Massacre Rocks State Park

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Massacre Rocks State Park
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
DSCN6343 devilsgateidaho e.jpg
Massacre Rocks, viewed from the visitor center
Map showing the location of Massacre Rocks State Park
Map showing the location of Massacre Rocks State Park
Location in Idaho
Map showing the location of Massacre Rocks State Park
Map showing the location of Massacre Rocks State Park
Location in the United States
LocationPower County, Idaho, United States
Nearest cityAmerican Falls, Idaho
Coordinates42°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[1]
Area990 acres (4.0 km2)[2]
Elevation4,400 ft (1,300 m)[2]
DesignationIdaho state park
Established1967 [3]
AdministratorIdaho Department of Parks and Recreation
WebsiteMassacre Rocks State Park

Massacre Rocks State Park is a history-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.[2]


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 Shoshone just east of the rocks on August 9–10, 1862. At least eight emigrants from four wagon trains died, with at least 20 Shoshone also killed.[4] 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.[5] 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.[2] The actual passage through the rocks is now the route of Interstate 86 along the south edge of the park.

Boulders deposited during the Bonneville Flood

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.[5] 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, following earlier status as a roadside park managed by the Idaho Department of Transportation.[3]


This state park is home to various birds which are Canada goose, great blue heron, grebe, pelican, bald eagle. The only residential mammals are beaver, jackrabbit, cottontail, muskrat and coyote.

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, a disc golf course, campground, and access to the Snake River.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Massacre Rocks State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Massacre Rocks State Park". Idaho Parks and Recreation. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "History: State Lands in Idaho". Idaho Museum of Natural History. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  4. ^ Smith, Justin. "The massacre that never happened". Idaho State Journal. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Massacre Rocks". Digital Atlas of Idaho. Idaho Museum of Natural History. Retrieved March 5, 2011.

External links[edit]