We left the Boise/Meridian area on Monday and headed from the west side of the state to the east side. Along the way we stopped to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve on Route 20. This is a U.S. National Monument and national preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is along US 20 (concurrent with US 93 and US 26), between the small towns of Arco and Carey, at an average elevation of 5,900 feet above sea level. The protected area's features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.
(Now for the tourist plug) The Monument was established on May 2, 1924. In November 2000, a presidential proclamation by President Clinton greatly expanded the Monument area. The National Park Service portions of the expanded Monument were designated as Craters of the Moon National Preserve in August 2002. It lies in parts of Blaine, Butte, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Power counties. The area is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles. The Monument alone covers 53,571 acres. All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet. There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes, and many other volcanic features.
After about five hours of driving, we arrived in Idaho Falls. This is a city in and the county seat of Bonneville County, Idaho and the state's largest city outside the Boise metropolitan area. The population of Idaho Falls estimate for 2016 with a metro population of 133,265.
Idaho Falls serves as the commercial, cultural, and healthcare hub for eastern Idaho, as well as parts of western Wyoming and southern Montana. It is served by the Idaho Falls Regional Airport and is home to the College of Eastern Idaho, Museum of Idaho, and the Idaho Falls Chukars minor league baseball team. It is the principal city of the Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Idaho Falls-Blackfoot, Idaho Combined Statistical Area.
The area around Idaho Falls was first sparsely settled by cattle and sheep ranchers, but no significant development took place until 1864, when a man named Harry Rickets built and operated a ferry on the Snake River. The ferry served a new tide of westward migration and travel on the Montana Trail following the Bear River Massacre of Shoshone Indians in 1863. The present-day site of Idaho Falls became a permanent settlement when freighter Matt Taylor built a timber-frame toll bridge across a narrow black basaltic gorge of the river 7 miles downstream from the ferry. The bridge improved travel for settlers moving north and west, and for miners, freighters, and others seeking riches in the gold fields of Idaho and Montana—especially the boom towns of Bannack and Virginia City.
By the end of 1865, a private bank, small hotel, livery stable, eating house, post office, and stage station had sprung up near the bridge. The settlement was initially known as Taylor's Crossing, but postmarks indicate that by 1866, the emerging town had become known as Eagle Rock. The name was derived from an isolated basalt island in the Snake River near the ferry, where approximately twenty eagles nested.
As soon as the railroad came through, settlers began homesteading the Upper Snake River Valley in earnest. The Utah & Northern Railway provided easy access, especially to homesteaders from Utah, who soon populated much of the areas surrounding Eagle Rock. Some of these men had initially worked building the railroad, then later returned with their families to stake out new farms. These Utah families brought irrigation know-how developed in Utah's Great Basin settlements. Through their and others' canal systems, water from the Snake River made the Upper Snake River Valley into one of the most successful irrigation projects in the Mountain West. Large-scale settlement ensued and within a decade, there appeared roads, bridges, and dams, which brought most of the Upper Snake River Valley under cultivation.
In 1887, following the construction of the Oregon Short Line and a railroad workers' strike in Eagle Rock, most of the railroad facilities were moved to Pocatello, where the new line branched off the U&NR. This caused a sharp and immediate drop in population, which nearly killed the town. In 1891, in an effort to attract farmers wary of eagles and rocks, marketers convinced town leaders to change the name to Idaho Falls, in reference to the rapids below the bridge. Some years later, the construction of a retaining wall for a hydroelectric power plant enhanced the rapids into falls. In 1895, the world's then-largest irrigation canal, the Great Feeder, began diverting water from the Snake River, helping to convert tens of thousands of more acres of desert into green farmland. The area grew sugar beets, potatoes, peas, grains, and alfalfa, and became one of the most productive regions of the United States. The city once again began to flourish, growing continuously into the 20th century.
Idaho Falls has an extensive river walk featuring running and bike trails, art installations, and points of interest along several miles of the Snake River, which flows through the center of the city. It is maintained by the city and often receives donations and grants that allow for expansion.
Notable Idaho Falls neighborhoods include:
Downtown - Historic downtown Idaho Falls sits on several blocks of the original townsite along the east side of the river. It features restaurants, plazas, shops, and cultural amenities including the Museum of Idaho, Colonial Theatre, Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls Public Library, and Japanese Friendship Garden. It is home to the Idaho Falls Farmers' Market and many other community events.
The Numbered Streets - The numbered streets area was the first planned neighborhood in Idaho Falls. The streets run west and east between South Boulevard and Holmes Avenue. Traffic on the odd-numbered streets travels east, and west on the even-numbered streets. Kate Curley Park is located in the neighborhood, as is the Wesley W. Deist Aquatic Center and the Eleventh Street Historic District.
West Side - The West Side houses Idaho Falls Regional Airport and I-15. It has retained more of a small-town feel than the east side, which has grown and developed much more rapidly since the 1980s.
Snake River Landing - SRL is a large, mixed-use development on the west side of the river near I-15, which includes residential, restaurants, parks, and community event space, including a planned mid-sized indoor arena. It now hosts the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, a large Independence Day event.
Idaho Falls serves as a regional hub for health care, travel, and business in eastern Idaho. The community's economy was mostly agriculturally focused until the opening of the National Reactor Testing Station in the desert west of Idaho Falls in 1949. The city subsequently became largely dependent on high-income jobs from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), known locally simply as "The Site." Since the 1990s, the city has added a significant retail, entertainment, and restaurant sector, and a regional medical center.
The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple is the tenth constructed and eighth operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Located in the city of Idaho Falls, Idaho it was the first LDS temple built in Idaho, and the first temple built with a modern single-spire design.
The temple in Idaho Falls was announced on March 3, 1937. The exterior of the temple was completed in September 1941 and the interior was expected to be completed the following year. However, with World War II shortages, it delayed the completion of the temple for four more years. In spite of delays, LDS Church president George Albert Smith dedicated the Idaho Falls Temple just one month after the war ended, on September 23, 1945. The temple was built on a 7-acre plot, has 4 ordinance rooms and 9 sealing rooms, and has a total floor area of 92,177 square feet.
In March 2015, the temple closed for renovations that were expected to last 18 months. The renovations took nearly two years and following their completion, a public open house was held from April 22 through May 20, 2017. The temple was rededicated on June 4, 2017.
On a personal note: This is the 70th temple we have visited and 69 of them were just breath taking. I want to encourage all our friends and relatives, Mormon church members or not, to visit the grounds of a Mormon temple near you. Why? Y’all know that one of my main missions in traveling is for Julieann to visit as many temples as possible, but I also have my own “need” to be met. Of course, since I am not a church member I cannot go past the “guards” at the temple front door (except during an Open House), but I do gain something just by being on the grounds. Once Julieann enters the temple I like to walk the grounds and take in the absolutely beautiful gardens and shrubbery on display. I usually find a quiet spot to sit and just relax, contemplate, take in the sights and smells of the grounds or just think. I’m only there for thirty minutes or so, but I walk away “refreshed”. Try it.
Since we had completed our mission of visiting the temples, we now looked to the town of Idaho Falls for entertainment. This is an interesting town, one I could actually live in and enjoy except for the weather. This is July and we are wearing COATS (morning and evening)!! The town itself has just about everything a larger town would have including numerous fast food, big name restaurants and motels. I found that the reason for all these facilities is not for the locals, but for the folks passing through on their way to Yellowstone. I didn’t see any other draw to bring people here.
Today we took a “short” walk (2.7 miles; 8,000+ walking steps) around a portion of Snake River. They have actually broken the river up into different walking sizes from about a mile to over six miles. I thought that we were safe in taking the 2.7 mile walk, but I didn’t take into consideration the afternoon heat, the altitude and just how much OUT of shape I am. I made it around the river, but barely. Some beautiful sights to see including more sights of the temple. Whoever is in charge of finding locations for temples is doing a great job. Most temples are built on the highest hill in or near the town or, like Idaho Falls, on the river bank.