The breathtaking view of the valley along the Snake River is hard to anticipate. As we drove south along Highway 93 toward Twin Falls Idaho to see the famous Perrine Bridge, there was virtually no warning before the sheer cliff walls of the Snake River Canyon leaped into view. One moment we were driving through green pasture lands and the next we were hanging high above the 500 foot rock precipice over the north cliff wall driving over the amazing bridge that spans the deep gash in the earth on either side.
There were two major events that led to the name of Magic Valley at the base of this canyon. The first was a cataclysmic disaster of monstrous proportions.
It’s hard to imagine the titanic forces that shaped this deep valley floor over 100 miles long and up to 600 feet deep. Unlike the Grand Canyon, which was eroded over millions of years by the Colorado River, the basalt and lava rock that dominates the landscape here was gouged out by what is believed to be the second largest flood in geologic history called the Bonneville Lake Flood over 13,000 years ago. Today, only a paltry scale version remains of this massive body of water in Provo Lake in Utah.
After breaking through it’s natural basin, this prehistoric lake, which was estimated to cover 32,000 square miles, created an epic wave of water over 400 feet high that tore down the Snake River at speeds of over 70 miles per hour! Not only did the flood completely reshape the geology of the region, but it deposited hundreds of square miles of sediment eroded from upstream creating a thick new layer of nutrient rich topsoil.
The Shoshone Falls and Twin Falls, namesake for the town of Twin Falls, lie upriver of the Perrine Bridge. Shoshone Falls is often referred to as the Niagara Falls of the West. While both are spectacular, they offer only a glimmer into what the raging Snake might have looked like those many years ago.
That brings us to 1894 when a farmer by the name of I.B. Perrine, yep that’s the same guy whose name is on the bridge, bought into a million acre federal land grant which stipulated the land must be cultivated within 10 years.
Rounding up a herd of investors he helped to finance construction of several dams in the area that could bring the needed irrigation water to otherwise arid high desert lands, along with hydroelectric power and an explosion of farming in the area ensued.
And today, the Snake River Canyon area has even more to offer in boating, paddle boarding, swimming and much more.
Thus the region was magically transformed, first by mother nature and then by a persistent farmer named Perrine. And now you know the amazing story of Magic Valley Idaho.