For many years the Three Islands Ford or Crossing on the Snake River was used by those moving west along the Oregon Trail. Native Americans had used the crossing long before the first white men ever moved west. In 1869 Gustavus Glenn built a ferry so his freight wagons and other traffic along the trail could cross without having to drive their teams and wagons through the dangerous waters. Glenn and his Native American wife, Jenny Toms, raised 7 children in the town named after them. Today’s Glenns Ferry is about a mile upstream from where the ferry was located.
By the mid 1880s, Glenns Ferry had become an important rail hub for the Oregon Short Line Railroad, complete with roundhouse, depot, coal platform, shops, ice house, store and an office building. Here the steam locomotives took on water and coal, and swapped crews.
When the King Hill Irrigation system was built in the early 1900s, water from the Malad River helped the high desert transition into an important farming area. While well suited for many crops, the area became best known for potatoes, sugar beets, melons and hay. These same waters continue to irrigate today’s crops along this stretch of the Snake River Valley.
Visitors can experience much of the area’s history at the Interpretive Center in the Three Islands State Park, located along the river just west of town.
While the two Union Pacific main lines still run through town, most of the structures of the rail era are now gone. However, largely due to a few remnants of the rail, like 5 switched spurs, a renewed interest has been kindled in this small community. The long vacant potato processing plant is spinning to life again, a new Family Dollar Store is under construction and a Subway Sandwich Shop is in the planning stages. Come be part of our launch into the future!