Agriculture plays an important role in southeastern Idaho's economy, ever since early settlers used irrigation methods to transform the Magic Valley from an arid desert to a fertile plain. Roughly 50 miles north of the Idaho-Nevada border lies the town of Twin Falls, home to the Snake River–spanning Perrine Bridge, a popular site for year-round BASE jumping. Five miles outside of Twin Falls, the multitiered cascades of Shoshone Falls plummet 212 feet onto craggy rocks. The waterfalls empty into the Snake River, which winds alongside sites once used as mining camps during the mid-19th-century gold rush. Less than 30 miles west of Twin Falls, in the small town of Buhl, Idaho, guests can lounge in Miracle Hot Springs' 15 private soaking pools and two public pools, each brimming with natural, warm spring water. Bathers can catch a glimpse of the property's three large alligators practicing the backstroke in a separate pool of their own.
For nearly a century, couples have found a romantic hideaway at the Riverside Hot Springs Inn, quickly earning it the nickname “Honeymoon Hotel.” Founder William Godfrey chose to set the inn’s foundation alongside the Portneuf River in 1914 due to the wealth of hot springs nearby and the curative powers he believed they held. People seemed to agree, and in order to rid themselves of pains and worries, they traveled miles to ease their sore muscles in the hot baths and dispose of overly musical snowmen.
Today, guests continue on with that tradition, dipping in the inn's more modern hot-springs tubs, which reach balmy temperatures of up to 106 degrees. Inside the inn, muted and neutral colors and period accents give the rooms a charming, romantic feel. This decadence extends to the Portneuf Grille & Lounge, formerly a confectionery, where chefs sear USDA steaks and craft eclectic vegetarian entrees. On Thursday, the dining room fills with live music, and on Friday, guests can sample the hotel's signature cioppino as they sip Northwest wines, specialty cocktails, or microbrews.
While the heart of Johnny Carino's menu is rooted in genuine Italian traditions, forward-thinking creativity has birthed what they like to call their signature dishes. Led by executive chef Chris Peitersen, the seasoned kitchen staff blends fresh ingredients along with extra time to create high-quality, spiced Italian preparations. Diners will find entrees such as 16-layer lasagna with made-from-scratch sauce, and pizzas made with home-baked crust. Other signature choices include the spicy shrimp and chicken, baked stuffed mushrooms topped with house lemon basil cream sauce, and tiramisu made from the ground up. Entrees can be paired any selection from Carino's extensive wine list and drink menu.
With 4 outdoor public pools, 6 VIP pools, and 15 private pools with adjustable temperatures and adjacent changing rooms, Miracle Hot Springs is the picture of a pristine modern resort. But it's gone through a lot of past lives to get there. The land's original owners dropped old car bodies into the natural spring to make its soft, warm, highly alkaline waters pool together and allow a well to be drilled. In the years that followed, those waters were used for bathing sheep, heating chicken coops, and irrigating patches of particularly delectable watermelons whose seeds sprouted new springs.
n 1957, Dean M. Olsen found the then-abandoned hot spring on a canyon hike, and finally began to set the waters on a new course: human relaxation. Today, Dean's son Larry D. Olsen carries on the family legacy at the geothermal-driven resort. Steam rises from the pools throughout the year as visitors float or paddle in the natural spring waters.
Massage therapists also practice the art of relaxation, and visitors can even make a weekend getaway out of their trip, thanks to the Miracle Hot Springs campground. The grounds have spots for tents and RVs, but they also include camping domes: furnished geodesic structures where hot water heats the floors.
Through displays of both native and cultivated flora across several regional gardens, Sawtooth Botanical Garden celebrates and educates the community about the plants and flowers that flourish at high altitudes. Trek through the alpine garden to spy plants that normally grow above the tree line, or wander through the riparian garden to get a close-up view of cottonwoods, willows, and other plants that make their homes near rivers and streams. Nearby, a children's garden hosts educational classes and a spray pool for summer fun. For a more inward journey, visit the Garden of Infinite Compassion. It was established in honor of the Dalai Lama's visit to the Wood River Valley as a place where people can calm their minds in the serenity of nature.