Born of Fire, Shaped by Water
Upper Mesa Falls
Lower Mesa Falls
At Upper Mesa Falls, a thunderous curtain of water – as tall as a 10-story building – pours over remnants of an ancient volcanic super-eruption that spewed ash over much of the current US. A mile south, Lower Mesa Falls repeats the performance; the river continually chiseling away at the solidified ash and lava. Some layers are more than a million years old. Today, Upper and Lower Mesa Falls are the last prominent waterfalls on the Snake River to resist human control.
This remarkable place has nurtured life over the eons. With your help, it will continue to do so for generations to come.
“I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam, smooth to green glass over sunken rocks, shatter to foam again. I was fascinated by how it sped by and yet was always there; its roar shook both the earth and me.” Wallace Stegner in Sound of Mountain Water (1980)
- The historic Mesa Falls Visitor Center has exhibits on area geology, flora, and fauna, and the history of the lodge. In the summer, it is open daily from 9:30 – 5:30.
- Hike the Mesa Nature Trail, starting at the upper parking lot of the Mesa Falls Visitor Center.
- Astounding views of the Lower Mesa Falls can be seen from the Grandview Overlook one mile south of the Visitor Center along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.
- Harriman State Park offers fly fishing, horseback riding, and opportunities to connect with the area’s ranching and railroad history.
- Big Springs is 43 miles north and is considered a primary source of the Snake River. Wildlife is abundant, and the historic John Sack Cabin is open for tours in the summer. A one-mile interpretive trail offers a peak into this magical area.
- Mesa Falls Visitor Center site map
- Area map (shows location of Mesa Falls in eastern Idaho)
The Upper Mesa Falls Interpretive Site is cared for and managed jointly by the US Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
(Photos of Upper Mesa Falls and Mesa Falls Visitor Center courtesy of Emily Greenquist.)