Shoshone Ice Caves

Useful Information

Location: 27 km north of Shoshone. Hwy. 75.
Open: MAY to SEP daily 8-20. [2006]
Classification: Speleologylava tube SpeleologyIce cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=305 m.
Guided tours: V=15,000/a
Address: Shoshone Ice Caves, 1561 N. Hwy. 75, Shoshone, ID, Tel: +1-208-886-2058.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1880s the caves were an ice source for the town of Shoshone.
1940s overdevelopment and a poorly placed access tunnel melted the entire ice.
1950s acquired by the Robinson family.
1962 ice effect restored by Russell Robinson.


Shoshone Ice Caves are lava tubes with the typical collapsed roof serving as an entrance. The cold trap effect and the extremely different temperatures in Idaho between summer and winter make it perfect ice cave. The cold air flowing down into the cave during winter freezes all water entering the cave through fractures, producing a continuous layer of ice. The temperature inside the cave is constant. although it differs between different parts of the cave between -7 °C and 0.5 °C. At the same time the outside temperature may reach 37 °C. Warm clothes and sturdy shoes are a good idea.

This lava tube is - as it is typical for this kind of cave - a single tube, almost straight, and more than 300 m long. The passage is up to 12 m high and between 3 and 10 m wide. The path is built as a wooden bridge above the thick layer of ice covering almost the whole cave floor. The cave ends with a wall of ice.

The caves are sometimes called a tourist trap. Obviously the cave is a unique sight which is very interesting, still it is not very spectacular. Former owners tried to improve the cave by installing various sculpures outside and even some dioramas inside the cave. The ones inside, like the skating girl and yesteryear's elf, were fortunately removed. Still there are a green dinosaur with a cave man sitting on its neck, a three-story high Chief Wasakie statue and a bull at the museum entrance which have survived. Concrete sculptures of early natives, stone age (ice) cave men and women, stand along the path down to the cave. Although they are of doubtful beauty, they are a great fun for children.

The place is mentioned in various legends and even said to be haunted. The Indian Princess Edahow was buried in the ice, and waits patiently to reemerge. About the same category is the story of the cave bear found inside the cave. Cave bears did not live in America, they are only found in Europe.

Nearby Shoshone Ice Caves is Bennett Hills Recreation Management Area which has fourteen lava tubes. One of them, called T-Maze Caves is accessible for visitors but undeveloped. There is also a cave which is the best example of a Speleologyblister cave in Idaho. This area is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.