South Central Idaho Virtual Tour
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Massacre Rocks State Park
Located near American Falls, ID

Gate of Death and Devil's Gate were names given to this area during the Oregon Trail period. These names referred to a narrow break in the rocks through which the trail passed. Emigrants apparently feared that Indians might be waiting in ambush. Diaries record a series of skirmishes between the Shoshone Indians and emigrants on August 9 and 10, 1862. Ten emigrants died in the fight, which involved four wagon trains. The skirmishes took place east of the park and not at Devil’s Gate as commonly believed. Some confrontations may have occurred there, but they remain unverified.

Oregon Trail remnants are most easily seen from highway rest areas in either end of the park.

Register Rock

Oregon Trail pioneers used this area as a rest stop for years. Today we invite horse owners to water and rest their animals in the corral at Register Rock. Many emigrant names are inscribed on the large rock, which is now protected by a weather shelter. A scenic picnic area surrounds the rock, creating a desert oasis for the modern traveler. The site also includes a horse rest area for highway travelers.


The park is rich in geological history. Volcanic evidence is everywhere. The Devil's Gate Pass is all that remains of an extinct volcano.

The prehistoric Bonneville Flood shaped the landscape of the area, rolling and polishing the huge boulders found throughout the park. The flood was caused when eroding waters broke through Red Rock Pass near the Idaho/Utah border. Lake Bonneville, which covered much of what is today the state of Utah, surged through the pass and along the channel of the Snake River in a few short months. For a time, the flow was four times that of the Amazon River. It was the second largest flood in the geologic history of the world.

Plants and Animals

Massacre Rocks State Park is a favorite for birdwatchers. Over 200 species of birds have been sighted in the park. Canada geese, grebes, bald eagles, pelicans and blue herons are often seen. Mammals include the cottontail, jack rabbit, coyote, muskrat and beaver. The desert environment produces about 300 species of plants in the park. The most common are sagebrush, Utah juniper and rabbit brush.

For More Information:

(Source: The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation)