in the Thousand Springs area.
Springs pour from the side of a mountain cliff in the Thousand Springs area. © Knowles Gallery

Places We Protect

Thousand Springs | Ritter Island & Box Canyon

Idaho

Waterfalls, Caribbean-blue springs and wildlife in the Idaho desert.

Overview

The Thousand Springs area near Hagerman offers some of the most unique geology in Idaho. The springs that burst out of the canyon walls represent the end of a journey of water that begins nearly 100 miles away.

The "lost rivers" of south-central Idaho are known for trout fishing and their importance for area farms and ranches. But as these rivers flow over the extensive lava fields of the Craters of the Moon area, the water sinks into the porous lava and disappears underground.

The water flows underground for nearly 200 years, until it flows as waterfalls out of the canyon walls of the Middle Snake River. The water is crystal clear and pure, creating beautiful springs and pools. The springs support several invertebrate and fish species, including the Shoshone sculpin, a fish found nowhere else on Earth.

RITTER ISLAND

The Minnie Miller Springs across from Ritter Island is one of the largest remaining natural spring complexes in the Thousand Springs area.

Recognizing the importance of Ritter Island to the Middle Snake River’s clean water and wildlife, The Nature Conservancy purchased the property in 1986 and established the Thousand Springs Preserve. In 2006, the land was passed on to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and is now part of the Thousand Springs State Park.

The preserve has remained a real haven for wildlife. Waterfowl use the wetland habitat, herons nest on the island, and raptors like golden eagles and prairie falcons nest along the canyon walls. During annual Christmas bird counts, Ritter Island often has one of the highest counts of bird species in the state.

BOX CANYON

Just miles away from Ritter Island, in the heart of Box Canyon, pristine water bubbles up, finally released after a century-long journey beneath an arid lava landscape. The rare crystal waters flow down a mile-long canyon to replenish the Snake River. The spring, the eleventh largest in the United States, is one of the most unique geological features in southern Idaho.

In 1999, TNC purchased Box Canyon with plans to transfer it to the State of Idaho. The transfer was completed in December 2016, and today Box Canyon is part of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation's Thousand Springs State Park.

The area offers views of a beautiful waterfall, wildlife, and spring-fed waters that appear blue and turquoise in the sun. Cliffs make the canyon an attractive perch for bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.