The Oregon Trail

Along with providing the chance to add to your collection of city limits signs, or to send a postcard saying you’re in Bliss (pop. 305), this idyllically named town is worth a stop to see the deep canyon of Malad Gorge (208/837-4505, daily dawn-dusk, $5), well signed southeast of town, off I-84 exit 147. Now part of Thousand Springs State Park, it doesn’t look like much until you get out of the car and walk 100 feet down the trail, where you suddenly come upon a truly awesome sight: a 250-foot-deep gorge with a crashing waterfall. The freeway passes overhead, oblivious to the natural wonder directly below.

Across the Snake River from Malad Gorge, Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument contains what’s been called “the richest known deposit of Pliocene Age terrestrial fossils,” mainly horses (Equus simplicidens) that roamed the area some 3.5 million years ago. The undeveloped monument also preserves one of the longest sections of visible wagon ruts in the entire length of the Oregon Trail. The visitors center (208/933-4105) is in Hagerman, 10 miles south of Bliss and across the river from the fossil beds. The center also has information on visiting the area’s other national park property: the Minidoka National Historic Site, north of Twin Falls.