Basalt–Spotlight

A Hidden Gem

By Geraldine Mathias

Occasionally, I take projects to a quilter friend who lives on Goshen Road, several miles northeast of Firth. To get there, I pass by a small town called Basalt. Signs on each end of the city welcome visitors to the town, but until recently I had never driven through it. The name Basalt reminded me of a years-ago Idaho State University geology course taught by Dr. Tom Ore (could there have been a more appropriate name?). We learned to identify all manner of local formations, but especially lava. Basaltic lava was one of them, for good reason. Ancient flows are found in numerous places along the Idaho batholith. Interstate 15 North crosses a prominent easternmost flow on the southern edge of the batholith.

Basaltic lava comes from shield volcanoes that erupt liquid magma rather than ash or rocks. Hence, we see mostly cracks or fissures and few domes around here, although domes also can be shield volcanoes. The flow that early 19th Century trappers named Hell’s Half Acre spreads widely throughout the valley and is estimated to have experienced its latest activity around five thousand years ago, relatively recent in geologic time.

In spite of Basalt’s name, which never intrigued me because it called forth images of black rock and sagebrush, it is what I have come to consider a hidden gem. Except for the sign along Highway 91 about a half-mile north of Firth, you might not know it’s there, but turn off the highway, drive another half mile, and there you are—population 394 in the last census. If I were a movie producer looking for a place to shoot a film set in the 1940s or ‘50s, I would consider Basalt. Its wide, quiet streets with lots of huge trees, older homes, and expansive yards make parts of it look like a place out of the past.

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