Massacre Rocks State Park

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Massacre Rocks State Park
Idaho State Park
DSCN6342 massacrerocksboulders e.jpg
Boulders in Massacre Rocks State Park deposited during the Bonneville Flood
Country United States
State Idaho
County Power
Nearest city American Falls
Elevation 4,400 ft (1,341 m) [1]
Coordinates 42°40′39″N 112°59′11″W / 42.67750°N 112.98639°W / 42.67750; -112.98639Coordinates: 42°40′39″N 112°59′11″W / 42.67750°N 112.98639°W / 42.67750; -112.98639 [2]
Area 990 acres (401 ha)
Established 1967
Management Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation
IUCN category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape
Location in Idaho
Website: Massacre Rocks State Park

Massacre Rocks State Park is a historically focused public recreation area in the Northwest United States featuring the Massacre Rocks, a famous spot along the Oregon Trail and California Trail during the middle 19th century. The state park is located along the Snake River, ten miles (16 km) southwest of American Falls, in Power County, Idaho.[1]


Massacre Rocks, viewed from the Visitor Center

The park features a configuration of boulders along the south bank of the Snake River, known alternatively as Massacre Rocks, "Gate of Death", or "Devil's Gate". Emigrants gave this name to the narrow passage of the trail through the rocks, from the fear of possible ambush by Native Americans. According to diaries of emigrants, settlers in five wagons clashed with Shoshoni just east of the rocks on August 9–10, 1862. Ten emigrants died in the fight, which involved four wagon trains. The skirmishes took place east of the park and not at Devil's Gate as commonly believed. Some confrontations may have occurred there, but they remain unverified.[3] The Clark Massacre of 1851 occurred just west of Massacre Rocks, closer to the Raft River.

The rocks were often used as campsite for wagon trains along the trail. Many emigrants carved their names and dates on Register Rock, which is now protected by a shelter.[1] The actual passage through the rocks is now the route of Interstate 86 along the south edge of the park.

Geologically the park was created during the repeated volcanic activity on the Snake River Plain. The rocks themselves were deposited in their present location at the end of the last ice age, approximately 14,500 years ago, during the catastrophic flood known as the Bonneville Flood, when much of Lake Bonneville surged down the Snake River.[3] A notch in the cliff on the north bank of the Snake opposite the park was the site of an ancient waterfall of a side channel of the waters in the aftermath of the flood.

Massacre Rocks became a state park in 1967, having previously been a roadside park managed by the Idaho Department of Transportation.[4]

Activities and amenities[edit]

The park is accessible by automobile on Interstate 86 and by foot using a trail from the rest areas just east of the park on Interstate 86. The footpaths also provide access to remnants of the original Oregon Trail on the south side of the highway. Exhibits in the park's visitor center describe the history and geology of the park. The park offers trails for hiking and biking, disc golf course, campground, and access to the Snake River.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Massacre Rocks State Park". Idaho Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  2. ^ "Massacre Rocks State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  3. ^ a b "Massacre Rocks". Digital Atlas of Idaho. Idaho Museum of Natural History. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  4. ^ "History: State Lands in Idaho". Idaho Museum of Natural History. Retrieved March 5, 2011.

External links[edit]