SODA SPRINGS – Many trippers take off from Cache Valley and head to Bear Lake, Salt Lake City or Lava Hot Springs, but there is another excursion that can prove to be both fun and educational. A couple of families from Cache Valley recently headed to Soda Springs, Idaho for a different adventure. The ages of the children went from a babe in arms to 13 years old.
First stop from Logan to Soda Springs was the Niter Ice Cave, approximately one hour from Logan via US-91 and ID-34 East. A sign on the highway shows a dirt road in the midst of active farm ground.
The cave is a volcanic lava tube accessible by holding on to a handrail leading down into the darkness. The cave has paint on the rocks as you enter. The climb down is easy, but there is some slippery ice on the planks that go almost halfway into the 1,200 foot tunnel. The darkness turned all the brave, and sometimes overconfident boys, into weak-kneed cling-ons. One held onto his father’s arm so tight, it almost cut off the circulation. The bat-like swallows darting in and out of the entrance added to the experience.
The cave was once used to store milk and butter for early settlers in the area, the kiosk at the entrance explains.
Once back aboard their vehicles, the boys spent the next half hour telling everyone within earshot they were never scared, and going into the cave was no big deal.
They continued northeast on ID-34 until the “T” turn, where they took a right onto US-30 and traveled east until the town once known as the Oregon Trail Oasis, because of the many springs of water there.
Today, it is known as Soda Springs and it is home to the only captive geyser in the world. The story goes, some enterprising people in town wanted a bath house near Main Street. In 1937 they drilled down and unleashed a geyser. Apparently, the geyser generated excitement for the townsfolk, but also got the National Park service in Yellowstone worked up as well. They thought the 70 foot geyser would throw off Old Faithful’s timing, even some 100 plus miles to the north. The Park Service wanted it capped.
So, the enterprising townsfolk put their geyser on a mechanical time clock. The only captive geyser in the world goes off about every hour on the hour and shoots about 70 feet in the air. The geyser isn’t as big as Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, but you can get a lot closer to what some call the Roaring Soda Geyser.
Next stop, Hooper Springs, located at 1805 Government Dam Rd, where carbonated water comes out of the ground and flows into a nearby creek. The spring is covered by a small pavilion and has a place to get down close to the water. Visitors can take a cup and dip in the bubbling brew and drink the carbonated mineral water straight from the source. The mineral content of the carbonated water has a strong taste, but when a little powdered lemonade is added, it was tolerable carbonated lemonade.
The cling-ons gulped it with vigor to prove their manhood.
Next stop, 2942 Trail Canyon Road, home to another man-building exercise for little boys. Formation cave is another lava tube, about 200 feet long. Explorers will need a light to see the variable heights of the ceiling. The ceiling varies from about 10 feet high to about 3 feet in height. Formation Cave is part of a larger Nature Conservancy where springs of cool, clear water form ponds.
Lucky travelers might catch a truck dumping waste slag from Monsanto’s Phosphate mine, the largest in the world. The molten phosphate glows orange as it runs down the large slag piles.
There are plenty of pioneer Oregon Trail sites located in and around Soda Springs.
All of the sites are free. Gas and food for hungry explorers are the only expenses on the journey.
With plenty of daylight left, a group can find a park, eat lunch or go to one of the local dining establishments. After filling their stomachs, they can return to Logan or go west on US-30, 22 miles to Lava Hot Springs and float the river or play in the warm waters there.