Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hike or bike the Snake River Trail and look for eagles, hawks and falcons in SW Idaho

Wendy checks out the scene at Discovery Point with the Snake River Canyon in the distance.

Hi all, 

The weather looks really wet and rainy Saturday and Sunday in the Boise Valley, but Friday looks good with partly cloudy skies and a high of 52 F. 

A lot of people are totally sick of the snow and winter weather, but there will be a number of events going on this weekend with Tamarack Resort holding the Idaho State Pond Skim Championship on Saturday, April 1st. Should be blizzard-like conditions for the event with plenty of music and a hearty party atmosphere. Tam is closing on April 2, but will remain open for a bonus week for Boundless season pass holders and it'll provide discounted lift tickets in the bonus week. Plus people with a season pass to Bogus or Brundage can get a lift ticket at no charge. 

They've had sunshine for the Tamarack pond skim event in the past, but they won't have it this year. 
100 percent chance of snow with 10-16" of new expected. (photo courtesy Tamarack Resort)

Brundage Mountain will be hosting the 2023 BREWlympic Games on Saturday, April 1st. There are relay races in the morning, but the main event happens at 2 p.m. when eight teams of four face off in the Gelande Quaff tournament, sliding huge mugs of beer down a long table to a teammate who catches the mug and chugs the beer. "Strict rules apply and style points are key to victory," Brundage officials said. Gaper Day costumes are encouraged for competitors and spectators alike. 

The forecast Saturday at Brundage is very similar to Tamarack - 10-14" of new snow, high temp of 28 degrees, and 100% chance of snow. Brundage is closing for the season on April 9th. 

Bogus Basin, BTW, will hosting its on pond skim on Saturday, April 15, and closing day is on Sunday, April 16. 

If you're curious about the snowy forecast for this weekend, here's my latest forecast for the Idaho Daily Snow via

View of Swan Falls Dam and looking downcanyon. 

In between rain and snow storms (when will spring ever come!?), I'd recommend going down to the Snake River by Swan Falls and hiking or biking the Snake River Trail downriver to enjoy the sights, look for prairie falcons, a variety of hawks and golden eagles. Wendy and I had a nice hike in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area last Saturday. It was chilly with temps in the low 40s and occasional snow and rain squalls, but we did locate a prairie falcon eyrie in the rocky cliffs with our binoculars and I got a picture. Score!

We also saw golden eye ducks, wood ducks, mergansers, lots of ravens, pigeons, and red-tailed hawks. Wendy could mention more songbirds. 

Prairie falcon guarding the nest ... needed more than a 200 mm telephoto lens.

We hiked on the Snake River River trail a couple of miles and enjoyed seeing the green shoots of cheatgrass sprouting in the canyon (just anything green was nice to see), the sound of the Snake River flowing downriver through small riffles, and the sounds of bird life in the canyon.     

Trail side view of the Snake River canyon. 

Soon, I'm planning to go back after things dry out and ride my mountain bike to Wees Bar and take pics of the Native American petroglyphs on the south bank of the Snake. Idaho Power has created a very nice public walkway at Swan Falls Dam for crossing over the dam to the trails on the other side. I'll be writing about that adventure soon. 

BLM trail sign on the east end of the Snake River Trail. It's about 4.5 miles downriver
to Halverson Lake and Centennial Park.  

 Take I-84 to the Kuna exit at Meridian Road. Go south to Kuna and follow signs to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Stop at Discovery Point, a BLM interpretive area, on your way to Swan Falls Dam to glass for golden eagles. Once at the dam, go downstream on the dirt/gravel road 4 miles to the trailhead. It's a non-motorized trail, restricted to walking, running and mountain biking. 

For hiking, I recommend wearing trail boots or trail shoes. Bring plenty of water and snacks/lunch for your day trip. Enjoy! 

- SS   

Wees Bar area across the river. Native American Petroglyph site. 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Eagle Peak at Lookout Pass doubles the terrain and the fun!

A skier points to the new Eagle Peak area at Lookout Pass,
which added 500 skiable acres to the charming ski area.
(Courtesy Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area.)  


Hi all, 

Wendy and I did a road trip to N. Idaho recently, visiting the new Eagle Peak mountain, a big  500-acre addition to Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area. 

We hit Lookout on a day when it had 10-14" of new snow that morning! And we were fortunate to have three excellent tour guides - friends from Coeur d'Alene Dave and Carol Lindsay and Randy Bell. 

Courtesy Lookout Pass (400" of snow avg/year)

I wrote about the whole three-day trip, in which we also skied Silver Mountain on a powder day, skied Lookout on a sunny day, and stayed at the base of Silver Mountain in the newer high-rise condo units there next to the gondola. I also recommend some places to eat and drink beer. 

See my trip report online at Ski Idaho

Put the idea of taking a swing through N. Idaho to ski Lookout, Silver and Schweitzer on your list for this spring or next winter, it's definitely worth it! Lookout stays open through April 16 this year. 
- SS  

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Go see the snow geese at Ft. Boise WMA - 50,000-60,000 are there now!

Snow geese at Boise WMA (courtesy Glenn Oakley/IDFG)

Hi all, 

It's that time of year when snow geese gather by the tens of thousands at Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area near Parma or Roswell Marsh near Roswell and Adrian, Ore. 

It's just a 45-minute drive west of Boise to see the birds. And they may not be there too much longer! 

Sunny weather with highs in the mid-50s are forecast Friday-Sunday in valley locations, perfect conditions for doing some wildlife watching. 

Snow geese feeding in a farmer's field near Ft. Boise WMA

Snow geese congregate at Ft. Boise WMA each spring between early February and mid- to late March. I went out to see them this morning, and they were feeding in farm fields in large numbers about 9 a.m.

I also saw big groups flying overhead in a huge V-formation, sounding off loudly.

Ft. Boise WMA viewing platform
According to IDFG, snow geese leave the Ft. Boise WMA ponds at daybreak, feed in the farm fields and then return to the ponds from 10:30 a.m. to noon. That's the best time to see them. There's a viewing platform at the WMA where you can see the birds easily in ponds nearby. Be sure to bring your binoculars! And be respectful of private property and keep your distance from the birds if you stop to photograph them next a farm field. 

Big migration: The snow geese are stopping at Ft. Boise WMA on their way north toward Canada, Northwest Territories, Alaska or even Siberia. They winter in Central Valley in California. 

Courtesy IDFG

This is cool activity that'd be great for kids, families and anyone who enjoys nature. 

Getting there: Take I-84 to Caldwell. Take the U.S. 20-26 exit and follow signs to Parma. Drive through Parma and the turnoff to Ft. Boise WMA is 2+ miles ahead on the left on Old Ft. Boise Road. Take that road a couple miles and you'll come to the viewing platform by some ponds. 

On the way home, maybe stop for lunch in Parma or stop by a Canyon County winery

- SS   

Snow geese feeding in a farmer's field (photo by SS)

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Take a scenic drive to see wildlife on Banks to Lowman Road

Be sure to watch the elk from a respectful distance. 

Hi all, 

It's early March, but this weekend is going to feel more like winter than spring. 

With weekend temps barely reaching 40 in Boise, and a chance of light snow, it might be a nice change of pace to take a leisurely scenic winter drive.  

March is a great time of year to visit the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, a.k.a. the Banks to Lowman Highway, watch for deer and elk on the mountainsides (or on the road), maybe go for a short walk, take a nice soothing hot springs soak and then cap it off with a hearty meal in Crouch at the Dirty Shame Saloon.

All of these things are doable in a day trip Boise. The Banks to Lowman road covers 33 miles tip to tail. And most likely, you'll be going out and back.  

How to get there: Take Idaho 55 north from Boise to Banks. Turn right. Now you're on the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. 

Courtesy Boise National Forest

Large groups of elk and deer are typically visible along the two-lane scenic road. Be sure to give the animals a wide berth. Don't spook them or cause them to burn extra energy. It's a vulnerable time of year for them. Deer and elk are drawn to the big, open south-facing slopes on the north side of the canyon because they are snow-free. In the coming weeks, tiny shoots of green grass will begin to sprout.

Be sure to bring your binoculars. You also may see bald eagles, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks flying around. Pack a lunch, snacks and water for the day trip. 

Courtesy Boise National Forest 

Several choices are available for hot springs to visit as part of your trip: 
  • Hot Springs Campground - Just east of the town of Garden Valley, the hot pools are down by the river's edge. Not sure if the campground is plowed. Call the Boise National Forest for more information. 
  • Pine Flats Hot Springs is a beautiful spot along the South Fork of the Payette River that serves as a Forest Service campground in the summertime. The hot springs pools are small, and there's a hot shower you can stand underneath too.  
  • Kirkham Hot Springs is probably the most popular roadside hot springs in Idaho, given its proximity to Boise. There are some nice hot pools next to the river. Bring a swimsuit. Be sure to Pack out what you pack in and leave the area nicer than you found it. 
  • Bonneville Hot Springs is about 20 miles toward Stanley on Idaho 21, east of Lowman. It has some nice larger hot pools and an old wooden shake with a bathtub inside. Because of snow, you'll need to hike in less than a mile to the springs from the highway.   
A couple of other places where you can see wildlife in a scenic drive would be on the Salmon River Road, going upstream from Riggins, or going downstream from North Fork near the town of Salmon. Both areas are promising for seeing bighorn sheep, elk, deer and maybe even mountain goats. 

Have fun! 
- SS