Thursday, April 30, 2020

Updates on National Forest closures, Idaho Power openings and outdoor ethics during COVID-19 pandemic

Make sure you practice proper outdoor ethics when you are out recreating on public lands.
Hi all,

It's been kind of disgusting seeing pictures of litter, garbage and even furniture(!) that people have been dumping on our public lands lately. 

It's kind of a sign of the times, I guess. People are flocking to Idaho's outdoors like never before during the COVID-19 pandemic because they want to get out of the house, and they have no where else to go! 

Perhaps we need to remind people about some basic outdoor ethics ... 

  • Pack it in, pack it out is one of those best practices. Self-contained day trips are recommended right now, so pack up the day's food and drinks, put it in a cooler, drive to your destination, do your outing, and drive home. No stops needed. Pack out what you brought with you. Leave nothing behind.
  • Leave No Trace means clean up your campsite before you go. Pack out all your garbage and try to erase all trace of your presence. Leave it nice for the next group.     
  • If you have to poop in the woods, dig a hole and do it properly. Bring a little shovel and pack your own TP. The restrooms might be closed. How to poop in the woods.
In the interest of de-mystifying and updating where you can go here, what's open and what's closed on the 1st of May, I have some details on that:
  • Idaho State Parks are open but overnight camping is closed. 
  • Ridge to Rivers trails in Boise are open. Try lesser-used trails and trailheads. Please practice at least 6 feet of social distancing. Please go out of your way to practice good trail etiquette. It's crucial right now! Uphill traffic has the right of way. Bikes should yield to hikers and trail-runners. Be a good trail ambassador!
  • The Boise River Greenbelt is open. Place practice at least 6 feet of social distancing. 
  • Bureau of Land Management lands in Idaho are open. Day trips are encouraged. 
  • Most named campgrounds and hot springs on National Forest lands are closed. Here’s a statewide interactive  national forest map that shows closure areas/sites throughout the state.
  • The Forest Service placed a group-size restriction of 10 people or less on national forests statewide. 

The Boise National Forest has closed named campgrounds and hot springs in general. Dispersed camping is OK but not encouraged. Hiking trails are generally open. Danskin Mountain trailheads are open now, and several parking areas for motorized recreation are open in the Idaho City area.
If you’re interested in visiting the Boise National Forest, check the web site before you go.
For a list of Boise National Forest closures, go here:

Call 208-373-4100 to leave a message and get a call back if you have a specific question. 

The Payette National Forest has closed named campgrounds and hot springs in general. Dispersed camping is OK but not encouraged. Pack it in, pack it out. See this link for information on what’s closed in the Payette National Forest. The South Fork of the Salmon River has been closed until June 30.

The Sawtooth National Forest just closed all of its named campgrounds and recreation sites until early June. Much of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is still under snow. Here’s a link to the Sawtooth National Forest web site. Sawtooth NF offices are closed, but you can reach staff at the following numbers:

Ketchum Ranger District, 208-622-0090.
Fairfield Ranger District, 208-764-3202.
Stanley Ranger Station, 208-774-3000.
Sawtooth NRA headquarters, 208-727-5000.
Minidoka Ranger District, 208-678-0430.

Reminder: Blaine County and Valley County are discouraging people from visiting at the current time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Numerous Idaho Power boat ramps and day use sites are reopening on Friday, May 1. Here’s a link to all the sites that will be opening, including a number of boat ramps at CJ Strike Reservoir. 

See the Recreate Responsibly page on the Idaho coronavirus site for more information.
- SS

Friday, April 24, 2020

Updates on Recreate Responsibly Idaho campaign, boating safety and fishing ideas

Hi all,

I've been working together with a consortium of state and federal agency officials who are spreading the word about Gov. Little's Recreate Responsibly Campaign. So I'm sharing some updates and tips for folks heading outdoors this weekend.

No. 1 continues to be if you're feeling sick, feeling cold or flu symptoms come on, stay home! Don't go out and potentially spread your germs to others.

Idahoans are doing a good job with the shelter-at-home strategy, we've had 1,836 confirmed cases overall statewide, 34 new cases yesterday, 822 recovered, and 54 deaths. See the overall effort to flatten the curve, the graph from the Idaho coronavirus page below.

 Source: Idaho Coronavirus web site:

People are flocking to Idaho outdoor venues in big numbers at popular areas, so please practice proper social distancing no matter where you go. Keep at least 6 feet of distance between you and others. You may want to wear a mask in congested areas.

Idaho State Parks are very busy in places. See article on this topic from Jerry Painter with the Post-Register in Idaho Falls. Park rangers had to close Bruneau Dunes State Park for about an hour last Saturday when the parking areas got too full. Eagle Island and Lucky Peak state parks have been very busy, too. Three Mile Island State Park in Glenns Ferry might be a possibility or Thousand Springs State Park near Hagerman.

Check before you go. You might call ahead or check online about whether parks are too crowded before you go there.

If a trailhead or destination seems overly crowded, try going somewhere else. 

Fishing is open. See article by Roger Phillips of Idaho Fish and Game about fishing in Idaho. Idaho Fish and Game has a great list of family fishing waters. See link to find a place to fishing close to home. Thank small ponds, reservoirs, the Boise River and other locations. A lot of those spots are stocked with rainbow trout.

Courtesy IDFG
Practice safe boating techniques if you go out power boating. Here's a video on boating safety. Go in small groups.

See Recreate Responsibly web site for more information on what's open and closed.

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Bring stuff with you for a day trip, food and water, etc., and pack out your garbage. 
  • Pack your own TP. You might need it. 
  • Hike from home if you can. 
  • Do bike rides from home. 
  • Road biking is great for social distancing. 
  • Avoid hazardous activities right now. EMS services are busy handing the virus. 
  • Boise Foothills trails are being heavily used right now. Try lesser-used trailheads. I'm seeing some people walking or running on 8th Street or Rocky Canyon Road to avoid congestion. 
Remember that there's sheep on the trails in the Boise Foothills. The sheep are moving east through the foothills right now. A new group of sheep will cross Idaho 55 this morning (4/24) at the Beacon Light interchange at about 9:30 a.m. If you go watch, please practice safe social distancing.

Leash dogs when you encounter sheep and walk your bike through the sheep so as not to antagonize the guard dogs. 

We all have to do our part! Thanks for your patience. We will get through this!

- SS

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Some tips on learning about birds in SW Idaho on outings close to home

Red-winged blackbird at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in Boise
Hi all,

I find that I am treasuring the small things in life right now during these weird times with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When out on a Boise Greenbelt ride or hiking the trails, I enjoy seeing things like the first wildflower blooms of the year, or watching the buds beginning to emerge on trees and shrubs. The stunning beauty of fruit tree blooms in our yard and the local 'hood. Just all kinds of little things make me smile.

We've all had to slow down the pace of our lives because of the coronavirus, stay closer to home, etc. At times like this, why not learn a little more about nature? For instance, why not take a little time to pay learn about the birds in your yard, your local neighborhood, the Boise River, the foothills or parks nearby? 

Yellow-headed blackbird at Hyatt Hidden Lakes
Springtime is a good time to watch for birds because there are lots of migrating birds passing through on their way to northern destinations and residents returning to nest. Songbirds we might see right now are feeding on buds and bugs, i.e., robins eating worms. Birds of prey are hunting for mice and ground squirrels. We see red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels and Swainson's hawks in the foothills doing courtship flight.    

Wendy and I went by the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve today (near Chinden & Marigold) in Boise just before noon to take a few fresh pictures and see what kinds of birds we'd find in the wetlands and ponds. Wendy was happy to see that some yellow-headed blackbirds had moved into the area to establish nests for the next generation. We also saw a great blue heron at close range hiding in a little thicket as we walked into the reserve. We heard red-winged blackbirds everywhere in the wetlands.

On the ponds, we saw mallards, american coots, northern shovelers, pied-billed grebes, buffleheads, gadwalls and american wigeon. Elsewhere on our bird walk today, we saw snow geese, wild turkey, swainson's hawks, song sparrows, house rinches, robins and Canada geese.

If you're interested in a program about birds, the Boise River Enhancement Network is providing an educational program at 11:35 am-1 pm on Friday (April 17) by Louisa Evers of BREN and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. The program will be presented via Zoom, and it's limited to the first 100 people who login tomorrow. Ms. Evers will talk about how to find and identify birds.


Great-blue heron getting hassled by a red-winged blackbird
Golden Eagle Audubon has a TON of birding programs coming up, so be sure to watch their web site for more information. Next week's program is on the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. 
The Idaho Birding Trail, sponsored by Idaho Fish and Game, is an excellent resource for learning where to find birds and what species you should expect to see at various locations. In the Southwest Idaho region, there are about 40 birding locations on the Idaho Birding Trail, including the Boise River, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge/Lake Lowell, Black's Creek, Bruneau Dunes State Park and much more.

If you're on Facebook, the Idaho Birding page is fun to watch because a number of expert birders are posting really high-quality photos of songbirds, ducks and raptors on a continuing basis. Once you've spent some time on that page, you can friend some of the frequent posters who take amazing photos and share them with the group.

While you're out birding, start building your life list. I am lucky that Wendy is so knowledgeable about birds. She can identify songbirds from their calls or from sight. I have a long ways to go on that front.

Here's some video from 2010 when our backyard kestrel box yielded big results ... four baby kestrels fledged the nest that year and we watched how they did in their first few days out of the nest. Consider building your own kestrel box for your backyard ... it's fun!

Have fun! 

- SS  

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hike/bike/run close to home; follow social-distancing guidelines - your future access depends on it!

All I saw on the Broken Horn Trail #12 yesterday was a small group of cows. Try more far-flung trails to find more personal space on the trails during the COVID-19 outbreak. See more tips below.
Hi all,

These are difficult and challenging times in many ways for the people of Idaho during the governor's Stay-at-Home order, and increasing restrictions on where people can go outdoors to get a breath of fresh air, enjoy some Vitamin D from the sunshine and get out of the house!

Let's keep working on flattening the curve! The Stay-at-Home strategy is working!
The City of Boise Parks & Recreation Department has people watching the Greenbelt and foothills trailheads to see how people are doing maintaining at least 6 feet of space between people when they are out recreating on the trails. We really have to pay attention to these guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or we could see more restrictions and closures occur.

The Boise Parks & Recreation closed all tennis and basketball courts this week to prevent the spread of the virus.

Some tips to remember:
  • If you have cold/flu symptoms stay home! 
  • Go hiking/biking/running close to home. 
  • Walk from home to trailheads nearby to leave more space for people to park. 
  • Bike from home. 
  • Go out early in the morning or later in the evening ... less-popular times to do an outing. 
  • Do a road bike ride/loop from home ... Road-biking is a good choice for social distancing ... 
    • Cartwright Road Loop is a good one
    • Lonely road out to Swan Falls from Kuna
    • Pleasant Valley Road out to Tenmile to South Cole to Kuna-Mora Road 
    • Boise Road Cycling Guide has over 30 rides to consider ... 
Looking back at the route to Mt. Kepros in the Boise River WMA. Trailhead is on Black's Creek Road.
Less-popular hiking areas to consider:
  • Mt. Kepros, part of the Boise Grand Slam, starting from the first summit on Black's Creek Road. Mt. Cervidae is another good one.
  • Mud Flat Road/Owyhee Backcountry Byway ... go for a scenic drive and hike from there. The Oolite BLM interpretive trail is a cool spot for adults and kids on the way south from Grand View. 
  • Far-flung trails in the Ridge to Rivers system. Try something new and different. Avoid Camelsback Park.
  • Boot hikes on snow on the Deer Point Service Road or Eastside toward Stack Rock. 
  • Backcountry skiing/snowshoeing at Bogus Basin. 
  • State Parks are open for day use ... 
Less-popular mountain biking areas to consider:
  • Far-flung trails at Avimor such as Broken Horn Trail.  
  • Ride more difficult trails in the Boise Foothills such as Hard Guy, Scott's, 8th Street, Rocky Canyon Road, Watchman or Council Springs near Harris Ranch to find more personal space.
All state parks are open for day use ...

Let's all do our part to maintain proper social distancing so we can keep our outdoor opportunities open and available during this difficult time. Thanks!
- SS