Insider Tips on Paddling the Snake River and Shoshone Falls

The stretch of the Snake River near Twin Falls gives paddlers unique views of the bottom of the canyon near the Perrine Bridge.
The stretch of the Snake River near Twin Falls gives paddlers unique views of the bottom of the canyon near the Perrine Bridge. Pete Zimowsky
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In 1974, legendary daredevil Evel Knievel attempted perhaps his most spectacular stunt: jumping Idaho’s Snake River Canyon on his steam-powered motorcycle. He crashed on the takeoff but only suffered minor injuries, and the dirt ramp he used is still at the south rim of the canyon near the Perrine Bridge.

Today, the 3,500-foot bridge remains a popular place for adventurers. It’s known world-wide for BASE jumping, and the swoosh of parachutes can be heard as jumpers bail off the bridge and sail by, hopefully reaching a landing point on the south side of the river.

Base jumpers fly off the Perrine Bridge, entertaining paddlers on the Snake River below.
Base jumpers fly off the Perrine Bridge, entertaining paddlers on the Snake River below. Pete Zimowsky

But adventure in these parts isn't just the airborne kind. For unique views of the bridge and another highlight of the Snake River—the impressive 212-foot Shoshone Falls, also known as the "Niagara of the West"—canoeists and kayakers who don't mind digging in and paddling upstream can experience both from a unique vantage point at river level.

Paddlers will also love exploring the 500-foot-deep desert basalt canyon. In the bottom of the canyon at water level, wildlife abounds, especially water birds, as well as great lessons in geology and lots of scenery unbeknownst to motorists on the bridge above.
 And, paddling upstream isn't overly taxing, either, because the Snake River’s flows slow down in the summer; at times, the seemingly nonexistent currents can make the river feel more like a lake. Paddlers who have an eye for river eddies can also use the upstream currents in the eddies to help enhance their upriver navigation.

According to Tim Pryor, of Pryor Paddle Rentals at Centennial Park, now is a good time to check out this excursion, as the water levels are fairly low. Here, some insider tips on paddling the Snake River near Twin Falls—one of the most interesting paddling adventures around Boise.

Casual Paddling

Although the Snake River is big water, it slows down below Shoshone and Pillar falls making it possible to paddle upstream for a good day adventure on the water.
Although the Snake River is big water, it slows down below Shoshone and Pillar falls making it possible to paddle upstream for a good day adventure on the water. Pete Zimowsky

Head upstream from Centennial Park to the Perrine Bridge, the 1,500-foot long arch style bridge spanning the 500-foot deep canyon.
 This one-hour, two-mile round-trip paddle is ideal for beginner flat water kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.

After launching from the park’s docks, it only takes a few minutes before the bridge is looming in the distance.
 Look up to see the BASE jumpers billowing from the sky with their parachutes.

More Strenuous

Paddlers in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho, can paddle toward Pillar Falls and beyond for different views of the area.
Paddlers in the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho, can paddle toward Pillar Falls and beyond for different views of the area. Pete Zimowsky

For those wanting a longer excursion, add another mile and a half and head upstream to the base of Pillar Falls for a four-mile round trip paddle that should take two-three hours. The river goes around several bends before the sound of water crashing over the 20-foot-high falls is heard and a stunning view unfolds of the massive rock structure that blocks upstream navigation. Two 100-foot columns rise up out of the river, causing the water to squeeze through several swift channels. It’s here that paddlers can beach their boats on the north side of the falls and have a picnic on the rocks and just listen to the falls. Boaters will also find well-worn paths on shore to portage their boats around the falls to continue a longer journey upstream to Shoshone Falls.

Most Difficult

Known as the Niagara of the West, the 212-foot Shoshone Falls are spectacular to see, especially from river level.
Known as the Niagara of the West, the 212-foot Shoshone Falls are spectacular to see, especially from river level. MotoWebMistress

Intermediate paddlers can consider the 7.5-mile round trip to Shoshone Falls, which should take between four and six hours, including a 300-yard portage across the falls. Boaters that continue past Pillar Falls can navigate about 1.5 miles up the Snake River to the best sight of the whole trip: 212-foot Shoshone Falls from river level, which span about 900 feet across the river for a spectacular viewing experience. 
Because of the turbulence of the water and the strong hydraulics beneath the falls, paddlers should view the geological wonder from a safe distance—when the currents from the river and the sounds of the crashing falls start getting a little more intense, that’s a cue to not go any closer.

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