More than 3.5-million years ago, this section of southern Idaho was on a floodplain of a giant lake. Lush grasslands and forests attracted camels, llamas, mastodons, zebra-like horses, and a variety of birds. Their fossils were not discovered until 1928, on the steep bluffs on the west bank of the Snake River, now Lower Salmon Falls Reservoir.
Museum, film, Snake River Overlook, Oregon Trail Overlook
Numerous mammal fossils from the Pliocene Epoch are on display at the National Park Service visitor center, located on the main drag in the small town of Hagerman, Idaho. Scenic overlooks of the Snake River and Oregon Trail are located further south, but there is no public access to the fossil beds.
The 3-mile long Emigrant Trail parallels the Oregon National Historic Trail, which has wagon ruts accessible from both the Snake River Overlook and Oregon Trail Overlook (where there is also a half-mile interpretive trail).
Interstate 84 passes directly over Malad Gorge State Park, north of Hagerman, Idaho. Take the freeway exit and walk to the canyon rim to see the beautiful waterfall you missed from the bridge.
None for Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, but there is a day-use fee at Malad Gorge State Park.
The main access roads are paved. There is a one-lane bridge crossing the Snake River off Highway 30 that was closed during our visit so we took the Gridley Island Bridge instead.
There are places to camp along many sections of the Snake River, but not within the National Monument.
Explore More – How many complete skeletons of zebra-like horses were discovered within Hagerman Fossil Beds?