Discover the Lowest Point in Idaho

© Tucker James/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Geer

Updated: August 22, 2023

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Idaho is nicknamed the “Gem State” due to its abundance of natural resources like minerals, metals, gemstones, and mountains. Another great resource of Idaho is its waterways. Inside the borders of the state lie around 2,000 lakes. Idaho is also home to the Snake River, which provides water for many uses within the state. The Snake River also has the distinction of being the lowest point in Idaho.

Idaho – Its Lowest Point

The lowest point in Idaho is the Snake River at 710 feet above sea level. In contrast, Idaho’s highest point is Borah Peak at 12,668 feet, rising 6,000 feet above the surrounding area. 

The Snake River is an important waterway for Idaho. Because the average flow of water is around 54,000 cubic feet per second, it’s one of the country’s premier hydroelectric sources of power. Water from the river is also used as irrigation for Idaho farms. It’s also a great source of recreation for the people of Idaho and tourists. Over 300,000 people visit the river each year.

Snake River and Perrine Bridge near Twin Falls, Idaho, USA

The 1,500-foot-long Perrine Bridge spans the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho.

©haveseen/Shutterstock.com

History of the Snake River: Idaho’s Lowest Point

The Snake River was created by lava flow rising from below the North American Plate. The lava melted the rock, causing the surface of the earth to drop, which formed the Snake River basin. As the glaciers retreated from the Pacific Northwest, the water carved out cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls along the Snake River. Today, the Snake River is important for its agriculture and water use, and also for recreation, its habitat for diverse wildlife, and its rugged natural beauty.

Contrary to its name, the Snake River is not full of snakes. According to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Snake River got its name from European explorers communicating with the Shoshone people. The Shoshone identified themselves in sign language by moving their hand in a swimming motion. The Europeans mistook this for a sign of snakes, even though the Shoshone were trying to convey they lived near a river abundant in fish. 

Sunrise on the Snake River near Blackfoot Idaho.

©Tucker James/Shutterstock.com

The Snake River region was once home to Native American Shoshone and Nez Perce tribes. Native Americans lived along the river for thousands of years and fished its waters for its abundance of salmon. The Oregon Trail crossed the Snake River, bringing many European settlers to the area. By the end of the 19th century, dams were built to create hydroelectricity. However, the dams impeded the migration of the salmon and have led to environmental issues in some areas.

Where Is the Snake River Located on a Map?

The river begins in Wyoming and flows across southern Idaho before it turns north and heads into Oregon. It then enters Washington and ends up meeting the Columbia River, eventually emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river flows through the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Snake River Canyon, forming the boundary between the states of Idaho and Oregon. 

Things to Do on the Snake River in Idaho

There are many different activities along Idaho’s picturesque Snake River, including wildlife watching, bird watching, photography, camping, hiking, biking, and water sports. Some of the best spots in Idaho to visit the river include the following areas.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area offers 652,488 acres of scenic beauty and rugged wilderness.

©zrfphoto/ via Getty Images

One of the most popular places to enjoy the beauty of the Snake River in Idaho is Hells Canyon. Hells Canyon is the deepest river canyon in the United States, and it offers about 75 miles of whitewater, perfect for rafting trips. Other popular activities in the area include kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, and hiking. A diverse amount of wildlife can be spotted from the river including bighorn sheepelkmountain goats, and black bears.

Morely Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Wildlife Refuge

Peregrine falcon landing

Peregrine falcons make their home in the Snake Canyon.

©Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com

Over 800 pairs of raptors nest in the refuge in the spring. Located in Snake Canyon, the refuge is home to the greatest concentration of nesting prey birds in North America. The birds nest in crevices and ledges of the towering cliffs that rise 700 feet above the river. The refuge offers views down into the canyon, or you can drive to the canyon floor to see the massive cliffs from below.

Hagerman Fossil Beds – Bliss, ID

Hagerman Fossil Beds area in Snake River valley, Idaho

Hagerman Fossil Beds in the Snake River valley are known for their breathtaking views and variety of Hagerman

horse

fossils.

©Strekoza2/ via Getty Images

This National Monument is a 4,000-acre park known for a variety of fossils, especially the extinct Hagerman horse, or American zebra. Other fossils that have been found in the area include mastodonsground sloths, and saber-tooth cats. Another reason to visit the area is the stunning views from the scenic overlooks. The Snake River and Oregon Trail Overlook offer beautiful views and educational signs.  

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Archie Teater Studio

Also located in Bliss, ID, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Archie Teater Studio. This one-room artist’s studio is the only building in Idaho designed by Wright. The small studio sits high on a cliff overlooking the Snake River. Although the studio is a private home and not open to the public, occasionally special tours are offered of the architecturally significant building.


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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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