Breezing Over the Oregon Trail in Southwestern Idaho

Crossing into Idaho from Nevada, the scenery quickly changed from mountains to acres and acres of farmland.  The local spuds had welcomed us back to their state.  While here, our home base for a week was at Three Island Crossings State Park, where we immediately noticed their amazing grass-watering regimen.  A lady there was strictly dedicated to the task of managing sprinklers throughout the park all day long, and she did a wonderful job!

With the abundance of water and no restrictions on washing RV’s, Steve got to work giving Betsy a good bath, and (yuck) fixing the leaking seal in our toilet:

On other days we played, hiked and drank a bit:

Three Island Crossings, Idaho

Little did we know that Three Island Crossing State Park was the site of one of the most dangerous river crossings along the Oregon Trail.  It was here that pioneers found themselves facing the mighty Snake River.  The ford was called Three Island Crossing because the emigrants took their wagons from island to island as they swam across the cold and fast-moving river with their animals and wagons.

To perpetuate the legacy of the pioneers, the park is also home to the Oregon Trail History and Education Center, which interprets the site of a ford of the Snake River along the Oregon Trail.

Replica of a prairie schooner – the emigrants’ mode of transportation

But first a brief background history of the Oregon Trail:

The Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile route stretching from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon that lured over 300,000 pioneers to a treacherous six-month journey.  Emigrants followed this route during a twenty-year period beginning in 1841.  When they entered present-day Idaho, many had already traveled more than a thousand miles of hot, dusty trails, which eventually wound through Idaho desert.  Over 580 miles of those trail remnants remain today.

The Great Migration from Missouri to Oregon, California and Utah

In southwestern Idaho, the pioneers followed the Snake River and rode along high plateaus that were often 200′ above the water.  It was here in the town now called Glenns Ferry (where the state park is located) that they stopped when faced with a critical decision.  They had to either cross the river to reach a shorter, easier route north of the Snake River, or stay on the dry, rough south side.  For those who braved to cross, it took three days to traverse the three islands to reach the north shore.

We walked the trails in the area and spotted original wagon wheel ruts cut from those who crossed the river successfully.  Amazing stuff!

At the Oregon Trail History and Education Center we learned more interesting facts about this portion of the trail.  It featured exhibits illustrating Native American life and their interaction with pioneer emigrants passing through.  The center is located right across the bluff from where the migrants descended the steep bluff to the Snake River:

Looking up the bluff from the Education Center, scars of the Oregon Trail to the river are visible

We grabbed a copy of the Main Oregon Trail Back Country Byway Guide after our visit, and followed Part 1 of the autoroute.  It’s a loop drive that took us to the south side of the Snake River where we viewed the Three Island Crossing location from another perspective.

Strong currents and deep water made the crossing extremely dangerous, and some did not survive.  A crossing re-enactment is performed each August to commemorate the crossing and display how grueling it was for those tenacious pioneers.

The first island
Second and third islands
The three islands that the pioneers forded, sans the green farmland
An artist’s depiction of wagon trains crossing the three islands
Crisscrossing ruts are still visible on the bluff
From the bluff, we looked for Betsy hiding in those trees

Boise, Idaho

For our second visit to Boise, we decided to stay closer to the city at Boise Riverside RV Park, where the dusty gravel roads made us miss Three Island State Park immediately.  Last year we experienced good vibes in this city, and we placed it on our “top 5” list of possible places to live.  We still like Boise, but it’s fallen off the list because of its harsh winters.  Click here if you’d like to see details of our last visit.

We saw the Boise city skyline from most of the trails we hiked

Dozens of hiking opportunities in and around Boise were a factor that drew us here originally, and we had to try out a few new ones this time.  The Boise foothills provide about 130 miles of trails with year-round options, and we chose several moderate treks this time – Hulls Gulch, Table Rock, Quarry Loop, and the Hillside to Hollows Trails.  They were all nice hikes that overlooked the city from different angles:

At the top of Hulls Gulch Trail
I think this was the same Lazuli Bunting that sang for us last year 🙂
Table Rock Trail
Blue and white wildflowers were still in bloom!
A few Sagebrush Mariposa were still showing
Amazing homes in this area
So many intersecting paths at Hillside to the Hollows Trail

A new experience for us was renting a tandem bike, which we’d been curious to try.  Our campground rental office was right next to the Boise River Greenbelt Trail, so we gave it a go.  Although we enjoyed the scenery along the greenbelt during our 17-mile journey, we agreed that we’re more solo-bike types.  Hey, you don’t know until you try!

Does my butt look big from back there?
See us in the reflection?
How about our shadow?

And just like the emigrants, we continued on to Eastern Oregon…




  1. Wonderful photos! I’m curious why you didn’t like tandem biking, your height differences???

  2. Oh, Steve must have been in heaven to be able to wash Betsy!

    We have stayed at that Boise RV park & also liked the Greenbelt trail, though we didn’t get to bike it. How did you see anything from the stoker position on that tandem bike?! The plethora of trails to choose from in the area look great.

    Those flowers are lovely & I’ll bet that was the same bunting because you know those birdies would follow you anywhere💙

    • We had been carrying dust and grit since Utah and since then no park allowed us to wash Betsy. There was no shortage of water in that park so we joined in using lots and lots of it.
      That is one of the reasons I don’t like a tandem, I cant see where we are going 🙂
      You are right, it was the same bird that posed for me, well actually there were lots of them that serenaded us on the trail.

  3. The history of the Oregon Trail is interesting. During our visits to Idaho and Nebraska, we marveled at the strength and tenacity it took those Pioneers to travel that distance and in such harsh conditions. We sure our lucky with our airconditioned comfy RVs.
    I like the new hat!

  4. It’s funny, we’re fine in our tandem kayak (gives us an opportunity to do photography while we’re on the water while one of us holds the boat steady) but I say a big “NO” to a tandem bike. We have enough “togetherness” in this lifestyle without having a big fight on a bike, LOL.

    We loved our time in Boise several years ago and had a blast biking everywhere from the campground (not on a tandem, haha). But we didn’t do much hiking—thanks for the great tips on trails for the next time we’re there!

    • I agree with you, we have too much togetherness that we can’t get along on a tandem bike. We wont do tandem kayak either, we almost had a divorce from that experience 🙂
      If you pass by Boise again, take some time to explore their trails, lots of them to choose from!

  5. We’ve seen the Oregon Trail from different places, the ruts they made still exist in so many places. Such an interesting history, conestogas…the first mobile homes. Nice that a state park would let Steve wash Betsy.

  6. It’s so cool that those ruts still remain and so fortunate that we can all experience the trail all these years later. Happily, no one decided to build a strip mall on it. 😃

    It’s funny that you nixed Boise for cold weather reasons. We nixed it for hot weather reasons. I think either way, it’s just a bit extreme. Too bad because it is a nice city. But weather is just too important to us.

    Speaking of which, I, too, love green and therefore I, too, think I would love that state park you were at. Hope the toilets fixed!!

    Safe travels!

    • Hubby and I are curious, besides Boise which just fell off your list due to weather, what are your four other cities for possible places to live?

      • The places that fell off the list simply because of cold weather were Fruita, CO; La Grande, OR; Bend, OR. Now we are focusing more on southwestern AZ, like Wickenburg, Cottonwood or Prescott.

    • Well, of the 2000 miles only a few hundreds remained and thankfully preserved. I know, we are so whimps when it comes to cold and unfortunately, there is no perfect place 😦
      I know you will love Three Islands Crossing SP, but the downside was each time you drive your car out, it gets a shower too!

  7. No tandem bike for us either….Dave doesn’t trust that I’d peddle back there and not just go along for the ride….hehehehe he knows me. I loved your narration of the Three Islands ford. I can’t imagine having enough grit to persevere in those times. I love the west, but on my terms! Good to see you both again.

  8. Love the information on the Oregon Trail. It makes you wonder if you would be brave enough to travel in those days.

  9. We’ve been to the Boise are many times over the years since my sons and grandkids live there. Originally, before our RV days, we thought we would retire there. Not so sure of that anymore. Too many places to see!

    We stayed at both the Boise Riverside RV Park and Three Islands Crossing SP. The Boise park was very convenient to everything we like to do there, but the sites were a bit tight. Three Islands! Loved that place. We had a herd of deer there every day. So cool to watch them stroll through the park.

  10. Another great post. You inspired us to stop at Three Island Crossing where we are now. Just discovered that you get half price during the week for the Golden Pass. We will have to come back when we can get more dates to stay.
    Looking forward to exploring around here.
    Thanks again!

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