Thousand Springs State Park and Surrounding Area

Thousand Springs State Park

Thousand Springs State Park lies in southern Idaho's "Magic Valley" area. The park has six units, all within a short driving distance of each other. Four of the units are of interest to photographers:

Ritter Island

There are four waterfalls in the Ritter Island area. All are on the banks above the east shore of the Snake River. They are spring fed and run all year. The best known of these is Minnie Miller Falls which can only be viewed from Ritter Island looking across a small fork in the Snake River. To get to Ritter Island, park at the foot of Thousand Springs Grade and cross the bridge over the Snake River on foot. Follow the Outer Loop Trail counterclockwise for 0.3 miles and turn right onto a small trail that takes you to the viewpoint. Ritter Island is only open from Thursday to Monday from 9 AM to 3 PM. This makes photographing Minnie Miller Falls at sunset difficult. If you wish to shoot Minnie Miller at sunset, there are two houses on Ritter Island you can rent from Thursday through Monday nights. The Rock House rents for $220 overnight for non-Idaho residents, and the Yellow House rents for $110.

The Guernsey Dairy Farm Barn on Ritter Island is also photogenic, and its interior is accessible.

To photograph the other three waterfalls near Ritter Island, take the River Road Trail from the parking area. The best known is Lemmon Falls. From the parking area at the end of Thousand Springs Grade hike south for 0.2 miles to shoot the falls.

Malad Gorge

Malad Canyon and Gorge are carved out by the 2.5-mile-long Malad River. The gorge is known for its sheer canyon walls and teal-colored water. Its best feature is the Devil's Washbowl, a large pool of water just below the waterfall near I84. To photograph the washbowl, walk northwest across the paved footbridge near the parking lot and leave the trail making your way to the rim of the gorge. The pool is best shot in even light, so early to mid-afternoon should work well.

Box Canyon

Box Canyon is known for the colorful pools of water just west of the Box Canyon parking lot and for the 20 feet high Box Canyon Falls. The falls are best shot from below. From the parking area take the Box Canyon Trail or walk along the southern rim of Box Canyon. After 0.4 miles, the trail drops down into the canyon. Continue another 0.2 miles to the viewpoint of the falls.

Niagara Springs

Niagara Springs feeds another gorgeous waterfall just above Niagara Springs Grade Road. A good view of the falls is only about 100 feet from the parking area. Further down Niagara Springs Grade is the parking lot for Crystal Springs Lake. The springs can be seen at the far north side of the lake. There is a rather muddy shoreline trail to the base of the springs.

Other Area Attractions

Shoshone Falls is a must-see attraction in Twin Falls, Idaho. The falls interrupts the Snake River and is 212 feet high and 900 feet wide. The falls is best in the spring when it is fed by snowmelt. In the summer flow is considerably reduced as water from the Snake River is diverted for agricultural use. Autumn is the worst time to visit the falls; they may even be dry. Admission is $5 per car from March 30 through September.

Winter is a great time to visit Magic Valley. Water from the springs is at a constant 55° all year round. In winter it vaporizes and then freezes, coating trees and plants with a layer of rime ice. This is the same process that occurs in Yellowstone National Park. Bald eagles are also common in January and February. Look for them in Box Canyon or at the "Eagle Tree". Check with locals for other areas where they roost.

The "Balanced Rock" near Castleford is 48 feet wide at its top but only four feet at its base. It is unique and impressive.

Upper Salmon Falls on the Snake River is best viewed from the cliffs on its northwest side. To get to a good viewpoint, park at the pullout on the northeast side of Owsley Bridge. Follow the trail 0.6 miles to the rim.

Outside Magic Valley, 60-foot-high Jump Creek Falls is of interest. Jump Creek Falls is near Marsing, Idaho, close to the Oregon border. It has a lovely plunge pool at its base. The swimming hole at its base can be quite crowded, so I suggest you go early in the day or in the off-season if you wish to photograph it. April and May are good months to visit.

Here is an overview map showing the locations of many of the waterfalls and other attractions in the Thousand Springs area. Click on the map to open a larger version of the map in a new window.

Google Map of the Thousand Springs State Park Area

USGS 24K Topo Maps

Thousand Springs State Park is covered by six USGS 24K maps. Decollared maps can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below. Note that GaiaGPS Premium members can only import maps less than 100MB in size.