In Our Own Backyard
Should you Pause at One of These Funky Stops?
Photography: Craig Wolfrom
(page 2 of 5)
How many times can you make the Costco run to Twin Falls before you decide it’s time to take a detour at the ginormous billboard out in the lava rocks inviting you to the ice caves?
Whether you are the kitschy type of traveler or a spelunking hobbyist, the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves on Highway 75 south of Bellevue are worth a look.
Each year, 15,000 or more take that turn to see nature’s former beer cooler (Shoshone rowdies stashed their supplies there in the late 1800s) and learn about the prehistoric, pre-brew Indians who lived in and around the lava rocks and the lava-tube formations that collapsed, exposing the giant ice cave estimated to hold 20,000 tons of ice, eight to 20 feet thick.
Geologists across the country have called this formation one of the natural wonders of the earth and it is also the largest known lava ice cave in the world, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Although it was discovered in 1880, it wasn’t put to use until 1900 when the residents of Shoshone used it as a local source for ice. Prehistoric animal fossils were found in the cave and today visitors can see them on display near the cave entrance. Its tunnels, located 90 feet below the surface, were created when lava flowed through them thousands of years ago. The largest cavern in the cave is three blocks long, 30 feet wide, and 40 feet in height. The cave remains at a year-round constant temperature of 18-33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tour guides—often owner Fred Cheslik or family—take you 120 feet below the surface to a walkway over the cave floor. The best time to go is spring when stalagmites and stalactites bloom like wildflowers. As they melt with the approaching summer, excess water has to be pumped out to prevent too much ice from forming.
There’s the obligatory gift shop, and some unusual antique style offerings in the surrounding buildings. Save space on the camera for the kids to pose on the dinosaur out front. >>>