Shoshone — a.k.a Train Town U.S.A. — is the oldest town in the Magic Valley. Founded in 1882, this historic place is the gateway to Sun Valley, unbelievable geological features, the Oregon Trail, and much more. A trip to Shoshone is the perfect way for lovers of architecture, history, and natural wonders to spend a Saturday or Sunday.
Historic Main Street.
Shoshone’s Main Street has been dubbed the “widest main street in the world” because four sets of railroad tracks run through it. Shoshone was once a major stop for the Union Pacific Railroad; you can see the historic 1928 depot, which Union Pacific still owns, on Main Street. Trains still rumble through town regularly.
Get Some History.
Want to see what Shoshone looked like in decades past? Head into the antique store 2nd Time Around at 102 S. Rail St. E. to see an exhibit of historic photos from Shoshone and the nearby towns of Dietrich and Richfield.
See Some of America’s Most Unusual Homes.
Shoshone has many lava rock homes, a rarity in the United States. The builders of these historic homes used the material that was most abundant — native lava rocks that formed from flows thousands of years ago — to create snug, thick walls. The rocks can’t shaped, so talented masons had to freehand each wall. It’s a lost art, and some of America’s greatest examples of it are scattered throughout the town.
Ice Cream As Far As the Eye Can See.
The Shoshone Snack Bar is a mom-and-pop business that serves up “mile-high” soft-serve ice cream cones. But you don’t have to wait until summer to indulge! This restaurant, located at 415 S. Greenwood St., is open every day except Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The Mammoth Cave, eight miles north of Shoshone on Highway 75, is the largest volcanic cave in the world that is also open to the public. In fact, it’s so large that the U.S. government tapped it for use as a civil defense shelter during the Cold War. Head inside and you can see remnants of previous generations that explored the cave and used it for shelter: Names of settlers are carved on the wall, and ancient bones have been discovered inside.
The Shoshone Indian Ice Caves, located at 1561 N. Highway 75, is another geological marvel: A lava tube filled with ice, even in the heat of summer. When the tube formed thousands of years ago it trapped and froze water, creating an icy cave that was so full of the cold stuff that figure skating pioneer Sonja Henie skated there once. Now a tourist attraction with a small museum, you can listen to an experienced tour guide tell you about the area’s volcanic landscape as you descend into the chilly cave.
This Canyon Is Magic.
The Big Wood River carved Black Magic Canyon north of Shoshone over thousands of years. It left twisting, almost supernatural lava rock sculptures behind. It’s not easy to get to Black Magic Canyon, and it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ll need sturdy walking shoes capable of scrambling over smooth basalt, which can be slippery.
You’ll also need to check the Big Wood Canal Company’s website www.bwccafrd2.com, which controls the flow of water through the canyon, before heading out. Water created the canyon, and irrigation water still floods its narrow passage most of the year. Starting in late summer, however, the canyon begins to dry as the need for irrigation water slows. It become accessible in late July and August and remains so throughout the winter, though test flows may be released as early as February. If you explore Black Magic Canyon without calling ahead you may find yourself trapped in a fatal flash flood.
For more information on Shoshone and its surrounding areas, call the Lincoln County Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce at 208-886-7641.