Water Is the Source of Summer Fun in Southern Idaho
Southern Idaho is high-desert country. Here, water is precious — it’s the source of our bountiful crops, a place to rest and relax, and a welcome excuse to play in the region’s spectacular landscape. This year’s massive snowpack means that there’s even more water than usual for recreation, and we don’t want you to miss out! Here’s your guide to what promises to be a banner year for outdoor lovers.
Tumbling down the canyon’s side at 250 cubic feet per second, Niagara Springs’ churning, icy-blue glacial waters are a National Natural Landmark. Park the car, walk down the path to the springs, and be amazed as the force of the water fills your ears. This is a great place for year-round bird watching, too — the protected area and warm water provide a haven for waterfowl. Keep an eye out for Great Basin spadefoot toads, bull frogs, and Pacific treefrogs — Niagara Springs is great for wildlife watching.
You’ll be blown away by the number of waterfalls here — Thousand Springs truly lives up to its name! This 67-mile-long road takes you through some of the most remarkable geology and natural beauty in Idaho. The vast Snake River Plain Aquifer flows 2,308 miles beneath volcanic rock from the St. Anthony to the Snake River, where it flows over the cliffs at Thousand Springs. Want a close-up view of this area’s gorgeous waterfalls? Enjoy lunch or dinner on board 1,000 Springs Tours’ 52-foot catamaran.
This amazing waterfall is legendary for its height and the sheer force of the water that comes crashing into the Snake River. At 212 feet, these falls are higher than Niagara — stand on the viewing area overlooking the falls and you’re sure to be drenched in the mist that rises from the pounding water below. Shoshone Falls is one of the most popular attractions in Southern Idaho, so you’ll find plenty of recreational facilities, playgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking trails in the vicinity. There is a $5 vehicle fee from March through September. During the late spring and summer, you can see the falls from below by renting a stand-up paddleboard.
Lake Walcott State Park is a hidden treasure chock full of outdoor amenities. The park is situated next to Minidoka Dam on the Snake River. The dam, one of many built in Southern Idaho to bring the desert into bloom, creates 17-mile-long Lake Walcott, a popular hangout for water skiers, jet skiers, stand-up paddleboarders, and even sailors. On days with little or no wind, it’s a great place to kayak and canoe. The lake recently upgraded to two 60-foot-long docks, which makes getting onto the water even easier.
Thousands of spectators turn out each year for the Idaho Regatta on the Snake River near Burley. Since 1975, this race has been attracting folks who line the riverbank to watch speed boats zoom across the river in head-to-head competition at speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour. Racers in eight different boat classes will make three laps on a 1.25 mile race course in the qualifying heats, and in the final races on Sunday, they’ll make four laps. The Idaho Regatta is part of seven-race circuit for speedboats throughout the United States, so you’ll be seeing the best of the best.
Ready to take a break this summer? Southern Idaho is home to some of the best hot springs in a state known for them. You can find family-friendly pools at Durfee, Thousand Springs, Miracle, Banbury, and Nat-Soo-Pah. Many of the resorts have RV hookups or cabins or yurts for rent. Bring the whole family or plan a romantic getaway — once you get there, all you have to do is relax.
Southern Idaho has seen an explosion in the popularity of stand-up paddleboarding, and for good reason: There are so many places to get on the water! Check out Dierkes Lake, Centennial Waterfront Park, or Thousand Springs State Park for excellent SUP excursions. Don’t own your own paddleboard? No worries. AWOL Adventure Sports, Hagerman Valley Sports and Mercantile, River Rat, and Idaho Watersports have your back.
The freeflowing Hagerman reach of the Snake River in the Thousand Springs region features an 8-miles whitewater trip with multiple Class II and Class III rapids — the perfect size for families. Idaho Guide Service offers daily guided whitewater trips on the Hagerman reach for $50 to $70. (Interested in bigger water? Idaho Guide Service can connect more adventurous types with heart-pounding rapids below Caldron Linn.)
Want to test your mettle against some of the most wily fish in Idaho? Southern Idaho is your spot. Others may flock to more famous territory up north, but rainbow trout, bass, bluegill, and carp are all up for grabs here — even mighty, ancient sturgeon. Try the Hagerman Fish Hatchery for an easy day of fishing, Oakley Reservoir for fly fishing, Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir for walleye, and Magic Reservoir for trout.
Plan Your Paddling Adventure
Southern Idaho’s high-desert landscape is made magic by water – the mighty Snake River, massive waterfalls, and gurgling freshwater springs and placid lakes. During the summer, the best way to see this area is over the bow of a canoe, from the seat of a kayak, or atop a stand-up paddleboard. We’ve rounded up the top places to explore — and cool off on the water — this summer.
Stay a While: Find Your Lodging
Whether you want to camp, stay in a rustic cabin, or have all the amenities of a national chain hotel, you can find lodging to round out your Southern Idaho water adventure. Don’t forget to book early for events like the Idaho Regatta!