Near Twin Falls in Twin Falls County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
The Discovery of Shoshone Falls
The first written evidence of a non-Native American seeing the falls came in 1847 in the journal of Augustine Blanchet, a Canadian priest, traveling west. He gave it the name "Canadian Falls" because it was known almost solely to Canadians passing it bound for the fur trading outposts.
The name was short-lived. On August 14, 1849 Major Osborne Cross led a military expedition across the Oregon Trail to examine the new American territory. A Native American informed an expedition guide of a great waterfall less than ten miles away. Expedition members Lieutenant Andrew Lindsay and writer George Gibbs followed the guide and returned to enthusiastically report news of a magnificent cataract at least 160 feet high. The party descended the
"There seems to be but one opinion, that it equalled (sic) in grandeur (and) in proportion to (the) column of water (at) ... Niagara falls. Having been the first who had ever taken the trouble to examine them carefully and wishing to change the name said to have been given them by a priest many years since, they decided on that of the Great Shoshonie (Shoshone) Falls, instead of Canadian, as being the most appropriate." -- Journal Entry - Major Osborne Cross, 1849
During an 1853-1854 railroad survey, Frederick W. Lander became fascinated with the measurements surrounding the falls. He recorded:
"At a distance of 12 miles, a white column may be seen in the plain resembling the smoke of a fire. The sound of falling water is heard at a great distance. The bed of the river is 620 feet below the surrounding level country. The water flows in a contracted channel of about four hundred (400) feet. The sides of the ravine are nearly perpendicular. The fall is one hundred and eight-five (185) feet, and is slightly broken at a point fifty (50) feet from the upper level." -- Frederick W. Lander
Since their discovery the falls have held a special fascination to visitors. In the summer of 1875, 19-year-old Charles Walgamott came to the area. He became enchanted with the falls and surrounding lands and was convinced
"No country in the world could produce a location where beauty, grandeur and power was so artistically and profusely intermixed."
He wasted no time finding out how to acquire the land adjoining the falls, ultimately buying up land on both sides of the canyon.
In 1886, Walgamott built a hotel on the south side that became a popular tourist destination. As surrounding cities grew, the number of guests staying at the Shoshone Falls Hotel gradually decreased, although many continued coming to view the mighty falls.
At 212 feet high and 950 feet wide, Shoshone Falls is known as "the Niagara of the West" but unlike Niagara Falls, it is not surrounded by commercial development. Visitors can see the falls today because of a gift from the past. A land donation made in 1932 to the City of Twin Falls from F.J. and Martha Adams, ensuring that it would be "forever held for park purposes only for the beneficial use and enjoyment of all the people."
Snake River Plain Geology
During the past 17 million years fractures opened in the earth allowing hot molten lava to pour out. The last of the lava flows in the Snake River plain occurred only 2,000 years ago. The basalt lava flows in the Snake River Plain were generated by hundreds of "shield" volcanoes. Highly fluid lava flowed from cracks in the earth's surface and spread out to create a gradual curved feature with the appearance of an ancient soldier's shield.
Eventually the Snake River flows through cracks in the basalt lava flows caused by cooling of molten rock. Over time, these cracks enlarged to create the canyons we see today.
Approximately 11,000 years ago - yesterday in geological terms - rainfall and snow melt gradually raised the level of the lake until the natural dam collapsed. The entire lake came crashing through the Snake River Canyon, causing the Great Bonneville Flood.
The tremendous amount of water that ravaged the canyon scoured rock loose from the canyon walls,
The Bonneville Flood lasted about six weeks, but water continued to flow from the remains of the lake for a year. A 350-foot-high wall of water raced through the canyon at 70 miles per hour. In that time 380 cubic miles of water flowed down the Snake River. Today, Utah's Great Salt Lake is all that remains of Lake Bonneville.
To get a perspective of the flood, the canyon at the Twin Falls Perrine Bridge is about 480 feet deep. Before the flood began, the river bottom was at the thin dirt layer visible on the north canyon wall about halfway down, near the bottom bridge support.
The bridge would have been under about 10 feet of water. Rock and dirt cascading downstream chiseled out the lower part of the canyon in just a few weeks. No flooding occurred above this area on the south side of the river as evidenced by the topsoil in the farm fields.
On the north side of the river water overflowed the canyon for miles and scoured the soil off the rock, then flowed back into the canyon just east of the bridge at Blue Lakes County Club. The eddy created by the confluence of the river and the flooding water coming from the north, gouged the canyon wider. This created a perfect spot where centuries later Twin Falls pioneer Ira B. Perrine developed the region's
Scientists have determined from the talus materials that the canyon has been changed little by glacial and floods since this event. The flow patterns in the rock and land formation of southern Idaho are especially impressive when viewed from the air.
We invite you to spend a few moments looking at the different layers of sediment in the canyon and at the river below to consider the tremendous and violent forces that were at work at the time of the Bonneville Flood.
By the end of 1870, many Anglo prospectors had sold out to Chinese miners. The Chinese both purchased claims outright and acquired claims in exchange
In the Shoshone Falls area, some Chinese lived in a mining camp known as Springtown while others lived in small dugout shelters along the river near their claims. It's estimated that as many as 500 Chinese were living and mining in the area by the mid-1870s. As the ore deposits were exhausted the Chinese miners also moved on and by 1879 most had left. The 1880 census counted only 22 Chinese living in Cassia County, which at the time encompassed all of present-day Twin Falls County.
Chinese immigrants were drawn to America by the hope of striking it rich in the gold fields or by the lure of steady pay helping build railroads across the American West. Average pay on a railroad construction gang was $32.50 a month. The need for cheap labor caused the U.S. government to encourage immigration with a treaty permitting unrestricted immigration from China in 1868. However, following the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the Chinese came to be seen as competition by American workers, including Anglo-American gold miners. U.S. political forces responded by enacting the Chinese Exclusion Treaty of 1880, which limited immigration. Two years later Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration from China and restricted the naturalization of Chinese immigrants already in the United States. Between 1881 and 1882, the number of immigrants from China to the United States dropped from 40,000 to 23.
By 1870, Idaho Territory had the largest Chinese population per capital in the nation. The Chinese made up nearly 30 percent of the 15,000 people living in the territory and accounted for 58 percent of those listed as miners. With the decline of profitable placer mining between 1880 and 1900, most Chinese left the Shoshone Falls area. While many returned to China, others relocated to larger cities such as Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle. Although their stay was brief, the Chinese miners of the Snake River Canyon contributed significantly to the economy and development of south-central Idaho.
Location. 42° 35.62′ N, 114° 24.115′ 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, Twin Falls ID 83301, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Clarence Bisbee (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Shoshone Falls (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Shoshone Falls (a few steps from this marker); Shoshone Falls Project (approx. ¼ mile away); Before there were potatoes, there was GOLD (approx. 2.3 miles away); History Through the Eyes of a Camera (approx. 2.3 miles away); Snake River Canyon Gold Rush (approx. 2.3 miles away); College of Southern Idaho (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.
Categories. • Asian Americans • Exploration • Natural Features • Natural Resources •
Credits. This page was last revised on October 26, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 26, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 47 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on October 26, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.