What is the Snake River Plain Aquifer?
The Snake River Plain north of the Snake River is a remarkable aquifer of great resource and economic significance. It is not a single homogeneous geologic formation. Rather it consists of a volcanic pile of the Quaternary Snake River Group basalts. In eastern Idaho, these basalts may be about 1 mile thick. The individual flows are 20 to 30 feet thick with the upper 3 to 6 feet consisting of a very permeable rubble zone. Interbedded alluvial sediments are also found between many of the flows.

In the eastern Snake River Plain, the Snake River lies near the southern edge of the plain, about 40 to 50 miles southeast of the ranges of central Idaho. The rivers in the ranges north of the plain all disappear into the surface of the Snake River Plain near the mountain front. The Little Lost River is a typical example. For about 100 miles downstream from Milner Dam in the vicinity of Twin Falls an estimated total volume of approximately 200 billion cubic feet of water (1.4 cubic miles) enter the Snake River from gigantic springs on the north side of the canyon. This is the well-known Thousand Springs area.

Groundwater flows to the southwest through the Snake River Plains aquifer which is consistent with the overall tilt to the southwest of the basalt strata. The channel of the Snake River cuts through the aquifer. Consequently the gravity and weight of the water in the basalt layers north of the river drives the huge springs.
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