Ritter Island is a flat island situated between the cliff at the base of the Snake River Plain in the 1000 Falls area, and the Snake River proper.
The recorded history of this area began with the arrival of French trappers in the 1800s. Pioneers began traveling the Oregon Trail in the 1840s, and entrepreneurs settled in the area to provide services, including a ferry that crossed the Snake River at the south end of the property.
The property was purchased in 1918 by Minnie Miller, a Salt Lake City businesswoman who wanted to make the property a demonstration farm. Miller was a big game hunter, traveler and entrepreneur who appreciated the unique setting of the island and its proximity to the springs.
She set up what was then a state-of-the-art dairy with the intent to breed the world’s finest herd of Guernsey cattle. The house on Ritter Island—known to this day as the Rock House—was built in 1920, as was the barn. The primary purpose of the farm was to produce breeding cattle rather than commercial milk production. Farm workers were able to take the cream produced on the farm home with them in the evenings.
Miller welcomed visitors the island, and many people remember her practicing judging on the Guernseys, coming to her July ice cream socials and enjoying the beauty of the farm.
The Minnie Miller Farm became known for the finest Guernseys in the world, just as Miller wished. These cattle were featured in agricultural and popular magazines around the country during the time.
The farm featured a state-of-the-art milking parlor in the barn, which we explored, up stairs and down, for over an hour.
In 1954, the farm was sold to Federal Judge Willis W. Ritter, who used the island as a private hunting and fishing retreat. The Ritter family owned the island for 32 years.