Twin Falls County, Idaho, United States
Regulated FlowThis waterfall has been regulated by Hydroelectric development and may no longer flow consistently. The waterfall may have reduced flow, seasonal flow, or may no longer flow at all due to the diversion of its watercourse.
Shoshone Falls, known as "The Niagara of the West", is one of the true great waterfalls of the North American continent. The falls of the Snake River plunge 212 feet over a horseshoe shaped formation over 900 feet in width. Depending on the volume of water present in the falls it may take on many different forms, ranging from a solid, broad wall of water to three or four more delicate streams which braid down an otherwise dry cliff.
Unfortunately the grandiosity of the falls is greatly reduced from that of its natural stature thanks to the numerous dams installed on the Snake River which siphon much of the river off for agricultural use. The American Falls and Milner Dams - both located well upstream from the falls - draw off over two thirds of the volume of the river into canals which serve to irrigate the vast farmlands of the Snake River Plain. The remaining volume of the river which actually reaches the falls then has to contend with the Shoshone Falls Dam, installed in 1907, which draws off up to another 1,000 cubic feet of water from the river every second. This ultimately has the effect of greatly reducing the falls.
A stream gauge downstream of the falls suggests the annual average volume of water reaching the falls is around 3,600 cubic feet per second. During the spring months when snow is melting in the Rockies near the source of the river, that figure may double, ensuring plenty of water flows over the falls, however during the dry summer months when rainfall is sparse and peak irrigation is underway, the river can shrink to less than 1,000 cfs and in turn the falls can be sucked totally dry by the hydro project. Recent stream flow data from the USGS is somewhat sparse, but based on historical data the best time of year to see the falls flowing heavily enough that the falls would resemble its natural appearance is between October and June.
History and Naming
Shoshone Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
The name Shoshone was given to the waterfall in honor of a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the area, officially adopted by the USGS in 1905, but it is not known exactly when the falls were first given this name or who discovered them. During the early 20th century when Shoshone Falls was being developed for hydroelectric use and was gaining national notoriety for the comparisons being made to Niagara, several additional names were applied to portions of the falls. The smaller upper tiers of the falls, where the river splits around several pillar-like islands, seem to have each been individually named (left to right): The Bridal Veil, The Brides Maid, The Two Graces and The Sentinel. As there is a nearby waterfall flowing from Dierkes Lake now known as Bridal Veil Falls (see link below), it is thought that the name of one of these upper tiers of Shoshone Falls was inadvertently given to the falls which formed on the outlet of Dierkes Lake once it came into existence in the 1920s as a result of a rise in the water table due to the agricultural use in the area.
The dam and powerhouse and all the accompanying development to service the equipment does detract from the falls considerably, and given that there is no guarantee that you will be able to see the falls flowing with force, there is reason to discount Shoshone Falls. However, given that it can still move a whole lot of water, and that it is the largest waterfall in terms of sheer size in the western half of the United States, Shoshone Falls is still without question one of the great waterfalls of North America.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: Unknown Elevation: 3263 feet USGS Map: Twin Falls 7 1/2"
In downtown Twin Falls Idaho, find the junction of Route 93 and East 4000 N Road, and follow East 4000 N Road east for three miles, then turn left onto Champlin Road (watch for signs for Shoshone Falls Park). Follow Champlin to where it becomes Canyon Grade Road and proceed to its end at the park in another 1.8 miles. Several short trails lead to views of the falls along the rim of the canyon.
By The Numbers
The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.
The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.
The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.
Num of Drops
The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.
The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.
Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.
The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.
The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.
The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.
The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.
The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.
The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.
If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.
A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).
A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.Close
CatalogedWaterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
ConfirmedConfirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
UnconfirmedUnconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
UnknownWaterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
InundatedInundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
SubterraneanThough not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
DisqualifiedWaterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
PostedPosted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.