Three Island Crossing, ID

    The Oregon Trail enters Idaho on the high desert in the extreme southeastern corner of the state.  The trail then winds northwest along the Bear River, passes through present-day Pocatello, and jags west to meet the mighty Snake River that it parallels as the river carves a shallow U across the southern portion of the state.  By the time they crossed into Idaho, the pioneers had been on the trail nearly two months, plenty of time to lose the excitement they experienced when starting out in Independence.   In addition, by now they had lightened loads by tossing many of their personal possessions and they had witnessed plenty of mechanical failures and human tragedies.
    Unlike the friendly Platte and North Platte, the Snake cut deep canyons that prevented the pioneers from gaining easy access to water.  The rugged canyons also made it impossible for the wagon trains to cross the river until much of the loop had been traversed and the pioneers arrived at Glenns Ferry, west of present-day Twin Falls.  Here the banks eased into the water and wagon trains could utilize three islands to facilitate a crossing to the north bank.  An Idaho state park allows visitors an excellent view of a cut down the hillside where wagons headed for the river crossing. 
   
Northwest of the river crossing, two routes were used on the way to Oregon.  The north alternate route left the river and headed cross-country toward the present-day city of Boise.  The south alternate continued along the Snake and met up with the other trail in present-day Oregon.  Following the north alternate means driving on Interstate 84, not a pleasant thought, although Boise is always a nice place to visit.  Choosing to follow the south alternate requires leaving the Interstate at Mountain Home and following Highway 78.  The latter closely parallels this route along the old trail.
 
Among the interesting Oregon Trail sites in Idaho are: 
1) Soda Springs - A short distance into the state is one of the most welcome locations on the trail.  Soda Springs was the site of numerous springs of carbonated water that some pioneers said tasted like beer.  What could be more welcome than free beer after a hot and dusty day on the trail?  Soda Springs is also the location of one of the more unusual experiences for present-day travelers.  On the north end of town, Oregon Trail Golf Course offers what one prominent writer calls “the most delightful walk of the Oregon Trail.”  A major swale cut 150 years ago by wagon trains heading west traverses the golf course.  Walking along the swale is surely one of the most magical experiences of following the Oregon Trail.  View our video of Oregon Trail ruts at the golf course

2) Fort Hall - Originally established in 1834 as a fur-trading post, Fort Hall became a major supply point for emigrants traveling the
Oregon and California Trails.  Although the original Fort Hall is long gone (the original site is on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and permission is required for access), a full-size replica constructed in the 1960s is open for visitation from mid-April through September. 

3) Register Rock - A state historic site preserves a pioneer campground where emigrants etched their names on large basalt boulders.
  The site is now a day use area that is part of Massacre Rocks State Park.  Across the interstate in the park, visitors can view deep trail ruts northeast of the visitor center that has trail exhibits.  Interpretive panels are throughout the park. 

4) Three Island Crossing - Because of the steep cliffs surrounding most of the Snake River, the wagon trains were limited in where they could cross from the south to the north bank.
  Here at Three Island the crossing was made easier by three strategic islands that emigrants could utilize in bringing the wagons across.  An amazing diagonal cut down a bluff on the south side of the river is visible from the north bank where ruts come up the bank and head north past an interpretive center.  The land is preserved as part of Idaho’s Three Island Crossing State Park.  Two pleasant campgrounds are in the park.  View our video of Three Island Crossing

5) Bonneville Point – Here travelers can enjoy an observation point offering an excellent view of the
Boise Valley.  Oregon Trail ruts that run beside an interpretive pavilion descend to the Boise River.  The site, operated by the Bureau of Land Management, is where in 1833 Captain Benjamin Bonneville and his expedition first viewed the valley that he named Les Bois, which eventually became the site for the city of Boise.  Bonneville Point is about ten miles from Boise and four miles from Interstate 84.  View our video of Bonneville Point

 

 

               

               

 

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The Oregon Trail in Idaho:
Following the Snake River Plain