Spring river runs highlight a lazy Idaho day in Hagerman

Julie Fanselow

The season for whitewater rafting or a relaxing river cruisemay still be a month or more off in much of the West, but not insouth central Idaho. Warm temperatures and good water levels makeApril the start of the season for two easy trips on the SnakeRiver.

Tucked in a bend of the Snake just 32 miles northwest of TwinFalls, Hagerman is the start for two types of river trips.Downriver, a 10-mile stretch of water delivers a four- to five-hourrun that's a great introduction to whitewater rafting. "People aresurprised by it," says Olin Gardner, whose Idaho Guide Serviceoffers early-season trips here. "We've got so many rivers in Idahothat it's just not as appreciated as it should be." Most of thewater is lazy, with glimpses of deer and blue herons, but ahalf-dozen class 2 and 3 rapids add excitement.

For a more mellow ride, motor upstream on a pontoon boatoperated by 1000 Springs Tours. Riley Creek Falls and smallersprings cascade over dark canyon walls, providing drama on thistwo-hour cruise.

Tiny Hagerman does offer a few diversions for confirmedlandlubbers. At the Hagerman Fossil Beds NationalMonument visitor center (open Thu-Sun; 221 N. State St.;208/837-4793), get a feel for the city's prehistoric denizens fromfossils found during several digs sponsored by the SmithsonianInstitution and the National Park Service (the monument itself isacross the river). Shops like Prism Stained Glass (open Tue-Fri;220 S. State; 208/837-6097) and Snake River Pottery (555E RiverRd.; 208/837-6527) anchor a growing local art scene.

The Snake River Grill (corner of State and Hagerman Streets;208/837-6227) is the area's best restaurant. Chef and owner KirtMartin serves a hearty breakfast and features fresh local trout andsturgeon at lunch and dinner ― a satisfying end to a day onthe river.

ON THE RIVER

WHERE: From I-84 coming from Boise, take the Bliss exit(U.S. 30); coming from Twin Falls, take the second Wendellexit.

CONTACT: Idaho Guide Service, $60 including lunch; www.idahoguideservice.com 1000 Springs Tours, $24 cruiseonly, $40 brunch/dinner cruise; www.northrim.net/tst or (208) 837-9006. or (888)734-3246.

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