Twin Falls, Idaho

Tuesday I left White Bird and headed south towards Boise. I opted to take Highway 95 all the way down to Interstate 84 to avoid the construction zone near McCall, and to see some new terrain. I had thought about stopping at the large Birds of Prey sanctuary in Boise but it was approaching 100 degrees when I got to the highway exit (and had been 100 degrees or more both days I was in White Bird). My Airbnb host in White Bird was familiar with the sanctuary but told me it is a large, outdoor facility and there was no guarantee that I’d even see any unusual birds so I decided to pass. If I had known I’d see some California Condors later in the trip, and learn about their connection to the sanctuary, I might have reconsidered. As it is, I will have to make it a point to go there the next time I am in the northwest.

As I arrived in Twin Falls I first had to cross the Perrine Bridge. There was a place to park and take photos on the north side of the river, both looking west (right) and, by walking under the highway, to the east. I’ll skip the westward-looking photo for the moment as I would soon learn that the view looking west was much better from the Visitor Center on the other side of the river. This is a panoramic photo taken as I walked under the highway to get to the east side of the bridge.

And this is the view looking east.

The river you are looking at is my old friend the Snake River and in this photo it is flowing towards you. A little further east of here is the ramp on which daredevil Evel Knievel attempted (but failed) to jump the river back in 1974 on his steam-rocket-propelled motorcycle. The earthen ramp is still there but visitors are discouraged from visiting it as the Twin Falls Police Department uses it as the back of their practice shooting range!

I crossed the bridge (in my car) and stopped in the Visitor Center. That vantage point provides a much better view of the river looking west:

If you look very closely you will see some golf course fairways in the distance, to either side of the river. There are two golf courses down there, one public and one private. Here is a panoramic photo of the river from the Visitor Center, including the bridge.

And here is a photo of the bridge itself.

The Perrine Bridge is the only bridge in the US people may “base jump” off of by parachute without needing a permit. I didn’t see anyone doing that while I was there but there were photos in the Visitor Center and I’m sure you can find some online.

Of course the main reason visitors come to Twin Falls is to see the waterfalls. There are many in the area (30 I believe I read somewhere) but the most popular by far are the Shoshone Falls, east of town.

There are some smaller falls to the right, though you have to look very closely at the still photo below to see them. They are easy to spot when the water is flowing, obviously.

The water flow wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it is in the spring after the snowmelt from the mountains further north in Hell’s Canyon. That plus the fact that the water flow is controlled by a dam up-river and the water level overall is unusually low this year.

Finally, this is the view from high up in the parking lot, looking at the observation platform with the west-bound river in the distance:

White Bird Grade (Old Hwy 95)

Before leaving White Bird I decided to drive up the “old road”. Highway 95 used to go right through town until the new White Bird Pass opened in 1975. The old road is still there and meets the new road before reaching the old summit. It didn’t appear that the old road beyond that was accessible (it went about 200 feet higher).

The old road was a very slow climb, utilizing long, lazy switchbacks. There were still some old guardrails on some of the sharp curves, although they didn’t look very sturdy. Many of the turns had no guardrail at all, nor did the long straightaways. The road is quite narrow and I wouldn’t want to meet a tractor-trailer going the opposite direction on a curve (or be behind one going up). There were no turnout areas for disabled vehicles. There were very few trees.

I drove all the way up (to where it meets the new road), then stopped at various places on the way down to take pictures. I never met or saw any other vehicles and I will say that the views were spectacular.

The photo above was taken at the turnoff from Highway 95 to the town of White Bird at the base of the mountain. You can see the new highway starting to climb the mountain on the left side of the photo. Way off in the distance, above the town itself and in the center of the photo, you can make out some of the switchbacks of the old road zig-zagging left and right.

The rest of these were taken from near the top as I started to drive back down towards town:

Once I came down the hill a ways this was the view looking back. At the top you can see where the road makes another turn left. In the lower part of the photo you can see a private dirt road leading off to where someone may have lived or had farmland.

In the center of the photo below you can barely see the white guardrails on two left-hand turns further down the hill.

This was looking back at a right-hand turn I had just come through as I descended:

And this was looking ahead at another right-hand turn as I went further down. Note that there are no guard rails at either turn.

There are a few videos on YouTube of vehicles climbing the road. The best one is from a blue pickup truck and runs a little over 7 minutes. Another was taken from a motorcycle and runs about 10 minutes, but the quality on it isn’t as good. There is also at least one video titled White Bird Grade but it is actually of White Bird Pass (the new road).

There is nothing up there and no reason for anyone to go other than to enjoy the views, as I did. There were gates at each end to close the road in inclement weather. It would be fun to drive it on a motorcycle or in a sports car. Just be careful not to run off the road as there isn’t likely to be anyone coming along any time soon to find you!

Nez Perce (the tribe)…

… and how White Bird got it’s name.

Just north of White Bird (where I was staying for two nights) is the town of Nezperce (see previous post), and just northwest of that is the current center of the Nez Perce Reservation. Nez Perce is one of five federally recognized Native American tribes located in Idaho. It has a rich, and at times, turbulent history.

The tribe was peaceful (when left alone) and it’s members were known as extraordinary horsemen. They are credited with the development of the Appaloosa horse breed. Their name literally means “pierced nose” in French, though there is no evidence that that trait was ever exhibited by their members.

Chief Lawyer, and other members of the tribe, assisted explorers Lewis and Clark in their trek west. Their best known leader was Chief Joseph and there are numerous places named for him throughout the northwest US, as well as references to the tribe itself. At their peak the Nez Perce numbered about 12,000 and at their lowest, 2,000 on the early 1900’s. Today there are about 3,500 members of the Nez Perce tribe.

The Nez Perce homeland originally included most of central Idaho as well as parts of western Montana, southeast Washington and northeast Oregon. In 1855 a treaty established approximately 17 million acres as being the “official” reservation. Later, in 1863, another treaty slashed the size of the reservation down to only 750,000 acres. Many tribe members, including leader Chief Joseph, called it the “Steal” treaty and refused to acquiesce and move to the smaller area. This conflict eventually escalated to become the Nez Perce War, which started about a half mile from current day White Bird on June 17, 1877.

There is a scenic overlook on “new” Highway 95, just north of White Bird which has an information shelter explaining the conflict. It calls this the White Bird Battlefield.

US Army cavalry members approached a Nez Perce settlement here and, though the peaceful tribe members tried to surrender, shots were fired and the conflict quickly got out of control. The tribe members successfully held off the US forces (with loss of life on both sides) and the battle continued at other venues until Chief Joseph finally surrendered to US troops in Montana on October 5, 1877, ending the war. Chief White Bird (aka White Pelican), led this portion of the tribe and had a loyal following of about 50 men, second to Chief Joseph with 60 and ahead of Chief Looking Glass with 40. Chief White Bird led the battle here which is why the battlefield, and now the town, are named for him.

Nezperce, Idaho (the town)

This post is about Nezperce (the town) as opposed to Nez Perce (the Native American tribe). The tribe plays a HUGE role in the history of the area and I will address it in a future post. The town of about 500 residents is located just southeast of the current reservation and apparently has nothing to do with the tribe itself. Curiously the town and (much of) the reservation are located in Lewis County while the “headquarters” of the tribe is located in the town of Lapwai which is in Nez Perce County, immediately to the west of Lewis County.

I kind of stumbled upon the town as I was out driving through farmland north of Grangeville. I saw a sign for it and I knew the name from previous trips out west.

Much of the farmland in Idaho is for growing potatoes (this IS Idaho after all…). I believe the green field in the photo below is potatoes.

That I expected, but I was surprised at the number of fields in this region where canola is grown. As you will see, canola fields are a very impressive yellow in color.

I finally arrived in little Nezperce. By the way, the town (and the tribe) are pronounced NAY pear-SAY. The town name is presented as one word but the tribe is two words.

And this is the arena where they undoubtedly hold rodeos and such:

I drove through town (it didn’t take long!) and when I turned around to head back out the way I came in I noticed this piece of artwork in someone’s front yard:

If you zoom in you will see that the horse is made completely of old horseshoes welded together! Very clever and impressive. Later in my trip I would see a pickup truck in New Mexico which belonged to an artist who constructs such pieces of art.

Camas Prairie Railroad

My second surprise in the region north of White Bird and Grangeville was learning about and seeing some of the amazing railroad bridges. First, a word about the name. Camas is short for Camassia – a plant which thrives in open, moist fields (the bluish-purple blooms in the photo below).

(Photo credit: Getty Images, Copyright: Jacky Parker)

There are many such areas in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and the southern portions of the western Canadian provinces. Tolo Lake, west of Grangeville, is also located on the “Camas Prairie”.

I started seeing some tall, wooden railroad trestles way up high on the hills as I drove along Highway 95, between Cottonwood and Lewiston.

The Camas Prairie Railroad was a joint project of the Western Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads and operated for almost 80 years until 1975. Much of it was built up high on the mountains and many trestles were needed to carry the tracks over canyons and valleys between hilltops. As you will see on a sign later in this post, in one 5-mile stretch there were more than a dozen wooden trestles, some very long and tall, earning the railroad the nickname “the railroad on stilts”.

It is hard to see the wooden trestle in the photo above. It is actually the first one I saw and my eyes were drawn up to it because it was being lit by the (then) late afternoon sun. I’m still kicking myself for not stopping to take a photo of it at that time but I didn’t learn about the others until later. The photo above wasn’t taken until the next morning, when the sun was behind the trestle.

Here are some of the other trestles I could see from the highway:

In addition to the wooden trestles, tunnels were built through some of the mountaintops – including one which was in the shape of a horseshoe. Also, there were some places, such as over Lawyer’s Canyon, which required a metal bridge be built. That bridge still stands today:

The yellow line above the tracks is actually actually comprised of plants in a field way off in the distance. You’ll see more of them in another post.

Here are two signs about the railroad which I found next to the highway:

Unfortunately the railroad, as well as several smaller ones which connected to it, was never profitable and was eventually abandoned. While most of the trestles still stand (one wooden one was destroyed in a wildfire and was never rebuilt) the tracks between them have largely been removed.

Books have been written about the railroad and you can find many other photos of some of the huge, in some cases curved, trestles, by searching the internet for the name of the railroad and adding “bridges”.

Tolo Lake – Columbian mammoths!

While I was to be based in White Bird for two days all of my road trips were north of there. With my early start I arrived in the area by mid-day Sunday so I had some time to start exploring.

Grangeville is a larger town, located 17 miles north of White Bird on (new) Highway 95. My first surprise when I drove up to Grangeville after I arrived in the area was a sign pointing west to Tolo Lake, about 5 miles away. It was at that lake where remains of Columbian mammoths were found when the lake was being worked on by volunteers for “fishing and wildlife improvements” in 1994. Experts were brought in and the lake was drained. Many skeletal remains were found and it is one of the largest Columbian mammoth “graveyards” to be discovered in the United States.

Male Columbian mammoths were about 14 feet tall and 17 feet long and were believed to have weighed about 10 tons. My first encounter with mammoth research was when I visited “The Mammoth Site” in South Dakota back in 2017.

Tolo Lake was later refilled with water and is now a “protected site” pending the receipt of more funds to continue the research. I drove out to the lake but there is nothing there to see except a few signs discussing the findings. There is a building behind the Grangeville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center downtown which houses a full-size replica of a Columbian mammoth skeleton:

(Photo credit:

I took some photos of my own but the display is surrounded by glass and it reflected the outdoor scenery behind me. Signage at the display suggested returning at night to get better photos when the display is lit up from inside the building but I try not to go out at night when I am traveling in areas with which I am not familiar.

The Road North to White Bird

Sunday morning, after a warm night and a cold shower in Horseshoe Bend, I headed north for my next stop in tiny White Bird, Idaho. The key word there is “tiny”. When I Googled the name to get some information about it I learned that in 2019 the population was only 53 – half what it was in the year 2000. Also, the town only covers 42 acres! Nevertheless, I found a great Airbnb there and got a great rate because it was a new listing and there was a discount for the first few guests that made reservations.

I left Horseshoe Bend and proceeded north on Route 55. I had driven part of this route back in 2017 when I traveled from Boise up to McCall, ID. Today I would continue on past McCall where I picked up Route 95 towards White Bird, about 150 miles from Horseshoe Bend. For the first part of the trip I would be driving parallel to the Payette River. In the early hours of Sunday morning there was a mist rising above the water:

The drive to McCall is very nice, with some great views of the river, but I posted photos back in 2017 and won’t repeat them. There was one section of the road which was under construction (to blast away part of a mountain cliff adjacent to the roadway) and I didn’t feel very comfortable while driving it so I made a note to change my route in order to avoid it on my way south in a few days.

I did make it safely to McCall, then took Highway 95 further north to Riggins. There I crossed the “Time Zone Bridge” and was now in the Pacific Time zone.

I had been to Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho back in 2017 but forgot that the northern half of Idaho is in the Pacific Time zone while the southern half is in the Mountain Time zone. Seems kind of screwy to split a state horizontally rather than vertically but then I don’t make the rules…. I had been through Riggins back in 2017 but on that trip I had arrived from the west, via Oregon, when I stopped at Hell’s Canyon, and the Snake River, which separates Oregon and Idaho. The Snake River is only about 8 miles west of this bridge.

From this point northward I would be driving on Route 95 alongside the Salmon River until I got to White Bird. There were some beautiful places to stop and enjoy the view along the way:

At one place where I parked to take some photos I spotted the entrance to an old mine just off the road:

There’s contact information on the sign if you want to lease it or enter into a joint venture with the owner….

I finally reached the turnoff for White Bird. The town itself is located below the level of the highway, at an elevation of 1,581 feet, in White Bird Canyon.

The turnoff for White Bird is left of the new highway bridge in the photo above (photo is looking south). That bridge takes Route 95 onto the new road which was completed in 1975. More on that in a minute. Here are some photos of town taken from a scenic turnout on the new highway.

Old Route 95 used to go right through town and then proceeded up the mountain. The old highway was completed in 1915 and gained almost 2,900 feet in elevation, to it’s highest point of 4,429 feet, in just 14 miles. It achieved that through a series of long switchbacks. If all the turns were combined into circles there would be 37 of them! It was a narrow, dangerous road and it is hard to imagine cars, much less large trucks, trying to navigate it in both directions. I would drive up Old Highway 95 before I left town and will post some photos in a few days.

The new Highway 95 is much wider, including long passing lanes, and is steeper but with fewer turns. It only attains a height of 4,245 feet before descending on the north side of the mountain.

White Bird would be my base for the next two nights and I would be making several scenic drives north of town in the next two days and learn about some new and interesting things.

Horseshoe Bend, Idaho

As opposed to Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona, which I will visit for the second time later in this year’s trip, this is a small town in southwest Idaho, about 30 miles north of Boise. As I was planning my trip this was a logical place to spend the night after a day of traveling on scenic backroads. More on that later.

I approached from the northeast, passing through parts of Boise National Forest. I had been at higher elevations earlier in the day and enjoyed very pleasant temperatures but as I got back down to Horseshoe Bend’s elevation of “only” 2,631 feet things heated up quite a bit – close to 100 degrees in the late afternoon. But the drive getting there was quite nice:

Parts of the forest had experienced wildfires in 1989 and 2016 and there were some areas near the road which were prone to mudslides as a result of the “burn scars”:

Once I got out to Route 55 it was a short drive south to Horseshoe Bend itself.

When I got in to town I saw this parked in front of a local establishment. My youngest brother used to hoist my niece up on his shoulders when she was little and said she was “riding high”. I thought of that when I took this photo:

I finally reached my Airbnb – at a campground which specializes in having various campers and tiny-houses already set up on-site to accommodate guests. This would be my home-away-from-home for the evening:

There were some interesting items strewn about my “front yard”

And keeping with the horse theme, there were some live ones right next to my camper which are used for giving child-guests rides:

It was a fun, albeit hot, evening. My host recommended a great restaurant in town and after dinner I settled in for the evening, after talking with some of the other guests.

And the next morning I had the unique experience of a c-o-l-d outdoor shower! Silly me thought that the bladder of water suspended over my head would at least be somewhat warm after absorbing some of the previous day’s heat but I was sadly mistaken:

I will say that I was wide awake and alert when I hit the road.

Southern Idaho

After I completed my house-sitting obligation in Lander WY in late June, I set off on a tour of several western states. The day after my house-sitting host returned home from her trip I drove north, to Yellowstone National Park, to meet up with my friend, Max, who was in the midst of his own month-long trip through the western US.

We arranged to meet at Old Faithful at 11am and for the rest of the day I drove him around various parts of the Park since I had been there several times and this was his first visit. He had arrived at the Park the day before and was able to get a sneak-preview of some of the attractions on his own. He, too, had been traveling alone and I thought it would be nice to give him a break from driving for a day and let him enjoy the scenery. Once we finished making our “rounds” we each drove to our respective Airbnb’s in St. Anthony, Idaho, located south of the western entrance to Yellowstone. The next day he went east, towards South Dakota, to continue his journey and I went deeper west into Idaho, to continue mine.

I drove south, to Idaho Falls, then west on Route 20, towards the little town of Arco, which I had visited in 2017. Along the way I spotted this sign, which I had missed on my first trip through this part of Idaho:

Evidently elephants and camels once roamed these parts, in addition to bison, until a change in the environment drove them further north.

Further west I saw this sign in a rest stop as I approached Arco.

A reminder that this part of Idaho was key in the development of nuclear energy in this country. It still hosts the Idaho National Laboratory, a huge complex which is off-limits to tourists. A smaller facility nearby, which I had toured several years ago, was closed due to COVID. I continued west, past Arco and past the Craters of the Moon National Monument, which I had stopped at briefly in 2017. When I reached Route 75 I turned right and headed north to cover some new territory – namely a scenic route which would take me past the Sun Valley ski resort and up into some of the mountains which make up part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The landscape quickly changed from relatively flat, open desert-like space and farmland to grass-covered fields and tree-covered mountains. As I started to gain altitude I was able to open the windows and sunroof as the temperatures dropped into the 70’s. I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last of the pleasant temperatures for a while as I was about to attract the “heat dome” which had been plaguing the southwest US and apparently decided it might be fun to head north and follow ol’ JohnBoy around for a while…

After I passed the little towns around the Sun Valley resort I worked my way up to the Galena Pass.

Galena Peak would soon be on my right. It tops out at a little over 11,150 feet:

The road I was on would traverse Galena Pass, where I would reach an elevation of about 8,700 feet. This was the view looking back as I approached the summit:

I would soon come to an overlook which would give me a sweeping view of the valley into which I was about to drive as I continued northwest towards the town of Stanley. This is a three-shot panorama looking ahead, from left to right. In the third shot you will see the road I was on extending out into the valley below, with even more mountains off in the distance.

And this is the view of some of the mountains off to my left once I got all the way down into the valley.

I continued on, past Stanley and the road turned southwest before taking me over to Route 55 which I would then take south to my one-night stop in the little town of Horseshoe Bend, where I would spend the night at an unusual (for me) Airbnb.

20,534 miles traveled

I am back home from my latest trip, having arrived in North Carolina almost a week ago. I have unpacked my car (it was so full that I think people in Walmart parking lots and various gas stations thought I was living in it), finally got the car washed (BADLY needed) and enjoyed a few days of pleasant weather just sitting on my porch. Durham has had an extremely hot summer but it took a break the day after I got back and we’ve had cool mornings and less humid afternoons. The heat and humidity are back now so I will be reviewing and posting photos from the remainder of my trip from the comfort of my apartment.

I will start at the end – I visited some family members and friends in the northeast on my way home and my next-to-last stop included a visit from one of my friends family members and their two dogs. My friends were preparing for a party at their new “tiki bar” and I was tasked with entertaining the dogs while they were busy working. I mostly sat in the back yard throwing balls of various sizes which the dogs retrieved and returned (more or less) to me.

They were tireless, despite my pleas to “take a break” periodically. Towards the end I did manage to wear them down a bit and they did sleep for short periods, although when they were awake they insisted on playing some more.