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The Snake River Murtaugh provides clues on the water outlook in the Magic Valley

Posted at 3:11 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 17:11:47-04

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Snake River Murtaugh section is a 13-mile long canyon east of Twin Falls and above Shoshone Falls. It's a unique whitewater run, but it doesn't run very often.

Justin Smith and his friends navigated through this stretch last Friday when there was hardly any water, it was an epic adventure that showed what lies beneath when the water is running.

The Murtaugh section with hardly any water

"It's something we have always wanted to do so we spent a whole day just exploring," said Smith. "We got to explore the river bed, it was interesting there were a lot of portages, but we saw a lot of unique rock features and see what creates the big rapids when there is actually water in here.”

The Murtaugh section is now running and I joined Justin and his crew of Twin Falls paddlers on Wednesday. This marks the earliest the Murtaugh has had water since 2020 and it was running at 2,500 cubic feet per second.

The Murtaugh was running at 2,500 CFS on Wednesday

"It changes year to year, some years it won’t run at all," said Smith. "This is a good year, the reservoirs are topped off and there is a lot of snow up river so we are expecting a bigger year."

This comes on the heels of a big water year last year, but the Murtaugh only ran for about a month. The Bureau of Reclamation stored the excess water for this year to meet irrigation and power needs in case southern Idaho went back into a drought, but it didn't.

Justin Smith runs Pair of Dice Rapid

The river basins that dump into the Snake River are all around 100 percent of average snowpack or above. The reservoirs are almost full, the system is at 90 percent capacity right now.

"We are just happy there is water right now and we are hoping to get a lot more," said Smith.

How much water will depend on run-off and if the Bureau of Reclamation needs to release water to mitigate flooding, but as of now Justin and his crew are happy to have one of the best sections in the area to paddle.

"The Murtaugh is a really good backyard run for Twin Falls," said Smith. "We got 20 major rapids in 13 miles, so it is a blast."

Paddling out of the canyon

This section is also above the area that was closed last fall because of the quagga mussels infestation. We plan on doing a part two on the Murtaugh where we take a closer look at the rapids and how they change at different water levels.