Upper Snake River Valley
Historical Society

Upper Snake River
Historical Sites

The following historical sites are located in the Upper Snake River Valley within a few hours driving distance or less. Some of them have signs and information at the site while others are still in the process of being developed or restored. For your convenience they are listed alphabetically. Some of these sites are in primitive areas and extreme caution should be used in driving to them. Most of them are summer/fall trips as many are not open in winter. A total copy of these sites is available at the Teton Flood Museum under the title of "Rexburg, Where Do You Go From Here"? Sale price is $10.

Historical Sites

Ashton Reservoir

Utah Power and Light Company (now Rocky Mountain Power, 2011) built the Ashton Dam west of the town of Ashton. Over the years they have maintained the reservoir that is backed up several miles behind the dam. They stock the water with fish and have built a picnic area at the upper end of the reservoir. Take Highway 20 from Rexburg to Ashton and go through the town continuing on the highway. When it crosses the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River turn to the left (west-downstream) and follow the road for about a half mile. There is then a road to the left again that leads down to the boat dock and the picnic area.

Beaver Dick Park

This county maintained park was a project of the Rexburg Rotary Club and the Idaho Transportation Department. It is a great picnic area with children’s toys being present. Beaver Dick (Richard Leigh) was the last of the mountain men in the Valley and was a guide for many exploring and mapping government groups. He lived in this area until his first family all died from smallpox. Then he moved to the Newdale area and raised a second family. His first wife, Jenny, has given her name to the Lake found in Jackson’s Hole. Take Highway 33 west out of Rexburg for seven miles. After crossing the Snake River there are signs to the left and the entrance to the park. This is also one of the favorite spots for Fish & Game to place fish into the river.

Big Springs - Johnny Sack Cabin

Big Springs is one of the finest historical sites and tourist areas in Eastern Idaho. Some of the largest rainbow trout in the area can be observed and fed from the bridge crossing the beginnings of the Snake River. Here you can see the Snake River

emerging from many springs in the side of the mountain. You can also take tours of the Johnny Sack cabins in the summer time. The cabins are historic and were built by Johnny Sack using the water flow to generate his power. Take Highway 20 into Island Park to Mack’s Inn. Watch for the signs and take the paved road to the right for about five miles and you will come to the Big Springs bridge and the cabins. This road makes a horseshoe and will bring you back to Highway 20 at the town of Island Park.

Blacktail Park

This park is located at the backwaters of the Ririe Reservoir. It is a favorite picnic area developed by the Bonneville County and there is a boat dock here. There is a green grass picnic area and lavatory facilities are present. Take the Archer road to Ririe. Go through Ririe to Highway 26. Turn right and when you can turn left (watch to see the road that goes over the lower part of the hills) take this road and go until you see the signs that direct you to Blacktail Park. On your descent of the canyon wall, there are some very artfully sculptured rocks that have been rain and wind shaped.

Camas Creek, Kilgore

Kilgore is a ranching area and the site of a major historical event in Idaho’s history. Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians fought a major battle just a few miles to the east of the Kilgore store. The main agricultural product of this area is hay.

Take 2nd North out of Rexburg over the freeway and continue on this road till it enters the sand hills. Stay on the road for almost twenty miles until it intersects with State Highway A-2. Turn right and follow the state road for almost six miles. When it turns to the right (east) stay going straight north. When this road comes to a “T” turn left and then follow the forest road and watch for the signs of the campground.

This is a delightful place for a picnic. For the amateur prospector, there is a lost gold mine on the mountain to the left of this road and there is gold to be found by panning in the stream.

Cave Falls

A delightful part of the southwest corner of Yellowstone Park. Here the Fall River flows over one of the falls from which the name comes. The constant flow of the water has scooped out a cave at the west side of the falls. This area is the Trail Head for several hikes into Yellowstone Park. Take Highway 20 to Ashton and then turn right onto Ashton’s Main Street. This is Highway 47. It is going straight east. When it turns to the left (north) travel for a mile and then you will see the signs directing you to Cave Falls. This road is oiled for just over five miles and then turns to gravel. About eleven miles along this road you cross into the Park and shortly come to the river.

Cress Creek

This trail is located on the “South Fork of the Snake River about half way from Archer to Heise Hot Springs. The trail is kept up by the Forest Service and raises rapidly above the valley floor to give you a great view of the Snake River Valley. Take the highway to Archer, Idaho. Just before you drop into the river bottoms of the South Fork of the Snake River, take the road to the left (east). This road will go along the north side of the river and eventually get you to Heise Hot Springs. You will cross the railroad to begin the ride along the river and a few miles along will see a parking lot on the left. There are signs there directing you to the trail. This trail can be traveled by smaller children.

Fort Henry

Fort Henry was established in the winter of 1810. It was a shelter for Andrew Henry and his fellow trappers as they had been driven out of Montana by the Blackfeet Indians. The group built three crude buildings about ten feet by ten feet each to keep them out of the wind and then spent the winter trapping the nearby rivers. They did get quite a few beaver although at times it was quite hard. One of the rocks found at the site says, “Al the cook with nothing to eat.” Another rock says, “Gov. Camp 1812 W. Hunt.” The fort was located on the south bank of the Henry‘s Fork of the Snake River about six miles north of Rexburg. Take the road out of Rexburg to the north exit of Highway 20. Cross Highway 20 and continue northward until you come to the bridge across the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Just prior to the bridge on the right (east) side of the road is a monument telling of the fort. If you stand directly in front of the monument facing east and then look about 10 degrees to the right and across the pasture to where it first rises from the river bottom, that is where the fort sat. There is nothing left of the fort but a hole where in the 1930's Merrill D. Beal took a class of history students from Ricks College to the site and excavated it. It is suggested that you not try to get to the actual site unless you contact the property owners and obtain permission.

Gem Lake

This lake is located in the south part of Idaho Falls and is formed by the town building a lake further downstream. It has a small boat dock and a picnic area. Take the old highway out of Idaho Falls till you pass the cemetery on the right. Then watch for the signs that will take you to the right (west) to the river.

Harriman Park

This park is part of the parks system of the State of Idaho. It has been developed with many trails (both summer and winter) winding around the forest. There are also several buildings that have been restored to their historic appearance. The Harriman family, a railroad dynasty family, donated the ranch to the state of Idaho to be made into a recreation area. This area used to be known as the Railroad Ranch and was used as a working ranch and a vacation area for officials of the Union Pacific Railroad. Take Highway 20 north past Ashton and across the Snake River. Travel up the edge of the caldron of an ancient volcano into Island Park. When the road emerges into an open plateau you are at the park. There is a sign on the left and this is a pay area.

Henry’s Lake State Park

A great place for a summer picnic. This is a major dock for boats entering or leaving the Henry’s Lake. There is a picnic area with fire rings and tables. Take the north exit from Rexburg heading for Yellowstone Park. You will travel about 65 miles and soon be crossing Henry’s Flat. You will be out of the trees and crossing a huge meadow with several cattle herds and one antelope herd. There are also a lot of sandhill cranes in this area. You will cross the Henry’s Lake Outlet and just a few miles further signs will appear advertising the Henry’s Lake State Park. The turn will be to the left. There is a northern antelope herd that might be in this area as you travel the two miles or so to the Park. This is a fee area of the State Parks and Recreation department.

Horseshoe Lake

This is an excellent place for camping, canoeing, and fishing, especially for young children. The lake floor has a gentle slope and so one falling into the water would get wet

but not be in trouble. There are several trails from the campground that go into the surrounding forest and to the north, Yellowstone Park. Take Highway 20 to Ashton and then turn right onto Main Street. Main Street is Highway 47 and goes east for six miles and then turns north. One mile further there are signs to Cave Falls. Take this paved road for just over five miles and then it turns to gravel. About four miles along this road you will cross a creek and there will be a sign describing the LDS Church girls camp to the left. Go a mile past this sign and creek and there will be a road going to the left. This is not an improved road and caution needs to be taken but you can drive a car along it. The lake is about four to five miles up this scenic, forest road.

Market Lake

This pond of water was very popular with the early Indians and Mountain Men who plied their trade in Eastern Idaho. It was always a source of food with the abundance of game that surrounded this oasis in the desert. The town of Roberts was known as Market Lake in its early days. The name now refers to the wildlife area to the north of the town. It is now a wildlife refuge with an old highway running through the middle and is the home of many species of birds.

Travel to Roberts, Idaho, then turn right after crossing the railroad tracks. Then follow the signs to the wildlife preserve. It only takes 45 minutes to avail yourself of this close up of many varieties.

Menan Buttes

In the middle of the Upper Snake River Valley are two ancient volcanoes known at the Menan Buttes. There is a trail to the top of the northern one and is well worth the trip. From the top you can observe the Centennial Mountains to the north, the various ranges of mountains to the west, the vastness of the valley to the south, and the emergence of the Snake River from the east framed by the Big Hole Mountains with the Tetons peeking from behind. Take Highway 33 west from Rexburg. About five miles out you will cross the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Continue for 2 ˝ miles and turn left towards the butte. About three miles along this road it will turn to the west and begin to rise. Watch for the signs and trail that lead to the top of the Butte. If you go over the top of the rise you will have gone too far.

Mesa Falls

There is a Lower Mesa Falls (65') that can be viewed from the top of the canyon wall and the Upper Mesa Falls that is one of the most impressive geological sites in Eastern Idaho. The whole Snake River pours over the crest and drops 114 feet to the canyon floor with an explosion of spray. The Forest Service has spent over a million dollars to make this site accessible and safe to view. There is also an information center. Take Highway 20 to Ashton, Idaho, and then turn right onto Highway 47, which is also Ashton’s Main Street. Follow Highway 47 as you cross Warm River and wind up the side of the Warm River Canyon. Shortly after leaving this canyon you will come to the Lower Mesa Falls. It is only a mile further on to the Upper Mesa Falls road. If you continue on Highway 47 you will join Highway 20 just north of Harriman Park.

Mud Lake

Early mountain man and pioneer journals suggest that there was a lake in the desert west of the Snake River in the Upper Valley. Water brought settlers to the area and the dike at the south end of the lake was built and raised. The area is now the Mud Lake Wild Life Management area. It is large and filled with birds and animal life. The lake has fish in it but is used mostly for irrigation in the Terreton and Mud Lake areas. Take Highway 33 west out of Rexburg to Sage Junction. Continue on the road as it travels across the desert. When you descend to the farming area watch for the signs on the right side of the road. This will be a paved road for a while and then turns into gravel. Drive the conditions of the road. There are pamphlet guides of what is to be seen at the entrance to the Management area.

Ririe Reservoir

There are picnic facilities located at the top of the canyon overlooking the boat docking area on the north side of the reservoir just upstream from the dam itself. This is a popular reservoir for fishing, water skiing, and boating and is not far away. Rom Rexburg take the road to Ririe. Go through Ririe to Highway 26 and turn left. About 2 ˝ miles along this road will be a sign pointing to the right (south). Follow it to the fork. The right fork will move to the dam and the left will go to the picnic area or the boat dock.

Riverside Campground

Just over 40 miles from Rexburg on Highway 20 in Island Park is an improved campground on the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Just before getting to Pineview there are signs on the right side of the road that say Riverside Campground. This is a fee area.


This is a popular site for picnics and for off-road vehicles. The Upper Snake River Valley used to be a part of a huge lake. A break caused it to drain down the Snake River to the ocean. There is evidence of this ancient lake on the mountains surrounding the valley. The prevailing winds have gathered sand from the lake bottom and deposited it at the north end against the Juniper Hills. Take the highway north from Rexburg that is called 2nd North and later the Salem Highway. Stay on the road until it enters the north end of the sand or you can turn west and enter from the BLM pay site. The sand runs generally in an east-west direction for twenty miles.

Sawtelle Peak

There is a road that goes to the top of Sawtelle Peak and give a person an amazing view of Island Park, the mountains dividing Idaho and Montana, Henry’s Lake, and to the south, a view of the widening Snake River Valley.

Teton Dam

Much to the surprise of many people, part of the Teton Dam is still in existence in the middle of the Teton Canyon east and north of Newdale. Take Highway 33 east from Rexburg past Teton City and about three miles past Newdale to a road to the north. There is a Historical Site sign there. Then travel straight north till you come to the canyon. The Teton Dam collapsed in June, 1976, causing massive flooding in the Snake River Valley and along the Snake River until it was contained at the American Falls reservoir. From the visitor site on the south side of the canyon you can see where the dam burst on the north side and you can see the south part of the dam that was taken down by the Bureau of Reclamation to see if they could find out what caused the dam to fail. At the base of the dam on the south side is a power plant that was completely covered by debris from the dam.

Teton Flood Museum

- Located at 51 N. Center in Rexburg. Open hours are:

Winter: October - April
Monday 11 a.m - 7 p.m.
Tue - Fri 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Summer: May - September
Monday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Tue - Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The Teton Flood Museum opened in 1981 in the basement of the Rexburg Tabernacle. The main exhibit was the pictures and artifacts of the Teton Flood but it also includes items of historical interest to Rexburg and the Upper Snake River Valley. It is currently operated by the City of Rexburg. The building was damaged in the Teton Flood and was purchased from the LDS Church with a grant from the Department of the Interior. The Upper Snake River Valley Historical Society has its office in the annex of the Tabernacle building. It houses the best collection of local history in it’s library of which many items are on this web site. The upstairs of the building is used as a civic auditorium for the City of Rexburg.

Twin Bridges

This park was created by and is maintained by Madison County. It is a favorite picnic area on the Archer Highway. There is a boat dock here for fishermen who will get out downriver at Lorenzo. Take the highway out of Rexburg that leads to the south exit of Highway 20 but do not turn to the exit. Two miles further on is the Archer/Lyman Highway turnoff. Take this winding road till it descends into the lowlands of the South Fork of the Snake River. Then watch for the signs on the right side of the road. The picnic area is located between the two bridges and is often under water during the spring runoff.

Upper Coffee Pot Campground

This campground is just outside of Mack’s Inn. Take the north exit out of Rexburg. Follow Highway 20 for about 60 miles and you will come to Mack’s Inn Resort. Just prior to entering Mack’s Inn is the turnoff to the Coffee Pot Campground. It is only a couple of miles to the left and borders the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. There are several places here for a picnic.