Friday, December 4, 2020

Motorcycle madness: Evel Knievel's fame lives on in Idaho Visitor Center

Butte, Montana, native Evel Knievel tried a jump in this spectacular canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Jumpers enjoy a tamer form of entertainment --
 still with an element of danger. This is 
a popular adventure at the bridge.



THERE'S SOMETHING attractive about a daredevil. Even when we know know there's danger involved in his recklessness, we watch -- fascinated, if a little afraid.  And so it was for millions of us watching Evel Knievel 46 years ago -- on Sept. 8, 1974. 
That's the date when, with much media fanfare, the famous daredevil attempted his most ambitious feat.
He failed to leap the mile-wide chasm of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on his specially engineered rocket motorcycle. Gravity and a malfunctioning parachute cut his death-defying jump from 1,600 feet to 500 feet but Knievel still made $6 million from the stunt.

The Twin Falls Visitor Center is worth a visit.

HE ATTEMPTED his leap employing a unique "skycycle" which he helped design.  The stunt made him a household name around the world -- he was already a star in my native Montana.  Although few knew his birth name -- Robert Craig Knievel -- everyone knew "Evel" Knievel and we were proud of our Treasure State's most famous daredevil.  In his life he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
 Some of the more famous include flying over the fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, jumping over busses at London's Wembley Stadium, and that abortive trip across the Snake River Canyon in his wild, steam-powered vehicle. 
Now,  just past 13 years since his death on Nov. 30, 2007, in his Florida home, we celebrate this Butte, Montana, native, for his guts,  daring and his sense of showmanship.
A bronze statue pays tribute to
Idaho Falls champion and
founder Ira Burton Perrine.

Thoughtfully planned walking and viewing areas lure
tourists to enjoy the Snake River from on high near
the well designed and modern Idaho Visitor Center.

Butte born, Knievel came full circle. His grave site is in his hometown of Butte, south of town in a grove of trees. His tombstone, with its cartoon rocket car, was chiseled in 1974 and ready in the event that he perished duringn his much publicized jump attempt over the Snake River Canyon. Evel lived through many broken bones acquired in his crazy stunts. His last leap was a gentle one, s to his rocket car tombstone in 2007 at age 69.
 Knievel's Idaho jump
 WHILE KNIEVEL is a star at the Visitor Center, Twin Falls is equally proud of its founder, Ira Burton Perrine, who is immortalized in a lovely bronze and gave the bridge its name. The
center also has an artfully displayed souvenir and gift shop featuring locally-sourced products. There are also a variety of exhibits showcasing the natural features and history of the region. An interpretive center includes a display of settler and civic booster Perrine stagecoach, exhibits about the agricultural history and geology of the Snake River Canyon, and a pleasing array of photos
Although he was born in Montana, Evel
Knievel is immortalized in Idaho, near
the site of one of his few failed jumps.
His Butte tombstone also carries
his famous "rocket cycle" logo.

 and information about the abundant recreational opportunities in the area.
A tribute to Evel
Knievel is one of the
  interesting displays
The Center also serves as a centralized location for exhibits about the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Minidoka National Historic Site, Craters of the Moon National Monument and City of Rocks National Reserve. 
DURING OUR visit, folks were relaxing on the center grounds, and hiking a well developed trail system. We wandered up to a scenic overlook along the Snake's canyon and watched as jumper parachute from the 486-foot-tall Perrine Bridge.
Evel Knievel pulled off a lot of crazy stunts during his lifetime — so many in fact, that some fans actually were disappointed when he and his motorcycle easily jumped over a pyramid of more than 50 smashed cars on the Coliseum floor in 1973.

This tiny hummingbird had a dislocated wing which
prevented his flying from our patio.  We nursed him back.
UP NEXT:  We saved this tiny hummingbird this week, rescuing him after he landed on his back on our patio.  We had no idea there was such hunger for a good-news story, so next column, we salute the hummingbird, our favorite tiny fellow traveler. Its tenacity, prodigious flying talents and attention to its young make it a worthy subject, not to mention its ability to endure swings in the winds and weather. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, family and more. Please share the link with like-minded friends: 


  1. What fun to stop in this little known town (at least to those of us in the East), and find a lovely museum, and a hero from your home state, Cookie! Great photos, Keller.

  2. Fun piece. Loved Evel. And adote Twin Falls and this view.

  3. We relish the small regional museums for their honoring of local people, and this museum has a nice mix of exhibits. Thanks.