The rocks, high desert, mountains and the river canyons are all a part of the history of South Central Idaho. Two dramatic geological events shaped this area. Approximately 15 million years ago, molten lava flowed through cracks and fissures in the earth’s surface to create the many unique rock formations still visible north of the Snake River Canyon. The basin and range topography south of the canyon also was formed by waves of lava. Approximately 30,000 year ago, a flood of great magnitude, known as the Bonneville Flood, unleashed a torrent toward the Snake River.
Lake Bonneville, a gigantic ancient lake which covered a large part of of northern Utah and parts of Southern Idaho burst through its northern banks. As the flood rushed forth through the porous basalt, it carved a canyon 105 miles long and up to 600 feet deep in some areas. The destruction caused by the massive amount of water can be seen as huge depressions and side canyons in and along the canyon near Twin Falls. This flood is one of the greatest floods in the history of the world.
The Paleo-Indians were the area’s earliest dwellers. They settled the Great Rift are approximately 15,000 year ago. Their food supply consisted of now extinct forms of elephant, camel and bison. Later, the Shoshoni and Paiute people established communities.
Enchanted by tales of the land, gold and a new life, South Central Idaho became a major thoroughfare for emigrants on their way to Oregon and California. The first emigrant trading post along the Oregon Trail, Rock Creek Stage Station, was build 1865, and later purchased by Herman Stricker. The Stricker Station is still intact today. Clearly visible wagon ruts approximately 1-1/2 mile north of Twin Falls on US Highway 93 give testimony to the role Idaho played in the history of this massive migration.
Many passed through, but only a few hardy individuals decided to stay and attempt to make a living on the harsh high desert. With the passage of the Carey Act in 1894, which granted each state one million acres of federal land if the land could be irrigated and farmed with 10 years, I.B. Perrine, an Idaho settler, led a ground financiers in filing the Twin Falls South Side Project. A dam was built on the Snake River at Milner, which opened 244,000 acres of rich farmland.
The Snake River plains played a important role in the fur trade era. Beginning in 1812, the British Hudson Bay Company attempted to remove every fur bearing animal from the valley during a period of 30 years. The British dominated the area during this period but it was later claimed by the large number of American emigrants.
The purest gold was found in the Snake River Canyon. It was a “fine flour” gold which required placer mining. during the Spring of 1870, miners numbered several hundred. four years later, an estimated 3000 were involved with placer mines in the canyon. When the first miners moved on the other fields, the Chinese miners worked the gravel bars, realizing even more profit than their predecessors. Mining activity continued into the present century. However, with the building of the dams, the quality of gold washed down the river decreased significantly.