Wildlife is nearer than you think. The secret is knowing where and when to look. Idaho has some of the most beautiful, scenic country, much of which is public land. Breathtaking views of forests, mountains, springs, grasslands, hot springs, and rivers abound. All this means great habitat for wildlife and great wildlife viewing.
Coeur d'Alene Cougar Bay
Size: 226 acres
Description: Cougar Bay is shallow, rich with aquatic vegetation, and bordered by marshland, coniferous forest, and fields that attract abundant wildlife.
Viewing Information: During fall and spring migration, the bays are filled with waterfowl, including tundra swans, Canada geese, wood ducks, blue-winged and cinnamon teal, shovellers, ruddy ducks, and mallards. Bald eagles are common in winter. Summer breeding birds include osprey, great blue heron, sora, killdeer, spotted sandpiper, common snipe, mountain bluebird, violet-green swallow, cinnamon teal, and red-necked, pied-billed, and western grebes. A bald eagle pair nests in the area. Western toads and Pacific tree frogs croak loudly at night. The proximity of forest and farmlands provides year-round songbirds, including warblers, chickadees, flycatchers, and woodpeckers, along with raptors, elk, deer, coyote, and black bear.
Directions: Interpretive trails lead from the wetlands to the forested areas. Canoe access is available at Cougar Beach, a BLM property 1.5 miles south of the bridge crossing the Spokane River.
Closest Town: Coeur d'Alene
More Information: The Nature Conservancy (208) 676-8176
Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce 1-877-782-9232
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 2,774 acres
Description: Located 20 miles from the Canadian border and five miles from the town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, the wide variety of habitats in this scenic refuge support abundant and diverse wildlife. Meadows are interspersed with grain fields and wetlands in the valley bottom adjacent to the Kootenai River. Wetlands feature open-water ponds, cattail marshes, tree-lined ponds, and rushing creeks. A small portion of the refuge ascends the foothills of the densely forested Selkirk Mountains.
Viewing Information: Approximately 220 bird and 45 mammal species are found on the refuge. Tundra swans, Canada geese, and ducks are most abundant during spring and fall migrations. Common summertime birds include the great blue heron, Canada goose, osprey, northern harrier, ruffed grouse, great horned owl, and numerous songbirds. Bald eagles, which nest on the refuge and rough - legged hawks, are present in higher numbers from November through March. Look for elk, deer, moose, beaver, coyote, and black bear during fall and spring--especially in the morning and evening hours. View the refuge via a 4.5-mile auto tour, or from 5.5 miles of walking trails. A wildlife viewing blind is located about 0.25 mile past the office. There are mountain biking trails to the west of the refuge; check with the Forest Service for best routes. Refuge use is restricted during fall waterfowl hunting season on weekends, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
Directions: You can reach the refuge by taking Riverside Road, on the south bank of the Kootenai River, at Bonners Ferry. Drive west for five miles to the refuge entrance. The office is two miles beyond the entrance and is open Monday through Friday. Drive with caution! The county roads are narrow and used by logging trucks. Brochures, maps, and a wildlife checklist are available at the office and at several boxes on the refuge.
Closest Town: Bonners Ferry
More Information: USFWS (208)267-3888
Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce (208)267-5922
McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area
Size: 1,200 acres
Description: This WMA, with 600 acres of marshy lake surrounded by very scenic coniferous forest, was the state's first land acquisition for waterfowl production. This site supports over 2,000 ducks (American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-Winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Common Golden Eye, and Bufflehead) and Canada Goose during migration in the spring and fall. Significant populations of waterfowl, secretive marsh birds, and shorebirds nest here. American White Pelican and 100 shorebirds (Killdeer, Wilson's Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Western, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers) can be seen in late summer. Nesting birds include Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and Vaux's Swift. Bald Eagles nest here regularly.
Viewing Information: McArthur Lake hosts hundreds of tundra swans and Canada Geese and thousands of Ducks and American Coots through spring and fall migrations. Lesser numbers of Black Terns, Virginia Rails, Red-Necked Grebes, and Marsh Wrens also occur. Other species to look for include Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Great Blue Herons; Shorebirds are common along the west shore in August. In June, moose frequently feed in the lake in the early morning. Hunting and fishing are popular here; boating is allowed from July 1 to March 15.
Directions: From Bonners Ferry, travel S on US 95 ~13 mi (from Sandpoint, travel N on US 95 ~18 mi); just N of the McArthur Lake Dam turn W on McArthur Lake Rd (formerly CR 4) at the "Sportsman's Access" sign; take the first L (S) to get to the parking area, restroomS, and boat launch. A brochure is available at the IDFG office in Coeur d'Alene.
Closest Town: Naples
More Information: IDFG (208) 769-1414; (208) 263-6004
Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce (208) 263-2161
Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area/Waha Lake
Size: 78,000 acres
Description: The WMA is managed primarily for big game and upland birds and supports up to 1,000 mule deer, a few white-tailed deer (at higher elevations), 200 elk, and 30 bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep were reintroduced in 1977 when several Washington-stocked sheep swam the Snake River and again in 1984 when the IDFG transplanted sheep from Wyoming.
Viewing Information: The best opportunity for sheep viewing is from the road along the Ronde River. The higher elevation areas contain many snags, making great woodpecker habitat. White-headed woodpeckers, an uncommon species in Idaho, are fairly common here. Great gray owls have also been seen with increasing frequency on Craig Mountain. A few amphibians, reptiles (watch out for rattlesnakes), and numerous wildflowers and cactus provide secondary viewing opportunities.
Directions: US 12 into Lewiston city center; cross S over the Clearwater River; at the 5-way intersection, follow signs to 21st St and Thain Rd; drive S on 21 St through Lewiston Orchards and the road becomes Thain Rd; stay on this road as it becomes 2 lanes, and changes names again to 14th St and finally Ripon Ave and turns E; progress down a hill and come out on Lower Tammany Ck Rd 505 (P2); when you come to Y intersection, turn R (S) onto Waha Rd (CR 540) for 7.7 mi to Redbird Rd. REDBIRD RD: turn R (W) onto Redbird Rd just N of Waha Lake for 1.7 miles to IDFG road on the L (S); drive IDFG rd S ~2 mi to parking area (Captain John's Access); backtrack to Redbird Rd and continue W to other parking area (Redbird Access). WAHA LAKE: backtrack to Waha Rd and continue S for 1.8 mi to intersection; R at intersection to lake. CRAIG MTN WMA AND SOLDIERS MEADOW RES: backtrack from Waha Lake to intersection and continue E for 1 mi to where gravel begins; continue S on Zaza Rd (CR 541) for another 5 mi to intersection with CR 575 (Soldiers Meadow Rd). TWO CHOICES: 1) SOLDIERS MEADOW RESERVOIR: zero odometer; continue E on Soldiers Meadow Rd for 2.7 mi to reservoir. 2) CRAIG MOUNTAIN WMA: turn R (S) on Zaza Rd 0.9 mi to parking at Kruze Meadows; then continue S on Zaza Rd 5.1 mi to sign for Eagle Ck Rd and hike road behind the gate on the NW side of the road; cut up to ridgetop for a view of the Snake River Canyon; continue S to the ghost town of Zaza at mi 9.6; road is not maintained from here on, but at mi 12.4 CR 540 will climb for another view of the Snake River Canyon.
Closest Town: Lewiston
More Information: IDFG (208) 799-5010 or (208) 743-6502, BLM (208) 962-3245
Lewiston Chamber of Commerce (208) 743-3531
Size: 214,000 acres
Description: These seven rocky alpine peaks climb skyward from the Snake River to over 9,300 feet and are often snow-capped into July. They provide excellent habitat for mountain goats--the main wildlife attraction at this site--best viewed from July to September. Heavens Gate Lookout offers an incredible view of portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Several hiking trails lead to over 30 alpine lakes.
Viewing Information: Watch for golden eagles, yellow-bellied marmots, Columbian ground squirrels, pika, and the tracks of black bear and coyote. Seven Devils Lake is a popular canoeing spot. There are spectacular meadow wildflower blooms in July with dogtooth violet, trillium, Rocky Mountain iris, and wild hyacinth, to name a few. On the drive up watch for elk, white-tailed deer, and ruffed and blue grouse.
Directions: From Riggins, US 95 S ~2 mi; R (W) onto FR 517; go 17 mi up the steep gravel rd to Windy Saddle Trailhead. Maps of the area are available at the USFS office, which is well signed from the highway south of Riggins.
Closest Town: Riggins
More Information: USFS (208) 839-2211; (208) 628-3916
Riggins Chamber of Commerce (208) 628-3778
Upper Lochsa River
Size: 65 miles of river
Description: Part of the National Wild and Scenic River System, this scenic river canyon features steep slopes covered by a mosaic of evergreen trees and deciduous shrubs. There are frequent opportunities to stop and scan for a high diversity of wildlife, although only the most common animals are easily seen. The diverse vegetation created by large wildfires in the early and mid-1900s supports one of the nation's largest elk and deer herds.
Viewing Information: In winter and spring, early mornings and late afternoons, look for elk and white-tailed deer on steep canyon slopes. An excellent place to view moose during summer and fall is at the Elk Summit Cabin south of the Powell Ranger Station. Although a two-hour drive from the main highway, the moose viewing is well worth the drive. Twenty miles east of Lowell, Wilderness Gateway Campground, near milepost 122, has good birding trails. Common songbirds include red-eyed, solitary, and warbling vireos; yellow, yellow-rumped, orange-crowned, and MacGillivray's warblers; hummingbirds; thrushes; and flycatchers. During late spring and early summer, listen for belted kingfisher and Steller's jay calls along the river, where osprey, common merganser, and harlequin ducks nest. In winter look for bald eagles and river otters. The Lochsa River and its tributaries provide important spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead trout and chinook salmon. A 30-minute self-guided auto tour of USFS fishery habitat improvement work takes you a mile up Papoose Creek Road near milepost 158. Many backcountry trails originate along U.S. 12. For shorter walks, trail bridges at mileposts 112, 136, and 152 lead to the south side of the river. A short nature trail, Colgate Licks (milepost 148), interprets wildlife, fisheries, and other natural resources of the river corridor. At Lowell is the Three Rivers Resort restaurant, where several hummingbird feeders attract black-chinned, calliope, and rufous hummingbirds easily viewed while dining. Visitors passing through Montana may stop at the Lolo Pass visitor center for viewing opportunities. Occasionally moose, elk, and deer are seen nearby. There are good mountain biking trails in the area, where you may see western tanager, Steller's and gray jays, Clark's nutcracker, mountain bluebird, pine siskin, and Swainson's and hermit thrushes. Rafting is popular on the Lochsa River.
Directions: Take U.S. 12 to Lowell, 28 miles east of Kooskia, where the Lochsa and Selway Rivers join, and continue upstream for 65 miles to near the Powell Ranger Station. To reach Elk Summit, turn off U.S. 12 at the Powell Ranger Station sign near milepost 162. Follow this gravel road for two miles and turn left immediately after crossing the river (onto Forest Road 111). In three miles take the right fork (Forest Road 360), and continue another 12 miles to Elk Summit. Three Rivers Resort is adjacent to the Lochsa River just upstream from where it joins the Selway River. USFS maps are available at the Kooskia Ranger Station. Lolo Pass also has maps and information on the area.
Closest Town: Lowell, Powell
More Information: USFS (926-4275, 942-3113)
Lochsa Ranger District (208) 926-4274
Missoula, MT Chamber of Commerce (406) 543-6623
Ponderosa State Park
Size: 1,600 acres
Description: This state park, named for its very old ponderosa pines, sits on a 2 ½-mile forested peninsula that almost bisects Payette Lake. The park has varied topography and habitats, with arid sagebrush flats, steep basaltic cliffs, dense conifer groves, meadows, and marshes. Of particular interest are two marshes evolving to meadowland. The park offers nature trails, guided walks with park naturalists, and evening campfire programs. Wildlife diversity is high, though many species can only be seen at dawn or dusk.
Viewing Information: During spring and summer look for Pacific tree frogs, western toads, long-toed salamanders, and garter snakes in the two marsh areas as well as mule deer, grouse, great horned and barred owl, pileated woodpecker, Swainson's thrush, and many other songbirds. Black bear, red fox, badger, and bobcat are rarely seen, although tracks left during nocturnal visits may be spotted. Common winter wildlife includes red squirrels, moose, red fox, white-tailed and mule deer, woodpeckers, nuthatches, osprey, and bald eagles. The park is also rich in floral diversity with bright wildflower blooms in spring and summer. Look for lilies, penstemmon, spring beauties, trillium, and clematis. For additional viewing, the McCall Fish Hatchery raises summer chinook, a threatened species. Visitors can observe chinook rearing from the egg stage to the pre-smolt stage. Cross-country skiing is popular in the winter. The North Fork Payette River is an excellent wildlife viewing area by canoe.
Directions: Signs to the park are posted at every major intersection in McCall. From ID 55 in McCall (3rd St), turn E onto Railroad Ave; travel for 0.2 mi; L onto Roosevelt and travel 0.2 mi; R on Hemlock and travel 0.1 mi; L onto Davis St and continue straight to the park entrance in another 1.6 mi. The visitor center has park and trail maps, bird and plant checklists, and wildlife notes. The McCall Hatchery is open year-round.
Closest Town: McCall
More Information: IDFG (208) 634-2164
McCall Chamber of Commerce 1-800-260-5130; (208) 634-7631
Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area
Size: 485,000 acres
Description: The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) was established by Congress in 1993 to protect a unique desert environment that supports North America's highest density of nesting raptors. More than 700 pairs of raptors nest each spring along 81 miles of the Snake River Canyon, including 150-200 pairs of Prairie Falcons (highest breeding density in the world).
Viewing Information: Other nesters include American Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Barred, Burrowing, Great Horned, Long-eared, Northern Saw-whet, Short-eared, and Western Screech-Owls. Mid-March through end of June is best time to see the raptors. Riparian bottomlands provide nesting habitat for Lazuli Bunting, Say's Phoebe, and other songbirds. Celebration Park is located on the western boundary of the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA. North of parking area, look for flight displays of Long-billed Curlew. Nesting Killdeer, Bullock's Oriole, and Lazuli Bunting can be seen around the visitor center. Look for Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, six swallow species, Rock and Canyon Wrens, and Loggerhead Shrike. During the fall and winter, American White Pelican can be seen. Year-round species include Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Chukar, California Quail, Northern Bobwhite, Common Nighthawk, gulls, and terns. 20 species of raptors can be seen, including nesting Golden Eagles on Guffey Butte. In March watch for eagle flight displays; in May for chick feeding; and the first week of June for fledging of the young.
Directions: Follow a 56 mi loop tour beginning at Kuna Visitor Center, to Swan Falls Dam, Celebration Park, and back to Kuna. I-84 Exit #44; S on Meridian Rd (ID 69) for 8 mi; as you enter Kuna, Swan Falls Rd turns to the L (S); S on Swan Falls Rd 20 mi to Swan Falls Dam (stop at mi 3, 10.2, 11.5, 15.5, 17.7, 20, 39); backtrack on Swan Falls Rd N 8 mi to Victory Ln; L (W) on Victory Ln for 3 mi; R (N) on McDermott Rd 1 mi; L (W) on Spur Rd 2.5 mi; L (S) onto CanAda Rd 1 mi; R (W) on Victory Ln to Celebration Park (mi 39); visitor center on R; admission charge at Celebration Park.
Closest Town: Kuna, Grandview
C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area
Size: 12,500 acres
Description: The C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area encompasses 20,725 acres of C.J Strike Reservoir, adjacent marshes, ponds and wildlife food plots, extending 26 miles up the Snake River and 12 miles up the Bruneau River, between the towns of Grand View and Bruneau, Idaho. The land is owned by Idaho Power Company, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management.
Viewing Information: Ducks, geese, wading birds, and shorebirds number in the thousands during migration periods.Many raptor species nest in the area. White-tailed and mule deer are commonly seen at dawn and dusk. Viewers can drive on dirt roads that lead to the shoreline, walk or bike on roads, or boat the reservoir. Because the management emphasis for the area focuses on waterfowl and upland game bird production, much of the area is closed to the public from February 1 through July 31. Pick up a map at the WMA headquarters showing the various boat ramps, campgrounds, and access points to the reservoir shoreline. This site is a wildlife production, hunting, and fishing area, so there are seasonal access restrictions to portions of the area.
Directions: From Mountain Home, S on ID 51 for 15 mi; cross river; follow ID 51/78 for 6.5 mi SW; W on ID 78 for 2.5 mi to WMA headquarters.
Closest Town: Bruneau
More Information: IDFG (208) 845-2324
Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce (208) 587-4334
Look for side-blotched, western fence and sagebrush lizards, gopher snakes, scorpions, ground squirrels, cottontail and black-tailed jackrabbits in the sagebrush, winterfat and cheatgrass habitat surrounding Dedication Point. From the canyon rim overlook, 400 feet above the Snake River, watch for seasonal raptors, including golden eagle, red-tailed and Swainson's hawks, American kestrel, prairie falcon, osprey, and turkey vulture. Also look for canyon and rock wrens, Say's phoebe, cliff and violet-green swallows, white-throated swifts, common ravens and rock doves. Sage and Brewer's sparrows and western meadowlarks can also be seen in the shrubs along the trail. Facilities include vehicle parking, two vault toilets, interpretive kiosk and trail signs, and a short gravel trail that leads to the overlook.
Ted Trueblood Wildlife Area
Size: 320 acres
Description: Called the "duck ponds" for many years, this area covers nearly 300 acres of public land upon which three ponds were constructed in 1969. The name of the area was changed in 1987 in memory of Ted Trueblood, an avid hunter, conservationist, public land advocate and renowned outdoor writer who made his home in Idaho. This reservoir is bordered by marshes, ponds, and wildlife food plots. Ducks, geese, wading birds, and shorebirds can number in the thousands during migration periods. Waterfowl and shorebirds linger until late Dec freeze-up. Shorebirds include American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt. Common nesters include Cinnamon Teal and Burrowing and Long-eared Owls. American White Pelican, White-faced Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets, Franklin's and Herring Gulls, and Caspian, Forster's and Black Terns may also be present. Dunlin are regular in late fall/early winter. Sora and Virginia Rail are commonly heard except coldest months. Sparrows are best viewed in late fall to early spring; species include American Tree, Swamp, Savannah, and Vesper. Winter raptors include Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, and all falcons except Gyrfalcon.
All three ponds are located west of Highway 67 just north of Grand View, Idaho. Ponds 1 and 2 are accessible from a parking area one mile north of the Grand View bridge over the Snake River. Pond 3 can be reached from Shaw Lane, another half mile north from the parking area. Part of the area is closed to foot traffic during the waterfowl breeding season. Closure dates are posted.
Directions: From the intersection of ID 78/ID 67 in Grand View, follow ID 67 (Roosevelt Ave) N 1.4 mi; L (W) into parking lot; another viewing area can be accessed by continuing N on ID 67 for 0.5 mi; L on Shaw Ln for 0.6 mi; viewing area on L.
Closest Town: Grand View
More Information: BLM (208) 845-2324
Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce (208) 587-4334
Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway
There are year-round opportunities for wildlife viewing with exceptional elk viewing in winter and spring. Herds of elk numbering near one hundred are not an unusual sight, especially near the Danskin river access. Along with elk are mule deer, whitetail deer, chukars, wild turkeys, eagles, ospreys, cougars, bears, and wolves. In summer months this stretch of river is world renowned for rafting and kayaking.
The route travels along the Banks-Lowman road. It can be accessed either at Banks along Idaho 55 or at Lowman along Idaho 21. Either point of access brings the traveler back to a route leading to Boise. Length: 33.0 miles. Allow three hours for the loop from Boise and back.
More Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.idahobyways.gov
Hagerman Wildlife Management Area
Size: 880 acres
Description: U.S. 30 in the Hagerman Valley is known as the "Thousand Springs Scenic Route." Here the disappearing Lost River of east-central Idaho returns to spew forth a series of white waterfalls down black canyon cliffs. The Snake River Plain aquifer is a massive underground system of lakes and "lost rivers" more than 150 miles long. The clear spring water, at 58o F, is just the right temperature for trout farming. In fact, 90% of the nation's commercial trout are raised in the valley.
Viewing Information: Marshy ponds surrounded by emergent aquatic vegetation provide great habitat for waterfowl and wading birds. Common species include Canada Goose, Ring-Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon, Pied-Billed and Western Grebes, American Avocet, and Black-Crowned Night-Heron. Raptors seen in the area include Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, and Great Horned and Barn Owls. Among the less common species are the Common Loon, Black-Necked Stilt, Tundra Swan, and Forster's Tern. Adjacent uplands are managed for game birds. Fishing and hunting are popular here. At the nearby Hagerman National Fish Hatchery Rainbow and Steelhead Trout can be viewed in indoor and outdoor rearing units.
Directions: I-84 Exit #155 (Hagerman/Wendell); zero mileage; W on Hagerman Hwy (2950 S) 8.7 mi; at T intersection, turn L (S) on US 30; S on US 30 to rest area at mp 183.6 to bird, the planted trees and dike trail along marsh; 0.3 mi S of the rest area, at mp 183.3, L onto State Fish Hatchery Rd; go 0.4 mi to state and federal fish hatchery. Viewing is mainly by driving the roads, but you can also walk the wide, dry dikes. The state fish hatchery is within the HWMA. At the nearby Hagerman National Fish Hatchery, you'll find interpretive displays, a brochure, and a self-guided tour.
Closest Town: Hagerman
More Information: IDFG (208) 324-4359; USFWS (208) 837-4896
Hagerman Valley Chamber of Commerce (208) 837-9131
Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 20,721 acres
Description: The NWR extends for 25 miles along the Snake River from Minidoka Dam and includes all of Lake Walcott. The reservoir has several islands and marshy areas. The topography is primarily low, rolling hills and lava rock ledges up to 30 feet high along the shore.
Viewing Information: Migratory waterfowl are the most prominent wildlife on the refuge, an important stopover point in the Pacific Flyway. Flocks of over 500 tundra swans, along with 27 other waterfowl species have been recorded. The refuge has Idaho's only nesting white pelicans, with over 100 pairs. Many songbirds and raptors nest or migrate through the refuge, which also hosts a wide variety of mammals, including mule deer, beaver, muskrat, and mountain cottontail. Pronghorn are here in small numbers.
Directions: At intersection of ID 24 and ID 25 in the town of Rupert, zero odometer; W on ID 24 (8th St); cross railroad track; immediate R (N) on A St (Meridian Rd); immediately turn R (NE) again onto ID 24 (Read Ave); follow signs for ID 24 and Minidoka NWR; mi 5.9 turn R on Minidoka Dam Rd (400 N); drive toward park HQ; mi 11.3 Walcott SP entrance; NWR and SP share common gate; L at fork in road; L to boat ramp, R to NWR.
Closest Town: Rupert
More Information: USFWS (208) 436-3589; SP (208) 436-1258
Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce (208) 679-4793
Rock Creek Canyon / Shoshone Basin
Size: 5 miles (winter along Rock Creek), 40 miles
Description: The paved road through Rock Creek Canyon travels through a steep rock-walled canyon along the riparian-lined Rock Creek. Other sites include a 25-acre marsh fenced to protect nesting birds and the Shoshone Basin sagebrush flats.
Viewing Information: The canyon offers easy viewing of mule deer on their winter range, especially from December through February. Although winter wildlife viewing is limited, the Magic Mountain area has several cross-country ski trails. Occasionally a porcupine, long-tailed weasel, or Steller's or gray jay may be seen. May to October visitors may view wildlife near Electric Spring and in the Shoshone Basin. On the way to these sites, look along Rock Creek for the Yellow Warbler, American Goldfinch, Belted Kingfisher, and Common Flicker. Near the marsh near Electric Spring watch for nesting waterfowl and wading birds. Look for the USFS interpretive signs and for geese and ducks on the nesting islands. The forest has numerous campgrounds and hiking trails. Head west from the marsh into the sagebrush flatlands of the Shoshone Basin, and spot Pronghorn and Sage Grouse.
Directions: Contact the USFS in Twin Falls, Idaho for information on ski trails. Maps are available in Twin Falls and Burley.
Closest Town: Hansen
More Information: BLM (208) 678-5514; USFS (208) 737-3200
Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce (866) 894-6325
Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 18,000 acres
Description: This NWR lies in the mountain-ringed Bear Valley at elevations ranging from 5,925 feet on the marsh to 6,800 feet on the rocky slopes of Merkley Mountain. It encompasses what is locally known as Dingle Swamp and is comprised mainly of bulrush-cattail marsh, open water, and flooded meadows of sedges, rushes, and grasses. The dense bulrush stands provide nest material, breeding sites, and concealment for a diversity of small mammals and migratory birds. April and May are ideal months to view incoming waterfowl in breeding plumage.
Viewing Information: The Salt Meadow Wildlife Observation Route is a good area to observe a high diversity of birds, including Canada geese, redheads, sandhill cranes, willets, and Wilson's phalaropes. The refuge harbors one of North America's largest nesting colonies of white-faced ibis. In summer, western grebes, double-crested cormorants, gadwalls, and Franklin's gulls become abundant. In September, watch 100-150 sandhill cranes feeding on refuge grains. Severe winter weather forces most waterfowl to migrate south by late November, although you may see some common and hooded mergansers, goldeneyes, and bald eagles if the water remains open. Mule deer winter by the hundreds along Merkley Mountain and on the Montpelier Wildlife Management Area, and one or two elusive moose are present year-round. Other mammals include muskrats, striped skunks, and Nutall's cottontail. Five endemic fish species live in Bear Lake. The refuge is open to winter cross-country skiing wherever hiking is permitted. At times, large portions of the refuge are closed to protect wildlife during sensitive periods. Most interior roads are open to year-round vehicle traffic. Hiking is not permitted form March 1 through June 20 to protect nesting birds.
Directions: From Montpelier, take US 89 SW 3.3 mi; stop at USFWS office (at 370 Webster St) for a map and bird list; L (S) at Bear Lake NWR sign (Airport Rd); zero odometer; continue S at airport turn-off; mi 4.9 is the refuge entrance; maps available at mi 5.1; continue S following the sign for the Observation Route (a square loop ~0.5 mi on each side); respect seasonal closures; return to refuge entrance and re-zero odometer; R (E) on Paris-Dingle Rd 5.2 mi to Dingle; R (S) on Dingle Rd 13.1 mi; R (W) on N Beach Rd; entrance to Bear Lake State Park is at mi 15 (entrance fee to park); continue W to mi 20 to reach US 89; R (N) to Paris and Montpelier. The restrooms and picnic area are at North Beach State Park on the southern boundary of the refuge. Camping sites are available on nearby USFS lands.
Closest Town: Montpelier
More Information: USFWS (208) 847-1757
Bear Lake Chamber of Commerce (208) 847-0067
Cherry Springs Nature Area
Size: 180 acres
Description: This site includes three self-guided nature trails with over 50 interpretive signs, two learning centers, and an amphitheater. The trail guide provides wildlife, botanical, and geological information, and asks questions that encourage active observation and interpretation. The trails wind through dense riparian vegetation bordered by mountainous sagebrush-grassland and juniper habitats.
Viewing Information: Of the over 100 documented bird species, common nesting species include poor-will, hermit and Swainson's thrushes, Virginia and black-throated gray warblers, green-tailed and spotted towhees, and dusky, gray, and Hammond's flycatchers. During fall and winter, look for the ruby-crowned kinglet, Bohemian and cedar waxwings, solitary and warbling vireos, dark-eyed junco, and golden eagle. Thirty mammal and several reptile and amphibian species inhabit the area, although tracks or other signs may be the best way to "see" them. Common mammals include the least chipmunk, red squirrel, white-tailed jackrabbit, western spotted skunk, coyote, and red fox. The sagebrush lizard, western skink, gopher and garter snakes, and western rattlesnake are often seen.
Directions: Birding is good along Mink Creek and its major tributaries--the East, West, and South Forks, plus Kinney Creek. The Mink Creek drainage ends at Crystal Summit, approximately 4.5 miles past the Nature Area. Pick up a trail guide and wildlife checklists at the information shelter in the Nature Area. USFS maps are available at the Pocatello Ranger District office.
Closest Town: Pocatello
More Information: USFS (208) 236-7500
Pocatello Convention and Visitors Bureau (877) 922-7659
Diamond Valley / Elk Valley Marsh
Size: 60- 80 mile loop, 20-40 mile one-way
Description: This tour route follows scenic mountain creeks bordered by aspen trees and surrounded by coniferous forest--a good example of eastern Idaho's national forest habitats and wildlife. Elk Valley Marsh is a remote, high-altitude, 200-acre mountain marsh bordered by sagebrush-grassland, conifer forest, and scattered aspen stands.
Viewing Information: Beaver dams, which create waterfowl ponds, are numerous, and the state's highest densities of moose are found in this area. Willow flats often hide foraging moose in the early morning and evening hours. Also watch for elk and mule deer. Significant numbers of spawning cutthroat trout can be seen from late May to early June in Diamond Creek, where the Forest Service has installed hundreds of bank support structures, fencing, and pool-creation structures to improve and protect important fish habitat. Elk Valley Marsh is used as a nesting and molting area for Canada geese and dabbling ducks. Sandhill cranes, moose, mule deer, and sometimes elk can also be seen here. A trailhead starting at Road 147 offers a five-mile loop trail through the Gannet Hills.
Directions: On this route you will pass five signed trailheads. Mill Canyon and Diamond Creek Campgrounds have restrooms. There are three more campgrounds near Montpelier Reservoir. This tour is almost entirely on gravel roads and is not recommended for sedans or station wagons during wet weather or in the winter. A Caribou National Forest map is recommended and can be purchased in Soda Springs.
Closest Town: Soda Springs, Montpelier
More Information: USFS (208) 547-4356
Soda Springs Chamber of Commerce (208) 547-4964
Camas National Wildlife Refuge
Size: 10,578 acres
Description: About half this large refuge consists of lakes, ponds, and marshlands, while the remainder is sagebrush-grass uplands, meadows, and farm fields. Flowing through for eight miles, Camas Creek supplies water to many of the lakes and ponds. Wheat and alfalfa raised here supplement natural feed for waterfowl. During March-April and October-November migrations, up to 100,000 ducks and 3,000 geese use the refuge on their way to and from breeding and wintering grounds.
Viewing Information: From June to August see large numbers of Redhead, Mallard, Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, and Teal Ducklings and Canada Geese Goslings. The rare Trumpeter Swan also nests here. This is a great place to view raptors, including Northern Harriers, Red-Tailed and Swainson's Hawks, American Kestrels, and Great Horned, Long-Eared, and Short-Eared Owls. In winter observe Bald Eagles and in summer look for occasional Peregrine Falcons, re-introduced on the refuge in 1983. Look then also for Heron, Egret, and Ibis Colonies. Mid-May to mid-June is an excellent time to view Warblers and other songbirds. Mudflats are good places to scan for shorebirds, and large Cottonwood Groves at the entrance act as "migrant traps" for songbirds. Frequently sighted mammals include Muskrat, Beaver, Coyote, Jackrabbit, Mule Deer, White-Tailed Deer, and Pronghorn. Moose are often seen in willows along Camas Creek.
Directions: From Interstate 15, take the Hamer exit (exit 150), turn east and go about a quarter of a mile into the little village of Hamer. Turn north on the Frontage Road, continue about three miles then turn west. Continue nearly two miles to the refuge. There are signs after you turn off the interstate. A network of roads on refuge dikes provides exceptional wildlife viewing from your vehicle. A brochure with a map and a bird checklist is available at the headquarters.
Closest Town: Hamer
More Information: USFWS (208) 662-5423
Rigby Chamber of Commerce (208)745-8473
Harriman State Park
Size: 4,700 acres
Description: The Henrys Fork of the Snake River courses for eight miles through this park's lodgepole pine forests, meadows, and marshes, and past two small lakes. The Teton and Centennial (Continental Divide) mountain ranges are visible, as well as the north escarpment of the 20-mile wide Island Park Caldera.
Viewing Information: Breeding pairs of trumpeter swans are the most conspicuous species here and are present year-round. This area is also crucial for up to 3,000 wintering swans from Canada, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Spring through fall is the best time to see other wildlife, as winters can be harsh. Twenty miles of hiking trails pass through meadow, forest, and lake habitats. In open areas and along water courses, look for bald eagles, osprey, Canada geese, many duck species, long-billed curlews, and sandhill cranes (close to 50 crane pairs nest here). In the forested reaches, watch for northern and black-backed woodpeckers, Williamson's sapsuckers, Steller's and gray jays, red crossbills, western tanagers, and the rarely seen great gray owl. Common mammals include elk, mule and white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, beaver, muskrat, river otter, yellow-bellied marmot, badger, weasel, coyote, and fox. In winter, cross-country ski trails are groomed with facilities maintained year-round. Just south of the park is Swan Lake, a 30-acre marsh/pond where one pair of trumpeter swans nest annually. Two to six swans may be observed prior to nesting. Following nesting, from July through September, the adult pair and one to four cygnets are visible. Moose are also often seen from the turnout.
Directions: From Ashton, US 20 N to mp 378.9; L (W) onto Green Canyon Rd (3000 N); R (N) into park entrance; follow entrance rd for 1.5 mi to parking lot. Maps and bird checklists are available at the park headquarters. Island Park Dam, eight miles north of the park, has good bird watching.
Closest Town: Island Park
More Information: IDPR (208) 558-7368, USFS (652-7442)
Island Park Chamber of Commerce (208)558-7755
Mesa Falls Subloop
Size: 15 miles one way
Description: The Mesa Falls are the only major falls in Idaho not used for irrigation or hydroelectric projects, and as such maintain a look and feel of nature undisturbed. At 110 feet and 85 feet, respectively, the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls offer equally spectacular views in a beautiful forest setting. Both falls can be viewed in full, with the area surrounding the upper waterfall enhanced with paths and viewing areas that make it easily accessible to all. Though only about an hour's driving time, the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is often a half-day's journey, with travelers mesmerized by the spectacular display in the midst of a truly back-country setting.
Viewing Information: Explore the river, waterfalls, and forest for Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Red-naped Sapsucker, Cassin's Vireo, and Western Tanager. In the canyon, look for Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and Northern Pygmy-Owl. In winter, forested areas host Ruffed Grouse, Clark's Nutcracker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Townsend's Solitaire, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Look for Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk. The Caribou-Targhee provides summer range for some of Idaho's more prominent elk populations. Both elk and deer winter ranges occur throughout the Forest, particularly in the southern portions along the Tetons into the South Fork of the Snake River drainage. Although both bighorn sheep and mountain goats occur on areas of the Forest, neither is very abundant but their populations are increasing. Antelope are relatively common within the western extreme of the Caribou-Targhee. Moose occur in suitable habitat on many portions of the Forest. Other large mammals which are common on the Forest include the black bear and coyote. Status of mountain lion, bobcat, and lynx are unknown. This is also true for several species of mustelids, including the otter, martin, wolverine, and fisher.
Directions: Zero odometer in Ashton, just N of Rexburg; E on ID 47 (Mesa Falls Scenic Byway/FR 294); at mi 15 go L (W) at signed entrance to Lower Mesa Falls for 0.1 mi to overlook. To reach the Upper Mesa Falls overlook, return to ID 47; go 0.6 mi farther N to mp 15.8; L (W) on FR 295 for 1 mi to falls (consider walking this steep, winding mile to bird); from the parking lot at the end of the rd, follow the protected walkway down to Upper Mesa Falls; hike from Upper to Lower Mesa Falls on the 1 mi trail; trailhead is located at Upper Mesa Falls on the E side of the rd between the 2 major parking lots.
Closest Town: Ashton
More Information: USFS (208) 652-7442
Ashton Visitor Center (208) 652-7520
Island Park Ranger District (208) 558-7301
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Size: 754,862 acres
Description: This site's unusual "lunar" landscape is the result of the most recent lava flows on the Snake River Plain (only 2,000 years ago). Sporadic volcanic eruptions occurring over the last 15,000 years have produced a mosaic of habitats, ranging from the barren lava flows of recent eruptions to the dense vegetation of older cinder cones, covered by sagebrush and grass. The dramatic basaltic formations provide a unique setting for wildlife-watching and photography.
Viewing Information: In spring and summer, observe yellow-bellied marmot, pika, golden-mantled ground squirrel, red squirrel, blue and sage grouse, prairie falcon, golden eagle, and mule deer. Look for nesting violet-green swallow, raven, and great horned owl near the openings of lava tube caves. The mountain bluebird, state bird of Idaho, commonly nests in cavities of limber pines that grow on the lava flows and cinder cones. Other common birds, present at various times of year, include the black-capped and mountain chickadees, hairy woodpecker, Clark's nutcracker, common poorwill, and red-naped sapsucker. Reptiles warm themselves on the lava rock. Watch for racers, western rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, and sagebrush and short-horned lizards. June wildflower blooms can be spectacular. Fall visitors are likely to see mule deer and migratory songbirds. Though cross-country skiing is excellent here, winter months may not be very rewarding for viewing wildlife.
Directions: From Arco, US 93 SW for 18 mi; turn S into Monument at mp 230 off US 93; visitor center is directly on L; drive 7 mi loop to bird; hike trails for additional birding. Drop in at the visitor center for maps and information about the wildlife, geology, and history of the area.
Closest Town: Arco
More Information: NPS (208) 527-3257
Pennal Gulch Sportsman's Access
Size: 2 linear miles
Description: This trail navigates through Salmon River floodplain wetlands, agricultural meadows, and cottonwood forests.
Viewing Information: Bird species include both rare seasonal migrants and common summer residents. In the wet ranch meadows, look for Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, and raptors, including Prairie Falcon, Merlin, and Northern Harrier. Cattail patches are good areas to find Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, and Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds. Scan utility lines and fence wires for perched Tree, Bank, Cliff, and Barn Swallows. At the left turn onto the Public Access Road, check the fields toward the Salmon River for Wild Turkey. About 0.3 mile north of this turn, scan the backwater ponds on either side of the road for Cinnamon Teal and Wood Duck. Another 0.2 mile north, search the aspen and cottonwood trees for Red-naped Sapsucker, Veery, Yellow Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush. Along the Salmon River, check the banks for American Dipper, Spotted Sandpiper, and Belted Kingfisher and search the cliffs on the opposite bank for White-throated Swift and Peregrine Falcon.
Directions: From Challis, US 93 N ~2 mi; at mp 248.7, turn R (E) (this road veers N and is marked on US 93 with Pennal Gulch "Sportsman's Access" signs); go ~0.5 mi; R (E) at second right (not the private drive) onto main county access road; go 0.7 mi; L (N) onto Public Access Rd (signed "Day Use Only") 0.9 mi to Salmon River. Please respect private property postings along the access road.
Closest Town: Challis
More Information: IDFG (208) 756-2271
Challis Chamber of Commerce (208) 879-2771
Size: 1,600 acres
Description: Redfish Lake is the largest lake in the Upper Salmon Basin and serves as an important stop-over for migrating waterbirds. Conifer forests surrounding the lake contain suitably large, mature green trees and snags to support the only known osprey nesting colony in east-central Idaho. The Redfish Lake Peregrine Falcon territory is one of the highest (in elevation) and most productive in Idaho.
Viewing Information: Summer residents include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Cassin's Finch, Yellow-rumped, Townsend's, Wilson's, and Yellow Warblers, and White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrows. It is possible to see 8 different woodpecker species among the mixed conifer, riparian-willow, and wet meadow habitats surrounding Redfish Lake, including Williamson's Sapsucker, American Three-toed, Pileated, and Black-backed Woodpeckers.
Directions: On ID 75, S of Stanley at mp 185, turn W onto paved FR 214 (signed for Redfish Lake); 2 mi to Redfish Lake Visitor Center; lodge, trails, lake, campgrounds in close proximity.
Closest Town: Stanley
More Information: USFS (208) 774-3000
Stanley Chamber of Commerce 1-800-878-7950
Winter Wildlife Watching
Idaho is well-known for its wildlife and you can take your pick of animals and ways of viewing them on frosty winter days. Horse-drawn sleigh rides in central Idaho take travelers within a few yards of elk herds feeding in high mountain meadows. Contact: Vickie Eld, 2554 East Roseberry Rd, McCall, ID 83638; Tel: 208-325-8876
Books: Idaho Birding Trail; Idaho Wildlife Viewing Guide
Watchable Wildlife Program Leader
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
PO Box 25
Boise, ID 83707
w (208) 287-2750
c (208) 921-6933
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