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Eagle Rock at Shoshone Falls

Eagle Rock is seen overlooking the Snake River at the top of Shoshone Falls in this early Clarence E. Bisbee photo. Some thought the name 'Snake' was too crude for such a grand river.


While the Snake River is acclaimed for its scenic canyon and falls, rarely is its name questioned today.

But there was a time when the name wasn’t widely accepted.

Five months after irrigation water from the river first spilled upon the Twin Falls Tract, folks were suggesting the name be changed.

“The citizens of Twin Falls would welcome such revision and would be glad to see the mighty river which supplies moisture for the largest irrigated tract in America called by its proper name, ‘Shoshonee,’” opined the Twin Falls Weekly News in its Aug. 11, 1905, edition.

“’Snake’ is a revolting appellation and while it may suggest the sinuous course of the stream, it forever eliminates the river from song or sentiment,” the newspaper explained. To some, “Snake” implied that the river’s edge is infested with rattlesnakes, keeping tourists from visiting the falls.

“It is a pity we cannot get rid of the offensive name ‘Snake,’” said E.G. Eagleson, surveyor general for Idaho who later became a Boise mayor.

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In an interesting offshoot, Eagleson suggested a prehistoric population that inhabited the area before the Indians.

“It would seem that nearly all our great rivers were named by the people of some prehistoric race and the survival of these names is about all the oral evidence we have that North America was peopled by a race which flourished before the Indians,” he said.

His message was clear, but moot.

“Let the grandest stream in America be known by its proper name, the Shoshonee, and let us forget the repulsive and offensive Snake.”

Mychel Matthews reports on rural issues and agriculture for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at or call her at 208-735-3233.


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