As we mentioned in our last update we picked Idaho Falls as our stop on Friday (6/9)
Idaho Falls is the largest city in Eastern Idaho with a population of just over 60,000 with a metro population of 136,108 and sits at 4,700 feet in elevation.
What is now Idaho Falls was the site of Taylor’s Crossing on the Montana Trail which was a timber frame bridge built across the Snake River. The 1865 bridge was built by Matt Taylor who was a Montana Trail freighter who built a toll bridge across the river. The bridge improved travel for settlers moving north and west and also for miners, freighters, and others seeking riches in the gold fields of Idaho and Montana and especially the boom towns of Bannack and Virginia City in western Montana.
Mail service postmarks indicate that by 1866 the growing town had become known as Eagle Rock. The name was derived from an isolated basalt island in the Snake River 7 miles upstream in the Snake River that was the nesting site for approximately twenty eagles.
In 1891 the town voted to change its name to Idaho Falls, in reference to the rapids that existed below the bridge. Some years later, the construction of a retaining wall for a hydroelectric power plant enhanced the rapids into falls. In 1895 the largest irrigation canal in the world at that time began diverting water from the Snake River and aided in converting tens of thousands of acres of desert into green farmland in the vicinity of Idaho Falls. The area grew sugar beets, potatoes, peas, grains, and alfalfa and became one of the most productive regions of the United States.
According in our neighbor in the campground, who is retired from the power company here in town, the hydroelectric plants on the river produce 33% of the power for the city.
Historic Downtown lies along the east side of the river and has a lot of small restaurants, wineries, shops, and art centers scattered around in some neat old buildings.
Across the Snake River to the west has more of a small-town feel and doesn’t have the congestion of the east side.
On both sides of the river going through town is a great green belt that has a very nice walking and bike trail with a couple huge parks and a small Japanese Garden.
And Idaho Falls is a college town and we have mentioned before how we love college towns and the vibrant feel they tend to bring.
Sure, there are some run down and not so attractive areas in Idaho Falls but overall from our short visit we found it to be a nice place. One HUGE downside is the lack of RV parks. IN fact I would say that the park we stayed in was among the 5 tightest and un-desirable sites we have stayed in during the almost 5 years we have been on the road. But it certainly was convenient for touring the area.
After we rolled into town on Friday and got set up we took off on our typical driving tour with a stop in historic downtown to grab a bite to eat at the Snakebite Restaurant which is rated #2 for places to eat in town.
Diane had a Blue Cheese burger and I had the Fish Taco’s that were raved about on Trip Adviser and both were good but I didn’t think the fish tacos were as good as everyone talked about on Trip Advisor.
After our 220 mile travel day, our driving tour and food we decided to call it a day and kick back the rest of the evening.
Saturday morning (6/10) we headed downtown at about 9am to hit the Farmers Market.
It was average sized and the setting along the green belt by the river was very pretty. A number of crafters were set up as well as a few places serving food and only a couple stands selling vegetables and most of what we saw came from California surprisingly but then I guess it’s a little early in the season for this area.
Even though it was a cool & breezy morning we took a stroll along and over the river taking in the sights. I think both of us have slowly turned into weenies when it comes to cool weather, heck I even wore a light pull-over jacket BUT NO LONG PANTS LOL!!!
The rest of the day we spent driving in the surrounding country side through farmlands and driving through the different sections of town.
Sunday (6/11) we decided to take a road trip about 75 miles north to see the upper & lower Mesa Falls outside of Warm River on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. The Byway covers about 30 miles and takes you from Warm River through the Targhee National Forest and eventually runs back into HWY 20.
Our first stop was to take a look at the lower falls. It’s a very short walk from the parking area to the view point.
From the Lower Falls we drove a short distance to the Upper Falls and stopped in at historic Big Falls interpretive center to learn about a little about the geology and history of the area and look at some of the artifacts on display.
**Mesa Falls Tuff, which is the rock over which Upper Mesa Falls cascades, was formed 1.3 million years ago. A cycle of rhyolitic volcanism from the Henrys Fork caldera deposited a thick layer of rock and ash across the area. This layer compressed and hardened over time.
Between 200,000 and 600,000 years ago, the river eroded a wide canyon which was subsequently partly filled with basalt lava flows. The Henrys Fork of the Snake River then carved the channel through the basalt; which is the inner canyon seen today.**
Upper Mesa Falls is roughly 114 feet high and 200 feet wide and the state has done a fantastic job creating walkways that get you up close and personal with the falls.
Once again we got the short end of the stick weather wise but it was still a great sight to see.
After the falls we continued on the Scenic Byway branching off on a few gravel roads that took off in one direction or the other in hope of seeing some wildlife but had no luck. We did happen across Fish Lake however and found a few boondocking sites that we will keep in mind if we pass through this area again.
Once we reached HWY 20 again we drove to Harriman State Park. From 1902 to 1977 the land was owned by Union Pacific Railroad and private investors and served as a cattle ranch and private retreat for the Harriman and Guggenheim families.
We were told by a park volunteer (Dave) that some of the best fly fishing waters in the nation flow through 8 miles of Harriman State Park, known by anglers the world over as “the Ranch.” Moose, elk and Trumpeter swans, the world’s largest waterfowl species, are a common sight at Harriman. Dave also said he has seen 2 bear in the last 2 weeks and a fellow volunteer saw Elk but we were not that lucky.
A few of the old ranch building are offered to rent and a few were open while we were there to tour which was pretty interesting. We sort of envied Dave (the volunteer we chatted with) because he & his wife are going to spend the summer here enjoying the great views. Plus it’s located at just over 6000ft elevation so it would be a cool place to spend the summer.
After the state park we headed towards home and chilled the rest of the evening. A great day!!
Monday (6/12) originally was going to be a travel day as we planned our trek east but I think I mentioned in our last update that the weather at our next stop showed rain and a chance of snow flurries and because that stop would be a dry camping spot we decided to stay 2 more days in Idaho falls even though the weather in Idaho Falls was supposed to be rainy. But we would rather endure poor weather with hookups so it was an easy call.
To our surprise there were sun breaks during the morning so we jumped in the truck and headed downtown to the Green Belt after stopping in the office to pay for 2 more nights.
After parking we headed off on what was supposed to be a nice 6 mile walk but about 1 mile in the wind picked up and it started to sprinkle so we turned around and headed back to the truck. Once we reached the truck the weather was just looking iffy again so we kept on walking.
We got about ½ mile when the skies started looking pretty darn threatening so I checked the radar on my phone and sure enough there was a nice big RED area headed right towards us so once again we turned tail and headed back to the truck LOL!!!
As we got about 50ft from the truck it started raining and hailing, pretty big hail to so I drove down the street until we could park partially under a tree that blocked some of the hail until the front went by, well the hail anyway.
We had a couple spots we wanted to see in the area so we drove around a bit and then we made our way to the Snow Eagle Brewery for a late lunch. It was still raining when we left the brewery so we said to heck with it and headed home.
We just screwed around until we figured that even though we were not very hungry I would BBQ a couple steaks we had thawed out with the intention of keeping on for dinner Tuesday.
After dinner we just killed time until game 5 of the Cavaliers and Golden State came on. That pretty much ended our mixed bag day. Too bad Cleveland, I was cheering for ya. But Diane was happy.
Tuesday (6/13) we woke to rain just as the weatherperson forecasted and we have no real plans other than grocery shopping and to catch up on some basic household chores, oh well it has to be done. You can escape a lot of the real life BS by living this life style but you just can’t escape household chores LOL!!
So I guess we will wrap it up about our stay in Idaho Falls for now. Tomorrow (6/14) we will lift our jacks and make a move into Wyoming!!