The Niagara of the West: Kayaking to Shoshone Falls
Where we’re at now: I’m jumping ahead to share my trip in late August 2020 with Visit Idaho. I’ll jump back into chronological time eventually! And by the way, Wander Women On Demand is live! If you missed either of our virtual retreats, or ever wished you could gift one to a friend, don’t miss this […] Source: Alex In Wanderland
Where we’re at now: I’m jumping ahead to share my trip in late August 2020 with Visit Idaho . I’ll jump back into chronological time eventually!
And by the way, Wander Women On Demand is live! If you missed either of our virtual retreats, or ever wished you could gift one to a friend, don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy our signature yoga classes, meditations, journaling prompts, and workshops at your own pace!
The Idaho adventure I was most looking forward to was this — kayaking to Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls.
It was also the part of the trip that most intimidated me! I’ve never paddled eight miles straight before and was a little suspicious of having to carry the kayaks over a dry portion of the river, too.
But wow. We did it.
But let’s back up to the beginning. After checking out of our Giant Potato , Katie and I headed straight to Twin Falls. We had a busy few days planned there soaking up all the area has to offer (more on that later!), but our paddle was definitely the catalyst for the trip.
We arrived bright and early at AWOL Adventure Sports . These guys are truly the adventure experts in the area. They run a zip line (which actually looked so fun I regretted I didn’t know about it earlier!), a scuba diving shop (wait what, I want to dive in Idaho!), and facilitate kayak and paddleboard trips of multiple lengths up Snake River Canyon.
Luck many of the adventures we undertook in Idaho, I marveled at how affordable it all was. After a sunrise scramble around a bunch of stunning spots that cost a whopping zero dollars, we picked up our full day kayak rentals, which run $25 a pop. Seriously? What a bargain for a day I’ll remember forever!
They do offer shorter rental periods, too, if you’re not planning to push all the way to Shoshone.
After a briefing from the AWOL team, we were off — and we had the river to ourselves! The first milestone, the Perrine Bridge, we hit just thirty minutes into our paddle. If you’re new to kayaking and just want to get a feel for it, this is a great goal. It’s one mile from the launch point, and would make a perfect one-hour round trip journey.
Watch out for BASE jumpers — this bridge is famous for them!
Passing under the bridge, with frequent breaks to admire the beautiful, forever changing landscape — from dramatic rock karsts to tiny waterfalls to small rocky beaches — we stared working towards our next goalpost, Pillar Falls. Along the way Katie regaled me of stories growing up in Twin Falls . It was so much fun being in the hometown of one of my dear friends — doing something she had never done before, at that!
Pillar Falls was looming large in my mind, and not just because it was the halfway mark up the river at 2.1 miles! It was also the point in the trip we were both most rattled by. Because the water is so low on the river, we had to get out of our kayaks and carry them across the top of the falls to the water on the other side.
I won’t lie — it was tough. The walk was a little longer than we expected and we weren’t exactly sure the way, which meant we took a few wrong turns (you can’t really get lost, but every extra step counts when you’re carrying a kayak!) On the way back we smartened up and took two trips, carrying each kayak together, which I think was a little easier on the shoulders.
Maybe it was our elation at having made it over Pillar Falls, maybe it was pure adrenaline, maybe it was the desire to get to the finish line, but before we knew it we were peeking at Shoshone Falls in the distance.
Four miles of upstream adventure, fueled by girl talk, a dry bag of snacks, and a speaker blasting the artists formerly known as The Dixie Chicks later, we made it.
It truly was the best feeling!
You know how I said the part I was dreading was portaging over Pillar Falls? I think the part Katie was dreading was me paddling too close to Shoshone Falls, ha. She was right to be cautious though — people have been pulled under the falls here, so be careful how close you get. We both agreed that when we felt the spray from the falls, we’d stop there.
Just as we finished basking in the glory of our day and trying to pep ourselves up for the long paddle home, my phone rang — it was the owner of AWOL Adventure Sports, letting us know they say a storm coming in on the radar faster than expected. We had made great time, so they were expecting to have to ask us to turn around. Instead, they gave our sore arms some great fuel to finish strong!
Paddling downstream was a treat (though granted, not quite as breezy as expected — save some stamina for the way back!) and with clear blue skies as we passed over Pillar Falls again, we paused briefly to explore and decompress from shuttling the kayaks again from shore to shore.
We paddled into the launch point just as the downpour descended. Perfect timing — and we were ready to celebrate. After a drink waiting out the rain at the rim of the canyon, when the rainbows appeared we went to see Shoshone from the topside.
In the end, the entire trip was 5.5 hours from start to finish, including stops for photos, snacks, exploring, and more. We really pushed ourselves though — you could easily make it a full day and take it a little easier. If you do make the journey, don’t forget to pack eco-friendly sunscreen and reapply often, wear a hat, and bring a waterproof camera of some kind — this is what I use!
This was an adventure that lived up to the hype, and more. Floating under the enormous power of the Niagara of the West, I felt humbled and small. What a unique angle so few get to experience it from.
And it was an empowering one! Like my first cavern diving trip to Florida, I had this moment of “Wait, I can do this?! All by myself?!” when our operator gave us a briefing and sent us on our way. Turns out hell yes, I can do that! From portaging the kayaks over the landing at Pillar Falls to pushing through that last shoulder-burning two miles on our return, I felt like a total badass the whole way (even while wearing my Sketchers water shoes from my high school trip to Costa Rica, ha ha.)
Honestly, I’m kind of tempted to go back and do it all over again already — this time on a SUP board! I think I’d train a bit before tackling that, though. I wasn’t kidding about the shoulders.
Wondering what else to get up to while you’re in town? Stay tuned for the Wanderland Guide to Twin Falls, coming up next!
What do you think? Would you add this Gem State gem to your bucket list?