JEROME — When severe winter storms pummeled the Magic Valley in February, floodwaters from a broken levy ripped an enormous piece of bedrock from the Snake River Canyon wall, sending shattered basalt into the gaping canyon.
A third of an acre of Jerome County’s Triple C Farms once overlooking the river 500 feet below now lies in a crumbled heap — stretching from the talus slope into the river itself — on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
But still hanging on the canyon edge is an even larger chunk of bedrock, jarred loose by shock waves created by the first collapse. A new crevice runs east and west along the rim.
“I think it’s safe,” said John Capps, who farms Triple C Farms for owners Jerry and Tim Callen. Capps placed a board across the new crevice to measure any movement when it appeared in February; the board was still in place on Friday.
So was an old piece of spud-harvesting equipment straddling the fissure, his “seismic measuring system,” he said, laughing.
Capps and Jerome County Commissioner Roger Morley toured the site in February. Morley is more curious about the crevice than concerned about the site. Only the river lies in the canyon below.
The Callen property extends to the edge of the canyon and the BLM owns from the river to the top of the canyon wall. The only view of the rock slide is from private property lining the canyon rim on the south side of the river, but the canyon wall can be seen from 4400 North between 2200 and 2300 East in Twin Falls County. The rock slide extends into the river directly north of 2300 East.
The February collapse clearly changed the geology of the canyon wall. Spring water now flows from the wall where none flowed before.
Jerry Callen, a Jerome County native, said he’s seen rocks slide from the canyon wall into the talus below, but never a chunk this size.
Callen’s nephew Todd Capps took drone video of the floodwater cascading over the rim just after the bedrock exploded from the canyon wall. The video also shows floodwater disappearing into the new crevice and coming out of the canyon wall far below, revealing the extent of the wall’s detachment.
Neither of the Capps cousins seem worried as they jumped up and down along the edge of the canyon, while loose rocks tumbled randomly from the wall.
It might seem safe now, Todd Capps said, but next winter might be a different story, when a new round of freezing and thawing begins to pry at the wall.
For now, the family will let nature take its course.