“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Twin Falls in Twin Falls County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)

Shoshone Falls

Native Americans and life in the Snake River Canyon panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, May 15, 2018
1. Native Americans and life in the Snake River Canyon panel
Captions: (bottom center) Prehistoric pottery and projectile points; (bottom right) Leela Abrahamson, Miss Shoshone-Bannock in the grand entry of the 2008 Shoshone-Bannock Festival.
(Two panels are found at the Shoshone kiosk:)
Native Americans and life in the Snake River Canyon
Coyote Creates the Snake River
A Traditional Shoshone-Bannock Story

Once in that time long ago, Ejupa, the coyote, decided to go fishing in the country of the Yellowstone. Before he started, he made a huge basket of willows to bring fish home in. When he finished weaving his basket, he carefully lined it with pitch so that it would hold water to keep his fish fresh. Off he went carrying the basket on his back. Fishing was good, and coyote quickly filled his basket. On the way home, the fish and water made the load too heavy to carry. Along the path coyote stumbled and the basket fell. The water and all the fish spilled out onto the ground. The water rushed off with the fish splashing along in it. Ejupa ran after the water calling it to stop, but the water only ran faster and seemed to grow as it splashed along. When he finally caught up with the rushing stream coyote could do nothing, for he had forgotten his basket. Coyote took a short cut to
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get ahead of the water. He quickly built a dam of earth and rocks across its path to stop the water from running, but the stream flowed right over his dam, making a roaring waterfall. He ran ahead once more to get in front of the rushing water, until he came to another rocky place and built another dam higher than the first one. Coyote watched with a smile as the stream, now the size of a river, filled the dam and created a lake. But when the lake was full, the water flowed over the dam, becoming another thundering waterfall and cutting a deep canyon as it swept along. By running as fast as he could, Coyote managed to get ahead of the river once more and built a third dam, but the river crashed through Coyote's dam, dividing into two channels and made two great waterfalls.

Coyote made a great cloud of dust as he desperately ran on, making one final effort to catch the wildly flowing water. Finally he got ahead and built the biggest dam of all. He piled great heaps of earth and rock, but the river flowed over this dam as it had the others, making a vast leaping waterfall from which the mist sprayed high into the sky. Full of boulders and soil, the rushing water continued westward carving a deep canyon below the mighty falls. Coyote almost gave up, but decided instead to follow the river and watch for some place where he might still be able to stop it. Far to the west,
A Thirsty Desert Shrinks The River... Bountiful Springs Restore It panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, May 15, 2018
2. A Thirsty Desert Shrinks The River... Bountiful Springs Restore It panel
Captions: (upper right) Harvesting, A.J. Pace Ranch; (middle right) Fred H. Wheeler Elm Park, an onion patch on a city lot; (bottom right) Main canal, north side. Many of the other photos are related to the marker text.
the water came to a high ridge of sandy hills. "Now," said Ejupa, "at last something will stop the water." But he was wrong, it gouged a great canyon before turning west to join the big river flowing to the sea. Ejupa trotted home, defeated.

Today the great roaring river and the waterfalls are still there. The river that Ejupa started is the Snake River, and the first dam that he built created Idaho Falls. The second dam is American Falls and the third, divided into two parts, is Twin Falls. The last and largest dam became the highest falls of all; Shoshone Falls. The canyon that the river made when it cut north at the ridge of sandy hills is called Hells Canyon. And all of this happened because Ejupa spilled the water from his basket of fish.

Adapted from Sage Smoke: Tales of the Shoshoni-Bannock Indians by Elenor B. Heady).

Native People Yesterday
Archaeological evidence in the form of stone tools, pottery, basketry, and other materials shows that Native American people have inhabited southern Idaho for thousands of years. Their oral traditions, like the story above, highlight the important connections between the people, the land, and the Snake River.

When Euro-American explorers and trappers arrived in Idaho, Native Americans were living throughout the Snake River Plain. Most of the native
Shoshone Falls kiosk at the back right image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, May 15, 2018
3. Shoshone Falls kiosk at the back right
people spent winters in small villages near the river. In the spring and early summer they would divide into smaller bands. Some would harvest roots in upland meadows, while others remained near the river to fish. Salmon and steelhead returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn provided an important source of food. Shoshone Falls was an impassable barrier to migrating fish, but downstream of the falls there were many locations where they could be captured. In late summer and fall, many bands went to the mountains or foothills where wild seeds and berries were abundant, and where they could hunt deer, sheep and rabbits. Some groups traveled long distances to hunt buffalo on the Great Plains. By winter most of the people returned to villages near the river. Caches of roots, seeds, and dried fish helped sustain them during the cold winter months.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through northern Idaho in 1805 giving Euro-Americans their first glimpse of this vast region and its Native American inhabitants. By the 1840s, thousands of Euro-Americans were traveling through the territory on the Oregon Trail. Small settlements began to appear, and the process accelerated after the discovery of gold in the 1860s. Conflict arose as miners, emigrants, and settlers occupied the land and used the resources that the Native Americans relied on .

Reservations were created
Shoshone Falls image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, May 15, 2018
4. Shoshone Falls
for Idaho's Native Ameirican tribes as part of the effort to resolve the conflicts.

Native People Today
Descendants of southern Idaho's first Native Americans continue to live in the region today, and have a strong connection with their traditional homelands. The Shoshone-Bannock Reservation, located at Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho, was established by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger. There are currently more than 5,700 enrolled members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes have a reservation located in Duck Valley on the border of Idaho and Nevada. The reservation was established by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877. There are more than 2,300 enrolled members of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe today.

In 1936, both the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes at Fort Hall an the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes at Duck Valley adopted constitutional forms of government that established seven-member tribal councils. Farming and ranching are important economic activities on both reservations, but like all modern communities, members of the Tribes are employed in a variety of occupations and professions both on and off the reservations.

Tribal members continue to celebrate their traditional customs and culture at family gatherings, festivals, powwows and other events. An annual tribal rodeo is held each year at both Fort Hall and
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Duck Valley.

A Thirsty Desert Shrinks The River... Bountiful Springs Restore It
Why Irrigation?
Perhaps the only thing more fertile than the Magic Valley soil was the mind of Ira Burton Perrine. One only needed a challenge, the other water.

In 1900, this area was a sagebrush covered desert. The vast system of irrigation canals had not been built. In fact, the idea of irrigation was little more than a dream, but it was Perrine's dream.

He envisioned building a dam to divert the Snake River to make the desert bloom. He already had developed a resort and a farm downstream. How he turned his attention to building a dam, acting as his own engineer.

Salt Lake City banker Stanley Milner and eastern financiers Frank Buhl and Peter Kimberly financed the project. The resulting Buhl-Kimberly Corporation entered into a contract in 1903 between the State of Idaho and the Twin Falls Land and Water Company for construction of the project.

The dam was completed in 1905. Men working with mules and scrapers had also finished building the vast network of irrigation canals. All that was needed was water.

William Powell, a writer for the Pacific Northwesterner described the opening of the canal system:
"On March 1, 1905, Frank Buhl gave a ceremonial pull on the wheel on a winch and the gates of the Milner Dam were closed and the gates to a thousand miles of canals and laterals were opened, and the Snake River was diverted and that night Shoshone Falls went dry as the water rushed across the desert far above, and Perrine's vision was realized, and 262,000 acres of desert were shortly transformed."

Water was sent first to the south side of the Snake River through a canal 10 feet deep and 120 feet wide. Later canals were built on the north side of the Snake to irrigate 185,000 acres. The Magic Valley was born.

The valley's agricultural successes fit perfectly with the federal government's interest in settling the West. The 1894 Carey Land Act provided federally-owned desert land to western states to be developed for irrigation. The states were to contract for the construction of irrigation projects. Settlers who provided the labor, would be paid with water rights. U.S. citizens over the age 21, except married women, could acquire up to 160 acres of Carey Act land from the state at 50 cents per acre.

The state sold a settler the land, and the builder of the irrigation system sold a corresponding number of water shares, all for a nominal cost and with generous payment terms. Half the cost had to be paid up front, the rest when final proof was made. For each acre, the settler had to by one share in the canal system form the Land and Water Company at $25 per share. Three dollars of this had to be paid at he time of filing with the balance in normal installments. A settler could get started for a total of $325 an acre.

The Milner Project irrigated 360,000 acres and accounted for more than 12 percent of Idaho's irrigated acreage before large-scale pumping brought additional land into irrigation.

Milner Dam preformed well for decades, providing irrigation water to more than 500,000 acres of prime Idaho farmland, but after decades of use the came began to show signs of aging. It was determined there was a high risk of dam failure during an earthquake unless it was rebuilt, at a cost of about $11 million.

The Twin Falls and North Side canal companies made a mutually beneficial agreement with Idaho Power to rehabilitate the dam and build a new power plant downstream. The construction of the power generating facilities and the rehabilitation of Milner Dam began in June 1990 and construction was completed in October 1992.

The dam is operated primarily for irrigation purposes and secondarily for power production and recreation opportunities. The Milner project differs from most Idaho Power hydro projects because it is spread out over a large area. The dam is approximately 1.6 miles upstream from the powerhouse. At the dam, water is diverted into irrigation canals where it is dispersed through a network of canal systems during the irrigation season.

When irrigators don't need all of the water, it flows through a widened section of the Twin Falls Canal to an intake structure that directs the water through penstocks that stretch down the steep canyon wall and into the powerhouse. From there water return to the main river channel.

Today, the Twin Falls, Canal Company manages 110 miles of major canals and 1,000 miles of laterals that irrigated 202,000 acres, The North Side Canal Company includes 1,100 miles of canals and laterals that irrigate 161,000 acres.

The river is nearly fully diverted for irrigation at certain times of the year, dropping to a minimum flow of around 200 cubic feet per second. From a trickle, the Snake River is reformed downstream of Milner Dam into one of the West's most powerful rivers. This transformation happens thanks to a series of springs and tributaries that are fed from Idaho's massive Snake River Plain Aquifer, an underground natural reservoir about the size of Lake Erie.

The dam and the canal system have national significance in agricultural history and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Anthropology & ArchaeologyIndustry & CommerceNative AmericansWaterways & Vessels.
Location. 42° 35.619′ N, 114° 24.125′ W. Marker is near Twin Falls, Idaho, in Twin Falls County. Marker is on Champlin Road near North 3339 East. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 4155 Shoshone Falls Grade, Kimberly ID 83341, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Clarence Bisbee (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Shoshone Falls (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Shoshone Falls (within shouting distance of this marker); Shoshone Falls Project (approx. ¼ mile away); History Through the Eyes of a Camera (approx. 2.3 miles away); Before there were potatoes, there was GOLD (approx. 2.3 miles away); Snake River Canyon Gold Rush (approx. 2.3 miles away); Robert Evel Knievel (approx. 2.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Twin Falls.
More about this marker. The kiosk is located in Shoshone Falls Park at the end of Champlin Road.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 25, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 28, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 558 times since then and 158 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 28, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Oct. 4, 2023