About Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls was a waterfall that Julie and I anticipated seeing immensely as it promised big dimensions and volume.
With potential dimensions of 212ft tall, 900ft wide, and with average spring flows at 10,000-12,000 cubic feet per second, we wanted to see for ourselves why it was given the nickname the “Niagara of the West.”
Indeed, when we managed to see it on an unseasonably warm Spring day in late April 2013, we saw rainbows arcing across the flowing part of the falls.
We even saw some kayakers on the large plunge pool at the base of the falls giving us a sense of the size of the waterfall itself!
Shoshone Falls Timing and Regulation
Unfortunately, during our visits, Shoshone Falls seemed to have lost much of its luster given hydroelectric developments immediately upstream of it.
Much of the water in the Snake River drainage had been diverted to support the agricultural industry while much of the remainder of the water was diverted to generate power.
All that remained of the Snake River that managed to escape diversion resulted in the waterfall itself.
Even though we came during the peak period of the snow melt on our first visit in late April 2013, the gauge indicator at the entrance kiosk ($3 vehicle entree fee during our visit in 2013 and $5 in 2021) said the water level was “low”.
On our second visit in early April 2021, the entrance kiosk wasn’t manned (probably due to COVID-19) and we didn’t see the indicator, but it seemed to have less flow than on our first visit.
On our third visit, which happened on successive days in mid-June 2021, we actually witnessed Shoshone Falls surprisingly still having flow that was similar to how we saw it just two months prior.
It was on that third visit that we saw the falls with water on one evening, then we saw it turned off the following morning!
Lucikly, the waterfall was turned back on just as we were about to leave later that morning!
Anyways, in all of our visits, we were left with the impression that Shoshone Falls could have been so much more than what we saw.
However, if we had to time our visit, perhaps the sweet spot would be from late April through mid May, but this depends on a variety of factors like the snow accumulations upstream and how quickly the Spring thaw occurs.
That said, our experiences suggest that such displays of higher flows were more of a rare event that required both serious timing and circumstance.
If anything, it had all the makings of a waterfall that ought to belong on our Top 10 Best USA Waterfalls List.
Historical photos of the waterfall from the interpretive signs at the main lookout suggested that it would have been horseshoe-shaped.
However, during our visits, it seemed like the far right side of the horseshoe was split into trickling segments though most of the left side of the falls had satisfactory flow.
In fact, when viewed from further downstream, I was able to see that the rock wall itself had a bit of a horseshoe shape corroborating this notion that the falls once possessed that signature shape characteristic of powerful high-volume waterfalls.
I’d imagine that as the season progressed towards late Spring and Summer, the flow would be even lower or go dry.
So despite the Snake River being a major river system, the window to see Shoshone Falls was still limited to the April and May months (give or take).
Experiencing Shoshone Falls
Regardless of its shortened flow window, Shoshone Falls turned out to be a very easy waterfall to see.
From the large parking area (see directions below), we went down a short flight of steps and onto a fair-sized viewing platform protruding out from the immediate cliff face.
This was by far the most common way to experience the falls, especially as we noticed the steady of stream of people coming to this spot to get their photos.
However, there were more (less crowded) views further downstream from the primary viewpoint along a mostly paved walkway.
These other views provided slightly different viewing angles, and we found them to be appealing mostly because most visitors didn’t bother going beyond the immediate viewpoint nearby the parking lot.
The paved walkway continued to go further away from the Shoshone Falls until it ended near a fence erected to prevent access to some stairs leading down into the gorge.
It appeared that erosion might have done in this access as it seemed like the stairs led to a sudden dropoff within the mostly concealed gorge below.
I wasn’t sure where these steps led to nor why they were there.
Nevertheless, at least exploring these alternate views revealed an interesting natural arch fronting the waterfall.
There were even some marmot looking animals when we showed up one late Spring afternoon in 2021 so you never really know what surprises this place has in store.
Experiencing Shoshone Falls – The Centennial Trail
Perhaps the one view that yielded a truly different contextual perspective of Shoshone Falls was the furthest overlook that I was able to access.
However, this was only accessed from a paved walking path (a sign indicated it was named the “Centennial Trail”).
There used to be steps rising above the souvenir shop and restrooms in the main parking area, but erosion and maintenance hassles likely did in that access.
Nevertheless, it was still possible to walk uphill on the sloped grassy picnic area until the paved Centennial Trail was reached.
From there, I found the paved walking path that seemed to roughly follow the path of the Snake River Canyon (likely connecting to the rest of the Canyon Rim Trail further to the west).
Compared to the overlooks closest to the parking lot, this trail received far less use so I found the experience to be quieter, more relaxing, and worth the extra effort
Indeed, I would imagine that this trail was mostly used by the local residents who would visit the falls or at least use the path as part of their exercise routine (possibly from the nearby town of Twin Falls).
After roughly a quarter-mile, a spur path led to that last protruding viewing platform where I could get a direct look at Shoshone Falls itself backed by the butte nearest the parking lot.
It was only from this vantage point that both the width of the falls and the horseshoe-shape characteristic would be most apparent.
In addition, to this contextual viewpoint, I also noticed some interesting runoff springs alongside the Centennial Trail as well as other more obstructed views of Shoshone Falls the further away from the falls that I went.
Finally, it was interesting to note that I had come across a sign closer to the parking lot indicating that Evil Knievel made an unsuccessful attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon.
Apparently, the furthest viewing spots of Shoshone Falls was close to one of the end points of his jump so I tended to think of this most distant view of Shoshone Falls as the “Evil Knievel Overlook.”
Overall, on each of our visits we spent about 1 hour and 30 minutes to take in all the overlooks.
However, I could imagine if the initial overlook was enough, a visit here could take no longer than 5 or 10 minutes.
Shoshone Falls resides near Twin Falls in Twin Falls County, Idaho. It is administered by the city of Twin Falls. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
With Twin Falls being the nearest city to the Shoshone Falls, we’ll describe the driving directions from there.
From the Blue Lakes Road (Hwy 93) running through the heart of the town of Twin Falls, turn left at the traffic light for Falls Avenue.
Then follow this road for about 3 miles to the 3300E Road (there should be signs pointing the way to Shoshone Falls as well).
Turn left onto 3300E Road and follow this road to the parking lot, which is at the end of the road after a noticeable descent into the canyon.
During the descent there is an entrance kiosk that had a water level sign (we saw it on our first visit but not on our second visit).
That was where we paid the vehicle entrance fee ($3 as of April 2013 and $5 as of April 2021).
For some context, the town of Twin Falls was 128 miles (2 hours drive) east of Boise, 159 miles (2.5-3.5 hours drive) west of Idaho Falls, 218 miles (over 3 hours drive) northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, and 251 miles (under 4 hours drive) north of Ely, Nevada.
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