Idaho Falls, ID is located in the west-central part of the state in the shadow of the Teton Mountain Range to the east. It gets its name from the beautiful waterfalls along the Snake River. You can see these today by walking the beautiful Idaho Falls Riverwalk which is part of the outstanding Idaho Falls Greenbelt park system. Located along the river downtown, this is a great place to go out for a walk to admire the beauty of the river, waterfalls, and area in general.
There are two excellent museums in town which are well worth a visit. The first is The Museum of Idaho, which is an outstanding museum designed to enlighten visitors in the areas of culture and science. This museum houses 25,000 artifacts in exhibits with a focus on items from around the world, so it's not an Idaho-specific museum. However, they do have extensive Idaho exhibits and highlight Idaho connections when possible. Originally started in 1898 as a way to bring culture to the area, this museum has grown to be the largest museum in the state.
The second museum to visit is The Idaho Potato Museum. Idaho is known for its potatoes. This state is the largest producer of the starchy tubers in the United States. There are roughly 600 major farms overseeing about 300,000 acres of potato fields. As the state's largest cash crop, it is deserving of its own museum. Here you will learn the history and fun facts about potatoes and potato farming. The 5,500 square foot facility has many great displays including the world's largest potato chip. The museum is located in Blackfoot, ID just off I-15 about a half hour south of Idaho Falls. Snake River RV Park and Campground makes for a perfect place to stay while visiting Idaho Falls. It is located right in town and convenient to the Idaho Museum and the many other attractions in the area. They have RV and primitive sites as well as cabins.
The road trip to Kennewick is an easy one. To get started, head west out of Idaho Falls in US-20. This will take you to Mountain Home, ID where you'll pick up I-84 West. This will take you through Boise and up to Hermiston, OR. There, you'll switch to I-82 North which will take you into Kennewick, WA.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located right off of US-20 about an hour and a half west of Idaho Falls. This makes for a great stop to see the results of the volcanic activity that is common in this area. The volcano under the park last erupted only about 2,000 years ago, spilling tons of lava across the region creating an eerie, moonlike landscape which you can explore today. The park includes a short loop road that can be driven in under an hour. By driving the road, you'll get a good feeling of what this park is all about, but to really experience it you'll need to get out and do some hiking.
There are several trailheads along the road. Some of these lead to short hikes, others to explorable caves, and still others can be taken much farther into the backcountry. A stop at the visitor's center for a map will get you pointed in the right direction for which trails are best for you.
Within the park is the Lavaflow Campground which provides excellent RV and tent camping opportunities. There are 42 sites here available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's located among the newer lava flows and is right next to the visitor's center, making it a unique and convenient place to stay.
Yes, Boise is a long way from the ocean, but that's all the more reason to have an excellent aquarium. The Aquarium of Boise brings the ocean inland with over 10,000 sq feet of great exhibits. Unlike many aquariums, there is a real focus on interactive exhibits here, so there are a lot of different touch tanks and activities that get the visitors involved in the aquatic experience.
There are over 250 species of animals and marine life housed here, and it is not limited to just fish. There are also birds, reptiles, lizards, amphibians, invertebrates, and corals. In addition to general admission, you can also reserve space for a private or corporate party or event. This can also include special guided tours where museum staff will guide you through the facility.
The Capital City Public Market is the city's largest and oldest farmers market. This open-air market houses over 150 local vendors spread over 8th and Idaho Streets in downtown Boise. It's open Saturdays from 9:30 am-1:30 pm, April through October and is a great place to find locally grown fruits, vegetables, and even some excellent baked goods. There is even live entertainment to enjoy as you shop. If you don't find what you're looking for here then try the Boise Farmers Market. Here you'll find similar items to the Capital City Public Market, but in a much less formal setting.
Mountain View RV Park is a great place to stay on this trip. It is located on the southeast side of town. This location provides both great access to the city's attractions and it is along our route to Kennewick.
Northwestern Idaho is one of the best places in the US for a white water rafting trip. Whether you're a seasoned veteran of river adventures or looking for your first taste of white water excitement, this area is the place to stop. There is no better place to go than Mountain River Outfitters in Riggins, ID. They offer a wide variety of trips on the Salmon and Snake Rivers, many of which are family friendly. Trips range in length from half a day to five days so they can satisfy just about anyone's sense of adventure. They also recently added jet boat river tours in short aluminum jet boats through the Salmon River Wilderness and the Hells Canyon region of the Snake River. These exciting tours travel up and down river, power through the rapids and allow you to enjoy the stunning scenery in a unique way. If fishing is your game they offer river fishing trips as well.
To stay the night, take a look at Canyon Pines RV Resort. It's a beautiful park in a beautiful location only 15 minutes south of Mountain River Outfitters.
Kennewick, WA is part of the Tri-Cities area which includes Kennewick, Richland, and Paso WA. Kennewick is a great small city with good camping and great food. This area is also home to one of the most significant industrial projects in human history, and you can tour it for free.
Just northwest of the Kennewick/Richmond metro area is the Hanford Nuclear Facility where the power of the Columbia River was harnessed during the Manhattan project to produce the nuclear fuel used in the bomb that ended World War II. Reactor B is the production nuclear reactor built for that purpose. It was the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor and it produced the plutonium used in the trinity experiment as well as the “fat man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan August 9th, 1945. This ultimately led to Japanese surrender and the end of WWII. The reactor complex itself was constructed between 1943 and 1944 during an intense 11-month project that produced over 30 buildings and 20 service centers.
Today, only the main reactor building, main exhaust stack and cooling pump house on the Columbia River remain. The Reactor B Tour starts with a long bus ride from the visitor's center in Richland, WA. Once at the reactor site you are taken on a guided tour of the facilities which are essentially as they stood in 1945. The tour reveals the stunning complexity of the project and engineering accomplishments that allowed it to be completed in such a short time frame. It also showcases the crudeness of the mid-1940's technology with what you would expect in a modern facility. This is truly a unique site with unparalleled modern historical significance.
A fun trip back in time can be found at the Gesa Carousel of Dreams. This is an original handcrafted carousel circa. 1910 that was originally built by James Carmel and installed at the Silver Beach Amusement Park in St. Joseph, Michigan where it operated until 1972. It was dismantled and moved to Roswell, NM. It sat there protected under tarps until 2002 when the current owners purchased it and moved it to its current spot in Kennewick. For a few dollars, the entire family can ride this amazing, handcrafted piece of history. For food make sure you try the Ice Harbor Brewery. They have two locations; the pub on North Benton Street has great food and the beers are awesome too.
To the northeast of town is the Palouse region of the US. This extends from Washtucna to Spokane and into northwest Idaho with the Snake River being the southern border. This area is known for its beautiful rolling hills and exceptionally fertile soil. It's a great place to create some stunning landscape photography.
The best place to stay in the area is at the Columbia Sun RV Resort. This is a first-rate campground with paved roads that is exceptionally easy to navigate. They also have a great pool, nice activity center, and general store.