Snake River Overlook
A quiet, country backroad (Bell Rapids Road
) winds through the southern section of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, forking off US 30 a few miles south of Hagerman; this crosses the Snake River, passing close to Upper Salmon Falls Dam
, then reaches the first viewpoint, looking out over the widest part of the reservoir. Downstream, the river is bordered by flat land to the east (Hagerman Valley) but steep, layered cliffs to the west, which extend northwards for a little way beyond the monument boundary and are cut by several narrow gullies. All the land hereabouts is completely treeless, covered only by short grass, so the bedrock is exposed in many locations, making fossil hunting very fruitful. The excavation sites are not open to the public however, and cross-country hiking is not allowed, supposedly because of the dangers of rattlesnakes, scorpions and landslides, but perhaps also to discourage fossil hunters. Several major landslips have occurred over the years, down the cliffs west of the river, some of which are visible from the viewpoint.
Oregon Trail Overlook
Past the view of the reservoir, the road climbs to the plateau on top of the cliffs, moving away from the river, and reaches Oregon Trail Overlook
, an elevated viewpoint surrounded by rolling, grassy hills and valleys. The course of the Oregon Trail is evident below, mostly staying close to the road, and a 3 mile section between the two viewpoints is open to hiking, though very few people do so. But the short walk from the parking area to the edge of the largest valley is worthwhile, looking down along several miles of the trail to the Snake River beyond. The only other public access in the national monument is along a partly unpaved road that forks north, then back east, to another trailhead, from where an old vehicle track winds down a ravine through the cliffs to the edge of the river. The monument is bordered by a limited area of private land to the west, then beyond stretches a vast, undeveloped part of the state that extends over 200 miles into Nevada and Oregon, and contains virtually no towns or paved roads.