This Beautiful Waterfall is the Niagara Falls of the West

Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho
Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho | Photo Credit: Pixabay - josephhill

Referred to as Shoshone Falls, this stunning Idaho waterfall is commonly referred to as the “Niagara Falls of the West”. From a popular Native American fishing spot to an iconic western tourist attraction, the falls have evolved over centuries into a bustling city park. Hike the South Rim trail along the winding Snake River Canyon or go for a swim at Dierkes Lake all within the park.

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The formation of Shoshone Falls is credited to the outburst flooding of the massive Lake Bonneville. This lake once covered much of present day Utah and parts of southern Idaho. This flooding is estimated to have taken place over 14,000 years ago.

After the formation of the falls, the Snake River became a migration route for salmon, however the fish could not get over the towering falls. Native Americans found that the river close to the base of the falls was a great fishing area to catch large Salmon that had traveled upstream to spawn. The Shoshone people, who the falls are named after, used tree branches and Elk horns to spear the salmon for food.

As European immigrants began passing through or moving to this region they started to share their astonishment by the magnificent falls. Beginning around 1840, the falls were well known amongst settlers. As pioneers moved along the Oregon Trail during their westward migration, many would take the short detour off their route to see the mighty Shoshone Falls. By the 1860s, Shoshone Falls was a tourist attraction many longed to see.

The first recognition of the falls being dubbed the “Niagara Falls of the West” came from a Salt Lake City newspaper in the 1860s. Just a few years later, the Idaho Gold Rush of the 1870s brought about over 3,000 eager prospectors. The gold was said to be located near the canyons in the region, but was difficult to mine1.

Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho c. 1874
Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho c. 1874 | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Timothy H. O’Sullivan

In 1876, an ambitious farmer by the name of Charles Walgamott moved to the region with plans to bring about big potential. He saw the falls as a way to bring economic growth and sustainability to the area. Walgamott found that he could section off some of the land parcels surrounding the falls and build a lodge for visitors. By doing this, he secured land through squatter’s rights.

Walgamott’s time and goals paid off when the Oregon Short Line Railroad purchased his land around the falls in 1883. They planned to build an elaborate hotel on the site, to replace his lodge. While Walgamott sold off a portion of his land, he did not give up on his plans to develop what would become the Twin Falls area. In fact, he opened a cable ferry that crossed just above the falls to transport people across the river on a scenic, but dangerous adventure. In the early 1900s, on two separate occurrences, the cable snapped resulting in some people dying from injuries. By the 1920s, a suspension bridge was erected to allow for safer crossing of the river.

Despite locals attempts to get the falls made into a National Park, the falls would be changed forever by the divergence of water to provide irrigation to settlers and homesteaders. In 1905, the Milner Dam was complete and for the first time the Shoshone Falls went dry. The diverted water was used to bring irrigation to the desert terrain that would go on to become fertile farm land. The quick change of this land to usable agricultural landscape led to this region of Idaho becoming referred to as “Magic Valley”. In 1907, the Shoshone Falls Dam was completed just above the falls.

Since 1932, the City of Twin Falls has operated Shoshone Falls as a park that welcomes visitors to explore the beautiful falls and its surrounding canyon landscape. It is estimated that nearly 300,000 people visit the park each year.

Things to Do

Shoshone Falls

Located on the Snake River, Shoshone Falls is known for being 45 feet taller than Niagara Falls at a total height of 212 feet! The 1,000 foot rim makes a bold waterfall that can be best viewed during the spring months following the snow melt. April is recognized as the best month to view the falls. With a powerful flow, visitors may witness rainbows over the falls and a spray mist from the cascades intensity.

Shoshone Falls Dam, Twin Falls, Idaho
Shoshone Falls Dam, Twin Falls, Idaho | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Lómelinde

Idaho Power is required to keep the Shoshone Falls Dam flowing at least 300 cubic feet per second throughout spring and summer months, however, the average water rate is 3,530 cubic feet per second. During peak summer months, visitors may see little to no water at the falls.

The multiple view platforms offer different angles of the falls, some not that far from the parking lot making certain observation areas ADA accessible.

Dierkes Lake

Whether you hike or drive to the lake, this spot can provide for a relaxing outdoor adventure. Swimming is welcome at Dierkes Lake. The use of nonmotorized boats are allowed on the lake such as kayaks or canoes.

Fun Fact: Dierkes Lake was actually created from the runoff of water from diverting the Snake River in 1907. It was once a canyon where German immigrant John Dierke had planted a fruit orchard. His orchard continued to flood and he ended up picking his harvest from a rowboat!

Evil Knievel Jump Site

Knievel prepares for the Snake River Canyon jump c. 1974
Knievel prepares for the Snake River Canyon jump c. 1974 | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Public Domain

Accessible by Canyon Rim Trail, this jump site was made famous by the 1974 attempt to “jump” the Snake River Canyon by rocket motorcycle. Evil Knievel was a famous stuntman from Butte, Montana. An estimated 30,000 people came to view the adventurous leap. When his parachute deployed prematurely, it resulted in his jump failing and he fell to the bottom of the canyon. Fortunately, he survived with only his nose broken. In 2016, stuntman Eddie Braun was the first person to successfully jump the site. The jump site is one mile west of the waterfall and portions of the jump are still visible today.

Hiking Trails

Enjoy several hiking trails within the park. Trails range from dirt to paved. These trails wind along the canyon and take visitors to see unique spots such as Dierkes Lake and the Evil Knievel Jump Site. One of the most popular hiking trails within the park is the multi-use Canyon Rim Trail. This is a paved trail that winds 8 miles along the river canyon for some amazing views and overlooks.

Shoshone Falls After Dark Event

This annual event is held each spring and welcomes visitors to see the falls from a new perspective. Boasting a vibrant array of festivities ranging from food and live music to multi-colored lights to brighten up the falls.

Plan Your Visit

Shoshone Falls is located about 3 miles northeast of Twin Falls, Idaho. The city operates the land near the falls as a park that is open seasonally. There is an entrance fee to the park during the summer months. In the winter, there is no entrance fee but the roads are often closed due to poor weather conditions. Pets are allowed in the park on a leash. Also within the park is a picnic area, playground and even a boat launch.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited Shoshone Falls before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

  1. Wikipedia – Shoshone Falls ↩︎


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