AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Kimberly
Friday, March 10, 2017
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
Kimberly is near the center of the Magic Valley about four miles east of Twin Falls.
The Snake River flows about three miles north of the city. The Sawtooth National Forest, with peaks rising over 8,000 feet, begins at the Forest Service Headquarters about four miles south of town.
For millennia, the land around what is now Kimberly was an arid sagebrush-covered desert. American Indians—primarily the nomadic Bannock and Shoshone Tribes—passed through the area on their way to their summer and winter encampments.
In 1810 trappers began exploring the Snake River and its tributaries seeking to trap and trade for beaver pelts and map the land.
Beginning in the early 1840s Oregon Trail immigrants traveled along the south bank of the Snake River near what is now Kimberly.
On November 17, 1884, the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) completed construction of a line that began at Granger, Wyoming; angled in a northwesterly direction through Shoshone, about 27 miles due north of what is now Kimberly; then through Caldwell to the railhead at Huntington, Oregon.
On completion, the rail line connected the commercial centers of Omaha, Nebraska, and Portland, Oregon, creating another transcontinental railroad. Railroad interests had completed the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory Summit in northern Utah.
In 1894 Congress passed the Carey Act, one of several laws designed to encourage settlement of lands in the arid West.
Under the Carey Act, the federal government ceded up to a million acres to any state that would cultivate the land under a public-private partnership. Private interests financed and built dams and canals. The State sold parcels of land—from 40 to 160 acres—to individuals. In Idaho, the Idaho State Land Board represented State interests. The developers sold water rights and often platted towns and sold townsite lots. Idaho would ultimately disperse 850,000 acres of its allotment.
Ira B. Perrine, a local farmer and entrepreneur who produced food for the miners in the Wood River Mining District, sought to bring water to the fertile soils of the valley at the turn of the twentieth century.
Perrine attracted several investors—including Frank Buhl and Peter Kimberly, iron and steel manufacturers from Sharon Pennsylvania, and Stanley Milner, a Salt Lake City banker—who raised $3.5 million. They built the dam across the Snake River at The Cedars, a point about 18 miles due east of what is now Kimberly. They formed the Twin Falls Land and Water Company (TFL&W) to build the dam and a system of irrigation canals for hundreds of new farms owned by agricultural entrepreneurs who had purchased land and water rights.
Attuned to the freight demands for the new farms and communities that were opening up, OSL completed a branch line to each of those cities. The first train entered Kimberly in 1905. The next year, the OSL completed the Kimberly Train Depot.
In order to bring water to the north side of the Snake River, Perrine assembled other investors and formed the Twin Falls North Side Land and Water Company, known as the North Side Project. They built canals and pumped irrigation water from Milner Reservoir into Wilson Lake Reservoir which fed the Main North Side Canal.
The TFL&W platted the town of Kimberly in 1905 and began selling building lots. The village soon took shape with a general store, a bank, a livery stable, a blacksmith, a meat market, a pool hall and a post office.
Turning sagebrush lands into productive farms was particularly arduous. After families labored by hand and horse-drawn conveyances to clear the sagebrush, they had to plow and level the land sufficiently to allow flood irrigation. After they planted their fields, thousands of jack rabbits spread across the land, devouring the crops as they emerged from the soil.
In 1905 Kimberly became an incorporated village. On August 8, 1967, Kimberly became an incorporated city in conformance with the new Idaho municipal law.
Irrigating the Desert and Establishing New Cities
When completed, the hydroelectric Milner Dam stood 73 feet high and 2,160 feet long and created a 4,000-acre reservoir. The dam provided irrigation water on both the north and south sides of the Snake River. It utilized gravity flow on the south, but electric pumps were required on the north side. Several new towns and the dam itself were named after some of the major investors.
The TFL&W delivered irrigation water to the farms south of the Snake River Canyon in 1905, ultimately irrigating about 244,000 acres. The irrigation water led to the creation of the farming communities of Kimberly, named after Peter Kimberly; Hansen; Twin Falls; Filer; and Buhl.
The North Side Project would eventually irrigate 185,000 acres and lead to the establishment of Hazelton, Eden, Jerome and Wendell.
Amenities and Attractions Today
Kimberly has three parks. City Park has two baseball fields, a tennis court, basketball hoops, a playground, three horseshoe pits, a pavilion, a picnic area and a covered stage. Kimberly Meadows has a playground for kids.
Stricker Ranch, a museum with many artifacts and exhibits of the Oregon Trail and the area’s early settlement, is just outside of town. Also known as the Rock Creek Store and Stage Station established in 1865 as a stage stop on the Kelton Road—a wagon road that generally ran between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, and also, after the first intercontinental railroad was completed in 1869, from the railhead at Kelton, Utah, on the north end of the Great Salt Lake to Boise—it is now owned and managed by the Idaho State Historical Society with assistance from the Friends of Stricker, Inc.
The Kimberly Public Library is located in the historic train depot. The library provides an After School Program once a week and a four-week summer program for grade school children as well as a "Mommy and Me" program for toddlers. High school students volunteer in this program as do members of the Kiwanis Club. The library also offers after school and evening hours and safe Internet accessibility.
Each year at the end of April, the city celebrates the Day of the Child—a day filled with children’s activities including a special lunch and book reads. At that time, school children also learn about and plant trees, celebrating Arbor Day and the city’s heritage as a "Tree City."
Each June, the Kimberly Business Owner’s Association (KBOA) sponsors Kimberly Cruise, an antique car show.
On the second weekend in July, the city celebrates Kimberly Good Neighbor Days at City Park. The celebration includes a parade, dinner in the park, family activities and vendor booths.
KBOA hosts a Halloween Trunk-or-Treat event in City Park for a safe environment for the youth in the community. They serve hotdogs and give out bags of candy to every participant. All of the vehicles pull in with their trunks facing inward toward the park. The kids are able to visit each decorated car "trunk" and receive candy. The association hands out nearly 1,000 bags of candy each year.
On the first weekend in December, the community ushers in the holiday season with the Christmas Tree Lighting celebration. Residents gather in downtown Kimberly for an evening of festivities including the lighting of the tree and the arrival of St. Nicholas on his horse, bringing gifts to the children. The streets are closed to traffic and burn barrels are placed in the streets for heat. The stores remain open, and the Senior Citizens serve meals.
Wilson Lake Reservoir, 15 miles northeast, is a 600-acre fishery that, in 1976, produced the largest perch caught in Idaho—15½ inches, 2 pounds ten ounces.
The Minidoka Internment National Monument, managed by the National Park Service, is about 13 miles northwest of town. It marks a national tragedy following the December 7, 1941, surprise attack by the Empire of Japan on the United States at Pearl Harbor when all known Americans of Japanese ancestry living in West Coast communities were stripped of their constitutional rights and imprisoned. The Jerome County Museum in Jerome has exhibits and artifacts commemorating the camp’s history. (See The Region, World War II—Hunt Camp, Imprisonment of American Citizens of Japanese Descent.)
The 212-foot-high Shoshone Falls on the Snake River—higher than the famous Niagara Falls near Buffalo, New York—and park are three miles north.
Thousand Springs State Park has several units located on the Snake River at various points between Twin Falls and five miles north of Hagerman. These park units and fisheries include spectacularly beautiful spring-fed waterfalls tumbling hundreds of feet from the north rim of the Snake River Canyon and white-water rapids interspersed with crystal-clear pools of water and springs that restore the Snake River. (See The Region, Distinctive Geographic and Geologic Features.)
Downhill skiing is available at Magic Mountain Ski Resort in the Sawtooth National Forest about 28 miles south of the city and Pomerelle Resort a similar distance to the southwest.
The 750,000-acre Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve begins about 14 miles to the north. There is no road access on this side of the preserve. The preserve includes Idaho’s Great Rift, the source of the lava flow that created the unique volcanic landscape. (See Eastern Idaho, The Region—Distinctive Geographic and Geologic Features.)
In addition to outdoor activities available in the Snake River Canyon, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, swimming, boating and winter sports are also available in nearby reservoirs, the national forest and the preserve.
Perhaps the most significant amenity that Kimberly residents enjoy is living in a quiet rural environment while being within a few miles of Twin Falls with its regional shopping mall, hospital, airport and community college.