Massacre Rocks State Park is a beautiful, (despite the ominous name) high desert, park overlooking the Snake River. The narrow canyon opens into a sheltered bowl with the river moving slowly thru the bottom. There are two, long islands in the bottom of the bowl. Each island (Goat Island and Beaver Island) is about a quarter mile long and about a hundred and fifty yards wide. The canyon slopes gently to the river and the slopes are covered with sagebrush, native grasses and Mountain Juniper. The campsites are interspersed along the canyon slope. Also along these slopes are HUGE basalt boulders, some the size of a house, worn smooth by the Great Bonneville Flood, 14,500 years ago. Griffin (my 4 year old son) and I spent an afternoon scrambling around on these rocks chasing lizards and watching out for snakes, we saw two snakes, neither were rattlers.
We arrived in the park on Friday afternoon. The park is very well maintained. The restrooms were well stocked and spotless!! The trashcans were emptied every morning and the camp host was very friendly and helpful. When I used the showers I half-expected someone to hand me fresh, warm towels. I almost felt guilty. A hot shower in the morning hardly feels like camping. Everyone in our group was impressed. About the only complaints I have would be; they need easier access to the canoe dock. Although the dock itself was nice and in good shape, it was two or three hundred yards from the parking lot to the dock and the road down to the dock area (which would have cut the distance in half) was chained. That is a loooong way carrying an 85 lbs. canoe. Also the park is a little close to the interstate for me. You could hear big rig trucks driving by on I-86. But some people might actually find that an advantage. You couldn't hear road noise once you got down into the river canyon.
Saturday morning Beth (my wife), Griffin and I went paddling in the gently moving river. We paddled upstream about a mile, stopped for lunch then floated gently back down with the current. We saw a great variety of birds including; Grebes, Cormorants, Pelicans, Osprey, Turkey Vultures, and we were even buzzed by a Northern Harrier (a large Hawk) when we got too close to her nest on one of the islands. Mud Swallows constantly swooped in on us as they built their little adobe nests along the cliffs of the canyon. My Mom (who drove down from Montana to meet us), Griffin and I went for a short evening canoe ride around the larger of the two islands.
The weather was great. It was warm and sunny but a bit windy on the canyon rim where our campsite was. The wind wasn't a problem down on the river during our paddle trips but we saw white caps the afternoon we were packing up.
I'd highly recommend this trip. The park was great. The paddle trip was fun for the whole family. This is probably best as a spring or fall trip. It can get pretty hot out there in the high desert in the summer time.
See their website for more info.
Put-In: Use the Canoe dock at the park. Parking area for canoe dock is at the lower campground.