The Snake River is the lifeblood of southern Idaho. It provides irrigation for farmland and hydroelectricity for power. Its natural beauty, wildlife and recreation add to the quality of life of everyone living in southern Idaho. Some have a more intimate connection with the river. For those who live on the Snake River, this is their way of life.
The journey across southern Idaho via the Snake River begins by dropping in below Lake Walcott and Minidoka Dam. Since its construction in 1904, the dam has provided water for millions of acres of beautiful farmland, as well as thousands of megawatts of electricity from its power plant. Fishing, kayaking, picnicking and bird-watching are favorite activities of the locals here.
Float down the lazy river through Mini-Cassia, past Rupert and into Declo. If it’s a weekend and Kent Kidd is home, you will find him, his wife Kim, and their family playing in the Snake.
“Living on the river, I don’t think people know what an advantage it is,” Kim says.
Since moving in four years ago, the Kidd family has enjoyed the advantages of having the Snake River in their backyard. They enjoy boating, wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, swimming and fishing as a family. A family of geese, a mink and an otter are the Kidds’ neighbors.
“It’s a fun place to raise your kids.” Kent says. “We will always know where our kids are at because they will be here with their friends.”
Friends, according to the Kidds, are what make living on the river enjoyable.
“We have developed a lot of friendships and have strengthened a lot of friendships by being here,” Kent says. “I enjoy seeing our friends and family enjoy what we have as much as we enjoy it.”
“It would not be as much fun if we didn’t have people to share it with,” Kim adds.
Not long ago, Kent’s colleague from work visited from Germany. After seeing the river and the Kidds’ proximity to Pomerelle Ski Resort, the coworker said, “You have a little piece of paradise right here.”
Continue through Mini-Cassia over to Burley where more public docks and boat ramps create a steady stream of weekend boaters and personal watercrafts, although the river seldom feels overcrowded. Bruce and Darla Burtenshaw’s family and friends are regulars.
“There’s always a party at our house because there’s always someone here who wants to share the river with us,” Darla says. “It creates a lot of fun for the friends and family in our life. We enjoy sharing the beauty and the easy access to the river.”
Waking up to a postcard-like view out their window every morning, the Burtenshaws love their home on the river.
“It’s just so beautiful,” Darla says. “You can see nature at its best. The river looks different almost every day. I love the view and the quietness of living on the river.”
Follow the leisurely current west toward Milner Dam, which combines with its Minidoka counterpart to form bookends for an incredible recreation area. Milner was completed in 1905 to provide irrigation and hydroelectricity.
A few miles down river, you will come upon Shoshone Falls. Larrey and Retha Anderson own the home nearest to the falls. The emphatic rushing water doesn’t bother the Andersons much.
“Some people pay big-time bucks trying to get a sound like that so that they can go to sleep. I’ve got it right here,” Retha says.
Travelers come from afar to see Shoshone Falls, so with the majestic waters just a stone’s throw away from their property, the Anderson clan enjoys every minute.
“It is so peaceful down here. It’s wonderful,” Retha says.
The Anderson’s 50 grandchildren are frequent visitors. They often bring their friends and dates. One of their grandsons, Paul Stanger, remembers spending time with cousins, jet skis and paddle boats.
“We would go down and boat three nights a week on the river,” Paul says. “It’s nice because we’re there close to our grandparents’ house and we can just run in for things.”
Passing through the Twin Falls portion shows a whole new side to the Snake River. In 1974, Evel Knievel made the Snake River Canyon a household name, and today, several families make the canyon a part of their everyday household.
“The first time I crossed the Perrine Bridge, I was amazed at the canyon and I’ve loved it ever since,” says Kevin Jones. “When we decided to move here, one of my requirements was that it had to be on the canyon.”
The Joneses are amazed by the canyon’s beauty and its unique climate.
“It’s funny how the canyon affects the weather. You can have the canyon full of fog and nothing on either side,” Kevin explains. “Or it can be snowing down in the canyon and sunny up on top. It’s almost like a little ecosystem by itself.”
Kevin and his wife Tammy live on the canyon rim in Filer. Their backyard falls off approximately 490 feet into the river below. Families like the Kidds of Declo or the Burtenshaws of Burley have boat docks and live on the river for its easy access. But the Joneses have different motives for living on the river.
“Our reason was for the view,” Kevin says. “We can see the mountains up around Sun Valley, we can see all the south hills in the wintertime when everything is all white. Then we can see the canyon.”
The Snake makes a turn between Buhl and Hagerman, heading in a northwest direction. Terry and Janelle Mode made their home in Hagerman two years ago, a move that was just meant to be.
“We are blessed,” Terry says.
“We live in our vacation home 365 days a year,” Janelle adds.
The Mode family takes advantage of every aspect of living on the river, whether its water sports and fishing in the summer, or duck hunting in the winter, the river is a year-round haven.
“It’s like an extension of our backyard,” Terry says. “We have a dock and a boat ramp, so we don’t have to go anywhere else. My wife can look out across the river in the binoculars and see me and my dog duck hunting. We have deer that run around; all the animals are pretty tame down here and we just all live together.”
Living on the river also means constant company for the Modes – they don’t have a weekend free until August.But that’s okay with them. They are living in their dream home and love sharing it.
“I’ve wanted to live on the water since I was 4 years old,” Janelle says. “You dream about that as a kid and you think it will never happen. I still can’t believe that I’m living on the water. It’s amazing to have a dream come true like that.”
Our voyage across southern Idaho finished in Glenns Ferry, where we visited with Don Carnahan, another SnakeRiver resident. We met Dewey Crane, also of Glenns Ferry, and he promised to take us sturgeon fishing. While that will have to wait for a future issue, we were intrigued by the people who make their home along the river. They live there for the recreation and beauty, of course. But building friendships and family ties that are as true as the river’s path – that’s what the Snake River lifestyle is all about.