here’s a primer to help you seek out Southern Idaho’s buried treasures.

Canyon Rim Trail/Shoshone Falls

Known as the “Niagara of the West,” no trip to Twin Falls would be complete without a stop at Shoshone Falls. At over 200 feet tall and 900 feet wide, the rainbow-inducing cataract is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions. So nothing really hidden there. However, the Canyon Rim Trail that leads downriver from the falls showcases viewpoint after viewpoint, as well as a number of additional and much less frequented falls that tumble into the Snake River from its high canyon walls. In addition, if you’re willing to follow the scenic paved path for just a mile, you’ll arrive at the launch site of Evel Knievel’s infamous attempt to rocket over the Snake River Canyon.

Cauldron Linn

Also known as Star Falls, the spectacular Cauldron Linn is where the Snake River is forced through a 40-foot-wide channel. It was a key site of the Overland Party of the Pacific Fur Company, an expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Heading down the Snake River in 1811, the expedition lost one man and two canoes in this area. The churning waters of the falls convinced them to abandon the river and continue on land. Good thing too because Shoshone would have greeted them a few miles downriver. Bear in mind there are no guardrails or fences in this area, so exercise caution when visiting.

Auger Falls Heritage Park

The 680-acre park situated on the banks of the Snake River is home to an enchanting landscape that is part lunar and part Lord of the Rings, but all Southern Idaho. A network of trails, popular among both mountain bikers as well as hikers, explores the vast and varied terrain. Choose your own adventure here, but you’ll definitely want to find your way down to the river where you can enjoy views of Auger Falls on the Snake itself, as well as the cascade at Mermaid Cove and a few unnamed falls pouring in from canyon walls off in the distance.

Thousand Springs State Park

Spread out over six units in and around Hagerman, the aptly named Thousand Springs State Park is an absolute must-visit. The permeable lava beds of the Snake River Plain form the namesake Snake River Aquifer—one of the largest underground geological water systems in the world, estimated to hold as much water as Lake Erie. Between the Box Canyon Unit, Malad Gorge Unit and the large springs along the east wall of the Snake River Canyon (grouped mostly within the Niagara Springs and Ritter Island Units), you can put eyes on where much of that water resurfaces. After years of being filtered through layers of sand, gravel and rock, these waters emerge crystal clear, forming pools, lakes, rivers and waterfalls graced with a glacial-blue hue. It is perhaps the truest expression of the region’s treasure trove of obscure, striking natural beauty.

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