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Thousand Springs State Park

When you visit Southern Idaho's Thousand Springs State Parks, you will find waterfalls, canyons and wildlife at each location. This year-round series of parks lets you enjoy hiking, birdwatching, fishing and kayaking. The park has multiple sites, and each one is different. You will find canyons, waterfalls, wagon trails, fish farms - and more! It is no exaggeration there are a thousand springs. There are probably even more than that! Small and large springs gush from the basalt along the canyon walls. The water comes from the northern Snake River plain, which is comprised mainly of basalt, a hard volcanic rock. Rainwater together with water from the central Idaho mountains and irrigation water all soak into the earth and since the plain tilts from north to south and east to west, the cool, fresh water from this aquifer ends up bursting through canyon walls in the Hagerman area.

A different type of attempt to profit from the water was conducted by William Prestly in 1890. He built a pneumatic pump which was a series of large water pipes, which used air pressure created by the falling water to pump spring water from a pipe up the cliff to irrigate the fields up above. This was all done without any motors!

Be sure to read the interpretive signs at the each of the sites. You will find a lot of interesting information!

Interested in art? Check out the Magic Valley Arts Council upcoming events.

On this daytrip in April, we took one day and visited four of the Thousand Springs State Parks sites.

Malad Gorge - Hike and picnic

Don't miss this amazing 451-acre park that is next to Interstate 84 off the Tuttle exit. If you don't stop, you will never get to see the jaw-dropping canyon views just one mile off the highway. Walk across the bridge that traverses the canyon to see the Malad River rushing and falling into the Devil's Washbowl before heading 2.5 miles to the Snake River.

More about Malad Gorge, including maps of the area:

Billingsley Creek - Fish, view wildlife or ride horses in the indoor arena

The State of Idaho turned Emerald Valley Ranch into Billingsley Creek State Park in 2001, where the creek winds along the eastern edge of the park. Some things to do here:

·        Wildlife viewing

·        Fishing

·        Indoor horse-riding arena

·        Indoor market building where a local Farmer's Market is sometimes held

·        Paved bike trail that runs into Hagerman

More about Billingsley Creek, including maps of the area:

Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs - Hike and watch eagles

Looking across the farmland as you approach Box Canyon Springs, you would never know there is this unexpected canyon that was carved out by beautifully clear water that springs from the canyon walls. A trail leads you to a waterfall and a beautiful blue-water swimming area.

More about Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs, including maps of the area:

Niagara Springs and Crystal Springs - Picnic, camp and fish

Niagara Springs and Crystal Springs are two of the larger springs in the world.

Niagara Springs flows out of the canyon walls at 250 cubic feet per second.

Crystal Springs has small waterfalls coming from the canyon walls to fill the lake waters below. There are several docks around the lake for year-round fishing, including a handicap accessible site, and also a small boat ramp that leads to the Snake River.

Crystal Springs also has a small campground area next to the water.

More about Niagara Springs and Crystal Springs, including maps of the area:

Ritter Island - Go back to earlier days of Idaho and tour historic agricultural structures

We did not visit Ritter Island on this trip but have enjoyed time here on a previous trip.

This peaceful island is home to a historic dairy farm, a museum, and natural springs. The springs are named after Minnie Milner, who raised Guernsey cattle in the early 1900's. You can take a self-guided tour of the island along a two-mile path. In warm weather, you can swim, kayak, or canoe. There is a 1.5-mile trail to Lemon Falls which also takes you to the site of the Payne Lewis Ferry Crossing on the Snake River. Payne's Ferry was an oar-powered ferry that Oregon Trail emigrants used to cross the Snake River between 1852 and 1910, to avoid the treacherous Three Island Crossing downstream near Glenns Ferry.

Ritter Island also hosts the annual Thousand Springs Festival of the Arts in September, featuring arts, crafts, music, food and drink.

More about Ritter Island, including maps of the area:

Kelton Trail - Explore the Oregon Trail

We did not visit Kelton Trail on this daytrip.

Kelton Trail (the old Kelton Road) was used from 1864 to 1883 to carry mail, freight, and passengers between Kelton, Utah and Boise. You can still see the wagon ruts, an old railroad bed, and bridge abutments along the trail. There is also a slot canyon north of the Malad Gorge that is accessible on foot. Be very careful if there is water running through the canyon! Stay out of the water! Do not swim here! Rushing water is never safe!

More about Kelton Trail, including maps of the area:

Other Nearby Sites to Visit:

  • Balanced Rock, a carefully balanced pillar of basalt in a small canyon of spires and parapets - which is how Castleford got its name.

  • Hagerman Fossil Beds

How Do I Get There?


DISTANCE FROM STARTING POINT: Round trip from home was approximately 250 miles

TIME TO REACH: 1 hour and 20 minutes to our first stop at Malad Gorge

ROAD SURFACE: Mainly paved, with some dirt roads in the park areas


FEES: Idaho State Park Fees of $7 or use your park pass


PET FRIENDLY: On leash recommended - the canyon walls are very deep - hundreds of feet!

WHEN WE WENT: Second week of April 2024

I'm Here - Now What?

  • Bring your smart phone or a GPS

  • If you bring your kids, keep a very close watch on them - the canyons are VERY deep and some trails are very close to the edge of the steep canyon walls, with sheer drop offs!

  • Bring your dog, but keep a very close watch on your dog, too!

  • Hiking - wear good walking shoes

  • Biking

  • Some areas allow kayaking and small watercraft

  • Fishing is allowed in some areas

  • Photography

  • Wildlife and plant viewing

  • Picnicking

  • Be sure to pack out all your trash

  •  Geocaching

  • To learn more about geocaching and the app, go to

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1 Comment

Apr 23

Beautiful. Keep them coming. I was worried that the drone wouldn't squeeze through but I guess ok. At this rate I may get to see my state yet.

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