Where In The Heck Is All That Water Coming From?

Monday, August 24, 2020

We haven’t seen the Thousand Springs area for quite some time. Road Trip! We head east and head towards Hagerman on Highway 30. We stop and admire a great memorial dedicated to Basque sheepherders.

About 30 miles east of here is a natural phenomenom. Thousands of gallons, maybe millions of gallons of water a minute in the form of springs exit volcanic rock cliffs and tumble down towards the Snake River over a large area. The springs originate at the “lost river” where water percolates down into the porous lava rock at the Craters of the Moon and disappears. That’s nearly 100 miles away! The water takes approximately 200 years to reach the Snake River Gorge in the form of waterfalls as pure and clear as water can be. This natural wonder is called Thousand Springs.

Thousand Springs State Park consists of five units spread over several miles. Malad Gorge Unit features the Devil’s Washbowl, a 60’ waterfall created by a combination of volcanic rock that flowed from Gooding Butte (nine miles away) where snow melt flowing towards the snake widened weak points in the lava eroding them to ever widening widths and depths.

Nearby is the Billingsley Creek unit. There’s a sign announcing the turnoff to the Creek but not it’s significance. We bypass it later to find out its one of the five units of the complex. 

Finding Ritter Island Unit is an adventure in itself. No signage to turn off main road, wrong road sign designations, miles of farm roads passing by corn fields and then a mislabeled turnoff to Ritter Island- but we found it. A gal by the name of Minnie Miller established a cow farm on this island in 1918 wanting to make the property a demonstration farm. Not satisfied with the local dairy cows she went to England and purchased Guernsey cows and had them transported to her farm. She was a very successful dairy farmer and won many awards for her efforts.

The home she built on the island was air conditioned way back in 1929. She found that the nearby spring water cascading down the lava rock face was a constant 59 degrees. She plumbed its water into her home and kept it cool in the heat of the summer. Millie’s farm was sold to Judge Willis Ritter in 1954, who renamed the farm and island after himself. The Nature Conservancy purchased the farm in 1986. Minnie Miller’s spring is the largest remaining spring in the world. Ritter Island State Park and Minnie Miller’s Springs is worth the visit!

While there we listened to a volunteer host’s spiel on the history of the island. Megan, our Lab, wasn’t too impress until noticed how crystal clear the water was. She just had to take a plunge- dunk, dunk, dunk! Ollie, our Boxer was enthralled with the cows. Megan didn’t even notice………. We visited the dairy barn and find it’s just the way Millie left it.

We didn’t explore the other units of Thousand Springs State Park opting to spend time around Glenns Ferry. The town is a typical small agriculture/ranch town. Not much in town but a couple of small markets, a couple of gas stations and a one block long downtown that seems very quiet…… most of the time….. as a train runs right through it.

We did find a very nice park where we let the dogs run a few times- much to their delight. We also met some fellow campers who, almost to the person, were from the Boise area.

Cow getting a drink from a irrigation sprinkler head

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