Ancient lava tubes in Idaho's Magic Valley keep ice frozen year-round.
Set in Idaho’s Magic Valley, the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves are a geological wonder disguised as a kitschy attraction. Sparse sagebrush covers a 20,000-year-old volcanic field riddled with lava tubes. Frigid winter air settling into the subterranean tubes freezes any standing water and keeps it frozen year-round, even in a 100-degree Idaho summer.
The caves have enjoyed a long and varied history. Shoshone tribes passed them on their way to fish the Salmon River’s north fork. During the 1880s, bandits who hit rich stagecoaches traveling from mining towns used the icy tubes to flee pursuers. And the town of Shoshone, 16 miles south, boasted the West’s only ice-cold beer.
Today, visitors can take a guided tour through the caves, where the ice varies between eight and 30 feet in depth. Afterward, many break for a meal at the Manhattan Café in Shoshone, which is constructed from local volcanic rock and is reputedly the spot where Ernest Hemingway would stop for a snack before catching a bus to Ketchum, an hour’s drive north. (208) 886-2058, visitidaho.org/natural-attractions .
Photography by Hans Owens
This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.