Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - Hagerman, Idaho


Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is located in Southwest Idaho about 35 miles northwest of Twin Falls. This area is home to over 200 species of plant and animal fossils.

Location: The Visitor Center is located on Main Street in the middle of Hagerman, Idaho.  The fossil beds themselves are located about 7 miles south of town on the southwest bank of the Snake River.

Hiking Distance and Time: There aren't many trails through Hagerman Fossil Beds. This is due to the fragile nature of the fossils.  There are a couple overlooks of the area. Don't plan to spend much time exploring the fossil beds.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: From Memorial Day to Labor Day the Visitor Center is open every day of the week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  During the rest of the year the Visitor Center is open Thursday through Monday from 9:00 to 5:00 excluding Federal Holidays.

Official Website: https://www.nps.gov/hafo/index.htm

Date of Visit: Saturday May 5, 2018

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument was the sixth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We passed Ritter Island while driving north on Highway 30. And then kept going to Hagerman.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ritter Island - Wendell, Idaho



Ritter Island is an interesting feature along the shores of the Snake River west of Twin Falls, Idaho.  The waters of the Snake River surrounds one side of the island.  The other side of the island is surrounded by runoff from Minnie Miller Spring - one of the many natural springs along this section of the Snake River. The island and some of the surrounding shoreline is part of Thousand Springs State Park.

Location: Located about 5 miles southwest of Wendell, ID at approximately 1205 Thousand Springs Grade, Wendell, ID.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are several trails in the Ritter Island Area. The trail around the island is just under 1.5 mile round trip.  There trail that runs upstream on the Snake River is a little over 1 mile one way. The Trail Map can be found here.

Cost: $5 per car or free with your Idaho State Park Pass

Operating Seasons and Hours: Memorial Day Weekend 10:00 am until 3:00 pm and then Thursday through Monday until Labor Day weekend.

Helpful Websites: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/ritter-island-history and https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/thousand-springs

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

This section of Thousand Springs State Park was the fifth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We left Balanced Rock and then drove north on Highway 30.  We were heading to Hagerman, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park from Highway 30.



Before we go any further, we need to pause and do some defining so you know what I'm talking about in this post.  (Trust me, it's taken some time for me to sort all this out.)

Thousand Springs Area - This is a section of the Snake River Canyon where many natural springs burst out of different areas of the canyon wall.

Ritter Island - And island ringed by the Snake River water on one side and run off from natural springs on the other. This was formerly the Thousand Springs Nature Preserve.  Now it is part of Thousand Springs State Park. The name comes from a family that owned the island.

Thousand Springs Nature Preserve - This was a section of the Thousand Springs Area that was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1986. It included Ritter Island and about 2 miles of land along the northeast bank of the Snake River Canyon. This area has several natural springs and is an important habitat for birds and other animals.  In 2006 the land was donated to the State of Idaho and became the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park.

Thousand Springs State Park - This is an Idaho State Park that is made up of six different units (Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Niagara Springs/Crystal Springs). These units are not connected, but they are all within a short drive of each other. Park Headquarters are at the Malad Gorge unit. Thousand Springs State Park includes sections of the Thousand Springs Area.

Minnie Miller Spring - the largest spring near Ritter Island. The spring is named after a businesswoman who owned the island in the 1920s and 30s and turned it into a dairy farm. Many of the structures on the island date back to Minnie Miller's time on the island.

Feel free to refer back to these descriptions if you get confused while reading this post.

Okay, full disclosure: We didn't actually visit the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park. We meant to, but then took a wrong turn and went to visit Balanced Rock.  Brandon and I planned to back track and make our way back to Ritter Island, but we started running out of time.  So I made the hard decision to skip Ritter Island, and just move on to our next stop which was the Hagerman Fossil Beds.

I didn't know much about the landscape around this section of the Snake River.  I assumed that it looked like other sections of the river we'd passed earlier in the day. I thought that both sides of the river canyon would be steep.  Since we were now on the southwest side of the river and Ritter Island was on the northeast side I thought there would be no way to see the island.

However as we drove north from Balanced Rock to Hangerman on Highway 30 I was surprised to see the river near the road.  The other side of the river had steep cliffs, but our side of the river was flat.  That meant we could see the cliffs even though we were on the opposite bank.

At first we could see the waterfalls that are located at the southern end of the Ritter Island Unit of the State Park.
As we drove further north we caught a glimpse of Minnie Miller Falls.  You can also see Ritter Island itself in front of the springs.
There are hundreds of springs of various sizes and outputs around the Twin Falls area of the Snake River Canyon. These springs are part of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. Water enters the aquifer to the east near Island Park and travels west through basalt rock under areas that include the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The water exits the rock in springs along the north side of the Snake River Canyon.

Minnie Miller Springs is unique because it is one of two springs in the area that has unobstructed runoff.  Most of the springs have water that is directed to power plants or fish hatcheries before being allowed to flow into the Snake River.  The water from Minnie Miller Springs goes directly into the Snake River.

These pictures were taken from the parking lot of the 1000 Springs Resort that is located across the river from Ritter Island.  This resort has an indoor swimming pool, private hot tubs, and a kiddie pool.  The resort also has tent, RV, and cabins for overnight accommodations.  This is probably your best bet if you want to camp in the area.  There are two houses on Ritter Island that you can reserve, but these are actual houses so the cost is close to $200.00 per night.

The area looked very cool and I'm glad we got to view it from the opposite side of the river.  I would love to go back and  actually explore Ritter Island and the shores of the Snake River.

Recommendation: I can't exactly recommend Ritter Island to you because I haven't actually been there.  But from what I saw. the area looks like a delightful place for your next hike or bird watching excursion.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Directions: We viewed Ritter Island from Highway 30.  If you want to visit Ritter Island take Exit 155 off of I-15 at Wendell.  Travel West on 2950 South/Hagerman Highway for 3 miles.  Turn left (south) onto 1500 East and travel south for 2.5 miles.  Turn right (west) onto 3200 South and drive on that for about another mile.  Then make a left onto 1300 East followed by a quick right onto Thousand Springs Grade.  This will take you down the canyon and to the island.



Additional Information: For an excellent decription of how to enjoy the island from the water follow this link.

Places Nearby: Ideally, we would have visited each unit of Thousand Springs State Park on this road trip, but there were so many interesting things to do around Twin Falls that we didn't have time for all of Thousand Springs State Park on this trip. The Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve is located a little to the south of the Ritter Island Unit.

Next Stop: Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Visitor Center.

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