Wandering Lizard

An online magazine with information related to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of Idaho

Elmore County
Three Island Crossing State Park & Glenn's Ferry

Glenn's Ferry is a small agricultural town on the Snake River in Elmore County, Idaho. It is famous as being located on one of the main Snake River crossings for the Oregon Trail. The original river crossing was called Three Island Crossing in as much as it took advantage of three small islands in a relatively peaceful portion of the Snake. Prior to the arrival of the Anglo-European immigrants, the crossing had long been used by Native Americans and was an important meeting point for tribes living in disparate parts of the region. There was no ferry involved. Wagons, pedestrians and stock forded the river.

As we look at the crossing today it does not look to be very formidable, but that is because the Snake has been tamed by dams and flood control measures. In 1869, Gustavus P. Glenn established a small ferry capable of transporting two wagons per trip a short distance upstream from the original crossing point. The ferry eliminated the dangers inherent to fording and also opened to a better trail.

Over time, a small community grew up just downstream of the ferry site. The railroad came to town in the later decades of the nineteenth century and in 1908, the first bridge across the Snake was built there. Irrigation was introduced and a number of successful farms were established. Glenn's Ferry developed into a prosperous small town. Steam powered the railroad engine and the town became a regional rail center. It was also important because of a large potato dehydration plant located there. There were plenty of good blue collar jobs in the community.

Inevitably, more modern diesel powered rail equipment made the town less important as a rail hub and economic centralization moved businesses out of the area. What had been a bustling community shrank to a shadow of it's former self. Glenn's Ferry is, however, well worth a visit because of the Three Island Crossing State Park which is located there. The park includes camping facilities and an excellent interpretative center. Unfortunately, it is also a powerful example of what is happening to rural communities all across America.