June 2, 2020
We left home around 3 pm and headed north on I-15 through Salt Lake and Ogden. Just north of Brigham City we took I-84, headed northwest into Idaho. Our destination for the night was McClendon Springs, a primitive campsite about 30-40 miles into Idaho. The springs were a key stopping point on the California Trail and is known as “The Oasis in the Desert”. We were the only ones at the springs and it was a nice warm night as we explored the trails through the area. The night was very quiet and peaceful.
We woke up early in the morning so we could drive the 1-1/2 hours to Twin Falls. The plan for the day was to kayak up the Snake River to the Pillar Falls and then on to Shoshone Falls. We wanted to get somewhat of an early start to avoid the afternoon winds.
During our drive, Alyssa let us know that they were planning a weekend trip to Bear World, near Rexburg, Idaho. We decided to change our plans so we could meet with them for the weekend. We now plan to be at Bear World on Saturday so we can spend some time with the little boys.
We arrived at Centennial Park, on the Snake River, at 9:30 am. The park is on the north side of Twin Falls. To get to the part you have to drive down into the gorge on a narrow switchback that ends at the waterfront. It is a very nice park with grassy areas, restrooms and picnic pavilions. The water front has several docks, including a roller launch deck, to make it easy to get your kayak in the water. You just put the kayak on the rollers, sit in the kayak and push yourself into the water. This was a lot easier than getting in from the dock.
We were on the water at 10:40 am and started paddling upstream. After about a mile, around the first bend in the river, we passed under the Perrine Memorial Bridge. This bridge is 1,499 feet long and is 486 feet above the Snake River. This is the only bridge in the US that allows BASE jumpers to parachute off the bridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anyone jump. We heard that the day before, 20-30 jumpers were on the bridge.
Paddling up the current wasn’t too bad, but if you stopped paddling, it wasn’t long before you started going backwards. Another mile or so past the bridge, we arrived at Pillar Falls. These falls flow through limestone pillars and shelves as it drops about 28 feet to the river. We beached our kayak on the right side of the river and carried the kayak around the falls, through the trees and rocks. If the river running high, the water can be flowing a foot or two deep on this 300 yard trail. But fortunately, it was dry for our passage.
Once we were above the falls, we launched the kayak back into the river and continued our upstream paddle to Shoshone Falls. Many of the kayakers and paddle boarders stop at Pillar Falls and the motorized boats have no way to continue upstream, so this section of river is much calmer and quieter. We saw ducks and other waterfowl on both sides of the river. It is about a 1-1/2 mile paddle to the base of Shoshone Falls.
Shoshone Falls is known as the Niagara of the West. It is actually 45 feet higher than Niagara at 212 feet high, but the water flow is less than Niagara. On this day the water flow was on the low side, so the falls did not spread completely around the cliffs, but it was still impressive. The noise was staggering as we paddled close to the base of the falls. The water pounding into the river made the surface choppy and the mist from the falls felt really good on this hot sunny day.
After taking pictures and paddling around the base of the falls, we floated down the river a couple of hundred yards to a spot we could beach the kayak and have lunch. The upstream trip had taken 2 hours, including carrying the kayak around Pillar Falls. We spend 30-40 minutes at the fall and another 20 minutes eating lunch, so we started the paddle back down the river at 1:40 pm.
We thought the downstream paddle would be easier, but just as we started, the wind kicked up and was blowing up-canyon. The wind was strong enough to offset the current, so if you stopped paddle, you wouldn’t move at all.
When we arrived at the upstream side of Pillar Falls and there were several groups of people portaging around the falls. We were glad we started early to avoid the crowds. It was an easy carry around the falls and we were quickly back into the water.
The final couple of miles down the river was uneventful, until we were within a quarter mile of the dock. The sheriff’s department boat “pulled us over” and did a safety check. We had our floatation devices and whistle, but we didn’t have an invasive species sticker that is required for Idaho. We did have our Utah permit (from 2019). Fortunately, due to some system issues, they weren’t enforcing the rule until the end of June. So we just received a friendly warning. Overall, the trip was 7.8 miles of paddling, with a little over 1/4 mile of portage.
We made it back to the dock and carried the kayak back to the van. The park had a nice grassy area to deflate, dry and pack the kayak. After loading up, we drove about 7-1/2 miles to the Shoshone Falls Overlook. This gave us a nice look at the upper falls, but we could only see the upper part of the main falls. Along the way we passed the Twin Falls Temple.
We gassed up at the Twin Falls Walmart and continued west out of town, through the many farms. This part of Idaho is very pretty with all the grain and alfalfa fields. Our destination for the night was the Cedar Draw Access Point on the Snake River. They allow camping at these access points for at least 48 hours. It was just a parking spot, and there were several cars of fishermen there when we arrived. But by 8:30 pm we had the place to ourselves. It was another warm night camping and we went to sleep quickly. However, around 1:30 am, a vehicle pulled up and spent an hour unloading and setting up camp down by the river. They were pretty quiet, but they kept us awake. After they finished, it was a quite night.