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Malad Gorge & Balanced Rock

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Shaped during the Ice Age by the cataclysmic Bonneville Flood, the Magic Valley is something of a geological wonderland, loaded with canyons, rivers, boulders, cliffs and fossils. We embarked on a long driving loop starting at the Malad Gorge, through the Thousand Springs State Park to Balanced Rock, near Buhl.

Malad-Gorge

Interstate 84 passes right by the Malad Gorge, so close that you could roll down your window and throw your litter into it (if you were a thoughtless pig, which thankfully you’re not). Despite the proximity, it’s impossible to see the canyon from the highway, and so thousands of people blaze past daily without even registering its presence. But it’s worth getting off the highway at Tuttle (exit 147) to take a quick walk.

Malad Gorge, a part of the Thousand Springs State Park, is 2.5 miles long and 250 feet deep, and there’s a trail on either side of the divide. Near the highway, a pedestrian bridge places you in front of the Devil’s Washbasin, where the Malad River crashes spectacularly into the canyon.

The Thousand Springs State Park isn’t a park in the traditional sense, but a collection of five different units in the area around the town of Hagerman. Malad Gorge is the only one of these units which we explored, but others include Ritter Island, a birdwatching paradise in the Snake River, and the Kelton Trail, which preserves wagon wheel ruts from the Oregon Trail.

The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument are another protected area in the valley. It was here that, in 1928, the Hagerman Horse was found. At 3.5 million years in age, it’s one of the oldest horses on the fossil record, and is thought to have resembled a zebra. There have also been mastodons and bone-crushing dogs found in the Hagerman beds. As might be expected, it’s off-limits to the casual visitor but there’s an interpretive center in town with a few exhibits and fossil replicas.

A few miles east from the small town of Buhl is the Balanced Rock. An impossible geological formation, this rock perched precariously on a pedestal weighs over 40 tons, reaches a height of nearly 50 feet, and is shaped just like Africa. And it looks as though it would tumble over at the slightest breeze. We climbed up to the rock and enjoyed a packed lunch with an amazing view over the valley.

Locations on our Map: Malad Gorge | Hagerman Fossil Beds | Balanced Rock

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January 2, 2013 at 7:51 am Comment (1)

Twin Falls and the Snake River Canyon

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Great Place To Stay In Twin Falls: Red Lion!

After exploring eastern Idaho, we slowly made our way back west. The eventual goal was Boise, but first we’d be spending a few nights in Twin Falls, to see the city and investigate the surrounding area, which goes by the promising name of Magic Valley.

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To enter Twin Falls from the north, you have to cross the Perrine Bridge across the Snake River Canyon. Dropping down 500 feet and stretching across a quarter mile, the canyon serves as a jaw-dropping front door for the city. From the bridge, the view of the valley takes in the Snake River far below, winding its way west, and a golf course on the canyon floor. You can walk across the bridge or take a pedestrian path leads most of the way along the canyon’s rim.

The Snake River Canyon is well-known as the site for one of Evil Keneival’s bravest, most death-defying stunts. In 1974, the daredevil attempted to jump the canyon on his Skycycle X-2. He didn’t even come close, but it was a spectacular failure.

Unfortunately, apart from the amazing front door provided by the Snake River, Twin Falls itself fails to impress. For a city of over 40,000, the downtown is surprisingly small. There are a couple decent joints, such as O’Dunkens Draught House where we had a delicious lunch, but otherwise you’ll not find much to do. Immediately outside of downtown, it’s all strip malls.

No, the real reason for a stay in Twin Falls is the beauty of the surrounding area. The Shoshone Falls are found here, just a few miles from the city center. These massive waterfalls on the Snake River are called the “Niagara of the West”, and are in fact bigger than their more famous eastern cousin. Unfortunately, during the late-autumn season in which we were visiting, the water had mostly abated, leaving it much less impressive than in the spring, during the winter run-off.

Location of Twin Falls | Shoshone Falls

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December 31, 2012 at 7:22 am Comments (2)

Copper Creek Falls

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The day after our grueling hike to Hidden Lake and Red Top Summit, our hearts weren’t yet finished exploring the wilderness of Northern Idaho, but our aching bodies were. So, a simple one-mile round-trip walk to Copper Creek Falls sounded like a good compromise.

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The trailhead is found almost on top of the Canadian border, less than a mile south of Eastport along Copper Creek Road (NF-2517), and we arrived 30 minutes after setting out from Bonners Ferry. At the Ranger Station, we had picked up a self-guided walking tour describing different aspects of the forest trail, such as old logging ruts and trees, but we quickly stored this away. I didn’t care much whether I was looking at a lodgepole or an eastern white pine: we were there for the waterfall!

We didn’t have to wait long. After a brisk ten-minute hike, we arrived at the viewpoint. The Copper Creek Falls drop 160 feet into a pool of water which you can wade into. I wasn’t about to take a shower, but would bet that people do in warmer weather. Copper Creek provided a neat excursion, perfect for families or anyone who’s not up for a major hike. And it’s nicely secluded, despite the ease of access. We didn’t see another soul during our time there.

Location of the Trailhead

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November 2, 2012 at 12:34 am Comment (1)
Malad Gorge & Balanced Rock Shaped during the Ice Age by the cataclysmic Bonneville Flood, the Magic Valley is something of a geological wonderland, loaded with canyons, rivers, boulders, cliffs and fossils. We embarked on a long driving loop starting at the Malad Gorge, through the Thousand Springs State Park to Balanced Rock, near Buhl.
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