The Snake River Canyon is at once a familiar part of our landscape and yet the region's greatest mystery.

Running 57 miles from Milner to Upper Salmon Falls, the canyon is a geological wonder. From ancient times the river at its base has sustained human life in the high desert. More than a century ago, the river was dammed and diverted to create farmland, an economic base, cities and towns across the wide, flat land above the canyon rim.

Yet the canyon itself was largely ignored. For most of its length, the river of stone was nothing more than a place to throw trash, a hindrance to travelers and a challenge to daredevils with boats and rocket-powered contraptions.

Even now, with mansions and shopping malls crowding the canyon rim and new parks and access points in the offing, the river of stone is seldom visited and poorly understood.

In July a small band of journalists set out to explore the canyon and its meaning to the Magic Valley. Their mission was to travel the harsh and forbidding water from east to west.