Getting Back to Nature is Easy at these Six Idaho Nature Centers

Deer at MK Nature Center

Deer at MK Nature Center

Idaho is known for its crystal lakes, shimmering streams, rugged mountains and desert landscapes. With over 4.5 million  acres of wilderness in the state, getting back to nature can be as simple as taking a hike on a nearby trail or strolling along a lakeside beach.  Nature centers are another opportunity to experience the great outdoors and learn along the way. No need for a cooler or tent – just grab the kids and celebrate 75 years of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at these these six beautiful nature centers.

Water Life Discovery Center Stream Viewing Windows

Viewing windows at Water Life DC.

1. Water Life Discovery Center: Located near Sandpoint, the Discovery Center is a habitat education and interpretive area on the shores of the Pend Oreille River. It is a self-guided educational center that combines a fish hatchery, nature trails, overlook bridges, wildlife watching areas, interpretive signs, and underwater viewing opportunities along a stream and a pond. It is home to white-tailed deer, moose, muskrat, mink, and river otters. Birds are found in abundance. Bald eagles, osprey and waterfowl grace the river while woodpeckers and songbirds prefer the wetland forest.

2. Lewiston Wildlife Habitat Area: Located in Lewiston, this urban, wildlife-friendly oasis is registered with the National Wildlife Federation as a “Backyard Wildlife Habitat Area.” Its five-acres let guests observe wild birds, mammals and aquatic creatures. A paved path snakes through meadows and a small forest planted with a variety of trees and shrubs. Deer, coyote, raccoon, rabbit, skunks, amphibians, reptiles and over 115 bird species have been observed here.  Other features include a rock fountain and meandering stream that spills into a small pond and an underwater viewing window that provides a glimpse of crayfish, snails and tiny fish. Benches along the trail are set amid flowering plants that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and other insects. An observation gazebo is outfitted with one-way glass and surrounded by bird feeders, providing up-close wildlife viewing.

3. MK Nature Center: Located near downtown Boise, the MK Nature Center is frequented by mule deer, raccoons, mink, herons, kingfishers, beaver, countless songbird species, reptiles, amphibians and insects.  Descendants of the fish originally placed in the stream still swim here. Chinook and kokanee salmon are introduced annually and the three sturgeon are one of the most popular attractions. Native plants are everywhere and thus butterflies, bees and birds are abundant.  Another favorite feature is the four underwater viewing windows where native fishes can be viewed.  The indoor visitor center offers has interpretive exhibits, hands-on displays and activities.  Watch the fish web-cam here or enjoy this video about the MK Nature Center.

4. Edson Fichter Nature Area: This 29-acre nature area is located in south Pocatello, just behind Indian Hills Elementary off of Cheyenne Avenue.  Various species of high-desert plants and a riparian corridor created by the Portneuf River that winds through the site allows numerous species of wildlife— from songbirds to mule deer – to call this area home.  The Portneuf Greenway Foundation trails system runs through the Nature Area, making it a popular stopover for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. There are walking/bike paths in a section of the Nature Area, dotted with interpretive signage inspired by the artwork and writings of the Nature Area’s namesake, the late Edson Fichter. There is a small, natural outdoor amphitheater, a fishing pier/observation deck next to the river, and a beautiful community flower garden.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

5. Salmon Outdoor Classroom: Situated on a 4-acre site near Kids’ Creek Pond in Salmon, this area was restored to its natural habitat, including converting a straightened water channel back to a meandering stream. Walkways were developed and a floating platform was added to the pond. The outdoor classroom is used by area schools, but the public is also welcome to visit the site to enjoy observing wildlife and the surrounding scenery.  As with many outdoor areas, the Salmon Outdoor Classroom has the capacity to engage children and adults with the natural world in a quiet and unassuming way.

6. Fischer Pond in Cascade: Fischer Pond is located on Highway 55 on the south side of Cascade – look for the brown highway information sign.  This pond is a couple of acres in size and is stocked every two to three weeks with rainbow trout.  There is plenty of easy access shoreline and a big dock for fishing.  An outdoor aquarium with viewing windows to watch fish will open in mid-May. The handicapped accessible aquarium, which will offer information about fish life cycles and species identification in a fun, entertaining setting, can be reached on a blacktop path connecting to a trail system.

Visitors may explore the outdoor sections of these nature centers from dawn to dusk. The indoor visitor/interpretive centers have varying hours of operation so please check with Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional offices to confirm times.

Six Budget-Friendly Activities in Idaho

Well, it’s tax day.  Whether or not you expect to receive a refund this year, saving a few dollars when you can makes everyone feel good.  We’ve put together six budget friendly activities that are high on fun and low on cost.

Julia Davis Park Rose Garden.

Julia Davis Park Rose Garden.

There are plenty of pocket- book friendly pursuits in Boise in southwest Idaho.  Visit the MK Nature Center, walk the Boise Greenbelt, stroll through the Rose Garden at Julia Davis Park or hike the foothill trails from Camels Back Park, listen to free outdoor concerts, tour the Idaho State Capitol and Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, watch kayakers and paddleboarders at the Boise River Park, or peruse the goodies and goodness at the public markets, all at no cost.  There are many more attractions in the area with admission fees under $10.

Hot soaking pools and water slides are popular in Lava Hot Springs.

Hot soaking pools and water slides are popular in Lava Hot Springs.

The eastern Idaho resort area of Lava Hot Springs has a lot to offer. Take a leisurely soak in the hot pools or splash around with the family at the indoor pool, Portneuf Kiddie Cove and water slides. Admission options are varied and affordable. You can also tube the Portneuf River. Single tube rentals range from $4 per person per hour, to $12 for a day at TPD Tubes.  Lodging in Lava Hot Springs is plentiful, offering family-friendly locales, as well as quiet getaways with private soaking pools, massage services and fine dining.

 

Learning to flyfish.

Learning to flyfish.

Fishing is a fun option. If you’ve got the gear, all you’ll need is an Idaho fishing license. Family Fishing Waters – choice spots geared toward families and the likelihood of catching fish – are located throughout the state. These waters are easy to reach and accessible by anglers of all ages.  In the summer months, look for “Take Me Fishing” Trailers at local ponds. If you’re itching to spend some of that refund, outfitters and guides are ready to show you the ropes and take you to Idaho waters best known for trout, steelhead and chinook.

 

The Bruneau Dunes near Mountain Home, ID

Hike, sandboard, fish, and frolic at Idaho’s Bruneau Dunes State Park.

Idaho’s 28 State Parks offer endless recreation opportunities, and it’s just $5 to enter with an additional fee if you want to camp.  Fishing, kayaking, canoeing, boating, climbing, biking, wildlife/bird watching and photography are popular pastimes, and each State Park offers a unique experience, for instance:  sand dunes and an observatory at Bruneau Dunes State Park, naval history at Farragut, Union Pacific railroad history at Harriman, gold mining history at Land of the Yankee Fork, an underground river at Thousand Springs and lots more.

View along the Teton Scenic Byway.

View along the Teton Scenic Byway.

Take a drive on one of Idaho’s 31 scenic byways. For the price of a tank of gas and maybe a few admission fees, depending on your route, you can see majestic waterfalls, raging rivers, historic sites and trails, sparkling lakes, fish hatcheries, memorials, murals, historic  towns, pioneer and Chinese cemeteries, roadside interpretive exhibits, hiking trails, wildlife, impressive canyons, rafters and kayakers, ghost towns, lava moonscapes, hot springs, towering mountains, vineyards and orchards, picnic areas, petroglyphs, monuments, ranches, wildflowers, opal mines, ice caves and even a captive geyser.  Pick your favorite byway, pack a cooler and hit the road to explore Idaho.

Rollercoaster at Silverwood Theme Park

Rollercoaster at Silverwood Theme Park.

Silverwood Theme Park in northern Idaho begins weekend hours on May 3 and on Opening Weekend May 3 & 4, everyone gets in for only $19.88 per person, per day, when purchasing a ticket at Silverwood’s front gate (a savings of $26!).  Enjoy the park’s 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions, roller coasters,  and steam engine train. Full summer hours begin May 24. Boulder Beach Water Park opens on May 31.

 

Great room at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

Great room at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

Lodging is plentiful throughout Idaho, with options to suit every budget.  Whether you choose a luxurious resort, lakeside cabin, mountain condo, scenic campsite,  historic hotel, rustic guest lodge, family-friendly hotel, trailside yurt, charming bed and breakfast or cushy glamping (glamorous camping), you’ll be close to the action.

Byway Bites: Foodie Stops along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway

The Sawtooth Scenic Byway begins in Shoshone and ends in Stanley passing through the beautiful Wood River Valley and over the Galena Summit.  You will travel through several resort towns including Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley.

Plan on stopping at CK’s in Hailey for a truly unique culinary experience.  Owner and Chef Chris Kastner (CK) and his wife Rebecca have traveled the world which is reflected in every aspect of their restaurant.  They fell in love with all the French farmhouse restaurants and built their restaurant from the ground up with the farmhouse concept in mind.  “This is a building which reflects what we are all about with beautiful flower gardens and wrapped in grapes.”  And with that in mind you can see the contemporary clean look inside; a comfortable, neighborhood place.  The atmosphere and food reflects CK’s passion of French, Italian and the flavors from SE Asia.  There are really no boundaries set at CK’s as CK is inspired by all the local products that come forth.  “These unique products motivate me to push the limits of a culinary experience for our guests; like finding a new squash that has never been used before.”  Each entrée is carefully paired with its own vegetable and starch to heighten the flavors and bring them together.

Culinary Specialist, Chef Patrick Rolfe stopped by CK’s to find out more…

Q: What is it like to be on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway?

A: It is one of the most beautiful places on earth; I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  We wanted to provide a neighborhood restaurant for the locals who in turn introduce people to us from all over the world.  It’s important to highlight the beauty and bounty of the Wood River Valley.  I buy as much local produce and products as possible to keep the local economy going.  It can be difficult to survive in a resort driven area, but once people experience this area, they keep coming back. I like the intimacy of our restaurant as I really couldn’t run a bigger operation due to the seasonality of business (although it would be fun to have a wood fire pizza oven).  But for now, we are a small gem on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.

Q: What is your signature dish or your favorite dish right now?

A: We have been known for the last 30 years for our Rack of Lamb that we get locally from Lava Lakes.  Read Chef Patrick’s  complete interview- Click Here.

Chef Patrick continues his journey on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway and discovers The Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum, Idaho. He meets with owner Duffy Witmore, his son Dillon, daughter Alyson, and General Manager Gerard Kelly. This family owned restaurant has been in the family for 36 years, with a rich history even before that. It is a landmark, filled with history in its décor including memorabilia of Ernest Hemmingway.
Culinary Specialist, Chef Patrick Rolfe was amazed at the history around him…

Q: What is it like for you to have a restaurant on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway?
A: The Sawtooth Scenic Byway offers so much from the skiing and the Sawtooth Mountains to the rivers and lakes. This is a great place to be a business owner and to raise a family. Allyson started working here at age 14. Dillon remembers finding all the loose change behind the bar! Throughout the years it is the memories of all the people they have met who keep coming back. The Pioneer Saloon sitting in the grandeur of the Sun Valley area is the reality behind the expectation for those visiting. Our standard of consistency through the years of experience and the virtue of practice has led to our reputation of good food and great service.

Q: Beyond good food and great service, what else is The Pioneer Saloon known for?
A: We have been known from the beginning to serve the best Prime Rib with our signature 20-24 oz Idaho baked Potatoes!  Read Chef Patrick’s  complete interview- Click Here.

Love traveling along scenic byways and immersing yourself into local cuisine?   Add Thousand Springs Byway Bites to your list.
Cheers from Idaho!

#BywayBites #SawtoothScenicByway #Idaho

Mountain Bike Route Features Idaho’s Hot Springs

by Adventure Cycling Association

Ready for a morning soak at Bowery Hot Springs.

Ready for a morning soak at Bowery Hot Springs. Casey Greene

What could be better than a relaxing soak in a hot spring after a mountain bike ride through spectacular scenery? If the combination sounds interesting, the Adventure Cycling Association’s new Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route might be just the experience you’re looking for. Its new two-map set guides cyclists through the breathtaking landscape of central Idaho along a spectacular 518-mile off-pavement route, offering four substantial singletrack options, and featuring access to more than 50 hot springs in the Gem State.

The Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route incorporates backcountry singletrack options into a route, which is a first for the Adventure Cycling Association. Casey Greene, cartographer for the project said, “It’s something that our members have been asking for, and with the innovative new bikepacking gear and techniques that have surfaced over the past 10 years, it seemed like the perfect time to develop this kind of route.”

The route begins in Boise and travels past the smaller towns of Idaho City, Stanley, McCall, Cascade, Atlanta, Crouch, Garden Valley, Lowman, and Placerville. The area offers all the key ingredients of a popular bike-touring destination, including quiet roads and some of the most spectacular country the West has to offer, from blue-ribbon trout streams to big sub-alpine terrain, and cozy mountain towns; not to mention, the hot springs.

Riding alongside Castle Peak in the White Clouds.

Riding alongside Castle Peak in the White Clouds. Casey Greene

“There are few things I’ve found that go together as well as a day of backcountry bicycling followed by a relaxing soak in one of nature’s own hot tubs,” Greene said. “Those who’ve never experienced it are in for a real treat.” A handful of the hot springs accessible from the IHSMBR are commercial, including Burgdorf, Goldfork, and Twin Springs; the majority, however, are primitive and undeveloped. The route’s location is also ideal for integrating myriad other recreational activities such as fly-fishing and whitewater rafting into any itinerary.

Michael McCoy, route researcher for the Great Divide route and a 19-year resident of the Gem State suggests another option–a commercial float on the Salmon River, the storied River of No Return. “When you’re at the northernmost tip of the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route’s Secesh singletrack option, as the crow flies you’re only about ten miles from the Salmon. It’s a bit farther to ride or drive there, but still doable. From McCall, located on the main route, it’s less than 50 miles to Riggins, a popular put-in spot for day trips on the river.”

Powerplant Hot Springs is the perfect reward after a long day's ride.

Powerplant Hot Springs is the perfect reward after a long day’s ride. Casey Greene

The Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route is offered as a two-map set. The first map section features the main, off- pavement route — a loop route that primarily follows dirt roads for 518 miles, with a few stretches of pavement in the mix. Cyclists planning a trip on the main route need only to have a basic understanding of mountain-bike riding technique. However, cyclists attempting any of the four singletrack options, featured on the second, supplementary map section, should know their own ability and prepare for challenging conditions. Some sections of the singletrack are expert-only riding (or hike-a-biking for those who aren’t experts).

Out-of-state cyclists can access the IHSMBR via a 33-mile spur from the Boise airport, which is shown on the main route map. Flying into the Sun Valley-area airport is another option. From Friedman Memorial Airport, located in Hailey, cyclists can connect with the route in Ketchum, 14 miles north, by way of the Wood River Bike Trail, though this connection is not represented on the Adventure Cycling maps. Once they reach the route, riders will enjoy its rural nature with relatively little traffic and resupply points strategically located along the way.

When planning your tour, time your itinerary with the seasonal sweet spot for Northern Rockies backcountry travel: after the snow has melted up high, but before wildfire season starts – sometime between late June and late July. Autumn can be another good time for a trip, with its cooler nighttime air temperatures, which make the route’s numerous hot springs all the more inviting. For an autumn excursion, cyclists should shoot for early September to mid-October.

For more information about the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route and to purchase maps, visit www.adventurecycling.org/idahohotsprings.  For lodging information, go to www.visitidaho.org.

Byway Bites: Foodie Stops along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway

One of the main highlights of the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway is, of course, Thousand Springs, just south of Hagerman. Thousand Springs is clearly visible from the byway. This pure, clean, oxygenated water bursts out of the canyon walls, representing the end of a journey of water that begins in the Craters of the Moon area nearly 100 miles away. The water maintains a constant temperature of 58 degrees, ideal conditions for growing trout. The hatcheries located along the 30-mile stretch of the Snake River in the Hagerman Valley raise 70 percent of the trout produced in the United States.

As you travel Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, enjoy these foodie stops.

SNAKE RIVER GRILL 610 S State Street, Hagerman, Idaho

Tucked in the heart of the Hagerman valley is the Snake River Grill. After visiting the Hagerman Fossil Beds and viewing the Thousand Springs; breakfast, lunch or dinner is served here with great care utilizing Idaho’s bounty of culinary treasures. Come meet Chef Kirt Martin, where his passion for food will provide you with a unique and extraordinary dining experience.

ELEVATION 486 195 River Vista Place,  Twin Falls, Idaho

Perched up on the edge of the Canyon Crest Rim, Elevation 486 serves up the very best view of the Snake River Canyon. Elevation 486 is named because their patio sits 486 feet above the Canyon. Add an enticing menu, professional staff, and comfortable vibe and you will quickly understand why this popular establishment has become an absolutely essential element of Twin Falls life. Both visitors and locals are lured by the restaurant’s appeal year round.

The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway provides a glimpse into South Central Idaho’s remarkable geography, a result of huge prehistoric cataclysmic forces making the breathtaking Snake River Canyon. Beginning at Bliss, the byway drops down into the canyon providing a grand entrance for visitors. One can discover many country towns, historic places, fish hatcheries, wildlife habitats, and recreational opportunities. Don’t miss a side trip to see the 212-foot Shoshone Falls as early spring is one of the best times for viewing.

Begin your trip at Interstate 84 near Bliss and follow U.S. 30 southeast through Twin Falls to Idaho 50, then north on Idaho 50 to Interstate 84. A third leg runs along a U.S. Highway 90 spur from downtown Twin Falls at the junction with U.S. 30 and U.S. 93, north across the Perrine Bridge and the Snake River Canyon to Interstate 84.

Length: 67.8 miles. Allow 1.5 hours
Special Attractions: Hagerman valley; the Snake River; Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument; Thousand Springs State Park; National and State Fish Hatcheries; Perrine Bridge and Canyon Rim Trail System; and Shoshone Falls.
Wineries:  Thousand Springs Winery, Holesinsky Winery, and Snyder Winery.

#BywayBites

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town – Join Governor C.L. Butch Otter and First Lady at Capital for a Day in McCall

LakeBest kept secret about McCall—it’s so much much fun! Would you like to take in some Spring skiing? Check out the downhill action at Brundage and The Little Ski Hill.  If you’re more of a ski-touring enthusiast, Ponderosa State Park  and Jug Mountain Ranch both will give you myriad options to get some fresh air and sunshine.

Do you enjoy looking and shopping in thrift and antique stores?  Well, work your way from south to north:

Farm to Market Antiques 405 N. Third St.  has antiques, pottery, linen, furniture, western ware, china, glass—all, very eclectic.

Check out the McPaws Thrift Store 301 Lenora St. where all the proceeds from the thrift shop go directly to the care of our animals at the MCPAWS Regional Animal Shelter and the Hospital Auxillary Thriift Shop at 216 Lenora St.

Round the curve to Lake street to find Much Muchier’s retro, refurbished, and consignment furniture among other goodies on 136 E Lake St.

Quilters, start your needles.  There are two amazing quilt stores in McCall and both are treasures.  Granny’s Quilts is an institution in the valley and a long-time destination for fabricophiles and  Huckleberry Patches was listed among Quilt Sampler magazine’s Top 10 Quilt Stores in the nation.

Don’t short change McCall as a “resort town”—it has all the properties you expect to find:  local artisans producing outstanding (and irresistible) jewelry and artwork, and excellent sports shops that can rent you just what you need to enjoy your visit, be it skis or a bike, and of course, brewpubs— brewing their especial libations for you to discover.  And a Christmas shop open year ‘round.  A Christmas shop.  Get a jump start on Christmas 2014 with a visit to the Pancake House and Christmas Shop , 209 N. 3rd Street Scenic Hwy 55 on the way into town.

Restaurant

McCall simply rocks any time of year. It’s one of those special gems you can find all over Idaho if you know where to look.

Capital for the Day in McCall is on Monday, March 24, 2014  #CFTD

 

The dirt on the Museum of Clean

The calendar tells us it is officially spring.  After spring break, spring cleaning might be the second most-anticipated activity – or maybe not.  Richard’s post on the Museum of Clean in Pocatello will help get everyone in the mood. Enjoy!

By Richard White, March 20, 2014; Everyday Tourist
Reposted with permission.

The concept of clean dominates our everyday lives like never before in the history of mankind.  We wash our hands several times a day and brush our teeth and floss at least twice a day.  We shower and bath daily.  We have numerous TV shows and books about how de-cluttering our homes will make us happier and healthier.  Children today learn about the importance of a clean planet and clean environment in elementary school.

Well, one man has taken the concept of clean to a higher level and created his own museum to house his personal collection of over 5,000 clean related objects and to share his encyclopedia of knowledge of the subject of clean both globally and historically.

Mr. Clean cardboard cut-out. 

Mr. Clean cardboard cut-out. 

Who is this guy?

Don Aslett, chairman of Varsity Contractors Ltd. (a janitorial services company he founded with his brother in 1957), is so committed to the importance of the concept clean in our society that he bought and renovated an 75,000 square foot, six-floor old warehouse building in Pocatello Idaho’s Old Town to create his Museum of Clean.  His commitment to clean includes renovating the building to LEED Platinum standards; this means the building’s renovations and operations are of the highest standards for both energy efficient and environmentally friendly use and recycling of materials.

In addition to collecting over 5,000 clean related objects going back 2,000 years, he has written over 35 books, including Clutter’s Last Stand and Do I Dust or Vacuum First? Aslett is an octogenarian who would put most GenYers to shame, working a 14-hour day, seven days a week.

More often than not, when you visit the Museum of Clean, Aslett will be there and don’t be surprised if he gives you a private tour of all or part of his collection.

Don pushing Brenda in his wheel-chair garbage can. The museum is full of fun and kitsch. 

Don pushing Brenda in his garbage can wheel-chair. The museum is full of fun and kitsch. 

About the Museum

The Museum of Clean is pure clean fun for all ages with over 5,000 fun and quirky artifacts.  Young kids and even teens love to get “vacuumed off” before they enter the 30 foot high, green “Kids Planet” cage, where they will learn all about saving the planet. Then there is Noah’s Ark where everyone gets to learn everything they wanted to know but were afraid to ask about “importance of water.”

There are over 50 hands-on activities; this in not a “stuffy museum” with grouchy security guards telling you to be quiet and not to touch.   Test your skills using different floor polishers – it is not as easy as it looks, perhaps grandma can show you how!  Seniors get to reminisce about the good old days of hand-ringer washers, hanging clothes outside to dry and bathing once a week (sometimes in the same water as your other siblings).  There is also a great film on the history of clean that will bring back memories – good and bad!

Dads might be interested to know that Cadillac used to make a vacuum or he might like showing off his muscles trying to lift the 60-pound vacuum cleaner with one hand.  Kids love the “cleaning windows” activity area. This can come in handy when you do you next get around to cleaning your windows at home or in the car.

In addition, there are over 30 photo stops, so make sure your phone is fully charged as photography is encouraged.

Top ten reasons you should visit the Museum of Clean:

  1. It might well be the most fun you’ve ever had in a museum?
  2. The whole family gets in for 15 bucks.
  3. Where else can you see a prison toilet and a model used by Queen Elizabeth the First to do a #2?
  4. The kids can literally get their nosed dirty, learning about what life was like for chimney sweeps in the 19th century. Bet they don’t complain about cleaning their room after that.
  5. You think your life sucks. Try owning over 300 vacuums, most are pre-electric and one weighs over 60 pounds.
  6. Husbands will love and wives will hate the rocking chair vacuum.
  7. Kids are responsible for making sure their parents don’t run in the museum.
  8. Don’t worry you don’t have to take your shoes off at the front door.
  9. You get to see a garage that is more cluttered than yours!
  10. Don Aslett is a really nice guy.

Read the full blog and see more fun photos at http://everydaytourist.ca/blog/2014/3/19/the-dirt-on-museum-of-clean.

Cowboy-up for real at the Real Cowboy College

Ride the range with the Real Cowboy College.

Ride the range with the Real Cowboy College. Credit Idaho Media Solutions

The western culture is alive and well in Idaho.  Guest ranches, professional and amateur rodeos, equestrian competitions, wild horses and sweeping vistas dotted with livestock can be found all around the state.  The dusty trails and cowboy hats conjure images from your favorite western movie, and now, you can play a starring role.

Last year, Larry Knapp, owner of 3K Ranch, developed the beginnings of Real Cowboy College, envisioning a place where all walks of life could come and learn the true cowboy way. He invited D.R. Bledsoe, manager of Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch, to partner with him in creating the experience. Founded on respect and integrity, Real Cowboy College, offers individuals a chance to learn the true “cowboy code” from professionals with years of invaluable experience.

Cowboy roping and riding.

Cowboy roping and riding.
Credit Idaho Media Solutions

Real Cowboy College offers multi-level education, from novice to expert, in several disciplines. The program focuses on cowboy skills and character. Students are immersed into cowboy culture, starting first with real cowboy attire. Coaches facilitate the shopping spree experience, while participants select clothing suitable for training. Orientation commences with a history of the western ranch horse, horse confirmation, horse care, grooming and horsemanship skills. Participants will be paired up with their own horse and will learn the basics of how to care for, groom and saddle their horse.  Further education teaches horsemanship, roping, and working and moving cattle. The longer overnight trips will include cooking, campfires, cowboy entertainment and cowboy culture.

The 3 K Ranch in Star, Idaho, accommodates Real Cowboy College participants during portions of their instruction. Longer courses will start at 3 K Ranch then move up to Seven Devils Lodge for riders to experience diversified terrain and higher levels of education.

The Seven Devils Lodge, managed by D.R. Bledsoe, is located near Council in southwest Idaho, just south of the Seven Devils mountain range. The Seven Devils Lodge sits on the historic OX Ranch, a working cattle ranch since the early 1900s, and is located just a few miles from the deepest canyon in North America, Hells Canyon. Guests at the lodge will experience real ranch life, see spectacular scenery and have access to the largest wilderness backcountry in the lower 48 states.

Cowboy sunset

Cowboy sunset.
Credit Idaho Media Solutions

Real Cowboy College employs top notch instructors and world class horse trainers at 3 K Ranch and Seven Devils Lodge. Three day packages can be booked at either location. The six day package includes both locations and is the ultimate Real Cowboy College experience.  Students who attend and complete the full week program will receive a diploma, others taking shorter courses will be awarded a certificate of completion.

“The experience is unparalleled,” says Knapp. “Being a real cowboy is about character, about class, about doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  We guarantee that when you leave Real Cowboy College, you’ll be a changed person.”

At the age of five, Knapp started riding with his father in Broken Bow, Nebraska. When his family moved to Idaho in the 60s, Knapp competed in and won numerous local, regional, and national championships in the reigning and cow horse categories. Knapp has lived on a ranch most of his life, surrounded by horses since his early teens.  His life goal was to live the life of a true cowboy.  Now you can, too, at the Real Cowboy College.

For more Idaho vacation ideas, go to www.visitidaho.org.

Idaho snowpack levels promise stellar whitewater season

Reposted with permission from the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association and blogger Steve Stuebner.

Whitewater rafting on the Payette River.

Whitewater rafting on the Payette River. Photo courtesy Cascade Raft.

Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated stream flows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are ranging from 90-120 percent of normal, which should provide for a stellar, fun-filled whitewater river season in the summer of 2014.

“Our bookings are very strong this year and we feel lucky to have such a fabulous snowpack, especially compared to much of the West,” said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. “Folks planning to raft in Idaho this season shouldn’t wait much longer before signing up.”  Idaho’s snowpack levels are much stronger than levels well below 50 percent in California and Nevada, Grubb notes.

Idaho is known nationally as the “whitewater state” with more than 3,000 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids, the most of any state in the lower 48. Thousands will take week-long wilderness river vacations on the Salmon River, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River or Hells Canyon of the Snake with Idaho outfitters. Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie Rivers. Great water conditions will also benefit jet boat trips on the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for a unique and unforgettable vacation, outfitters say.

A wet month in February featuring precipitation levels exceeding 200 percent of normal in the Boise and Snake river basins and 150 percent of normal in the Salmon and Payette River Basin is what boosted snowpack levels to what they are now, experts say.

“It’s all good news! It just keeps getting better every day,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We need the cool temperatures to continue in the mountains and normal precipitation levels to continue in the spring to maintain these forecasts.”

See pictographs during Idaho river trips.

It’s always interesting to stop and check out Native American pictographs on Idaho river trips. Photo courtesy Silver Cloud Expeditions.

Main Salmon and Payette River outfitters are excited about the snowpack levels, too.  “The Main Salmon River has an amazing snowpack this year so rafting season is going to be great: big water, beautiful sandy beaches and exciting rapids,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions. “The word is out. We have several full trips already and are looking forward to a fantastic summer. Now is the time to plan your family vacation.”

“The water outlook on the Payette River system looks solid at over 92 percent of normal,” said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. “There is still plenty of time to collect a bit more precipitation, which will put the icing on the cake. Both rafting and kayaking look great for the entire summer, with super whitewater levels on the South Fork through Labor Day and on the Main Payette through mid-September.”

Deep snowpacks in the Upper Snake Basin should provide enough flows for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide boatable flows through the white-knuckle Murtaugh section near Twin Falls this spring. That’s always a bonus for whitewater boaters.

Rafting on the Lochsa should be awesome this year

Rafting on the Lochsa should be awesome this year, with tons of runoff and all of the thrills and adrenaline of a big-water experience. Photo courtesy Bear Paw Expeditions.

The only downside this year are below-normal snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, which are 52 and 68 percent of normal right now. Those rivers may not get high enough for rafting this year, but should be doable by kayak.

For more information about booking an Idaho whitewater river trip, go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, ioga.org/rafting or call 208-342-1438.

Spring Break Fun in Idaho

Large steelhead held by man and boy.

Quite a catch! credit Exodus Wilderness Adventures

Spring is near, and with spring, comes spring break.  As you’re out and about enjoying time with friends and family, consider these activities.

 

 

 

North Central Idaho 

Fishing is always good in north central Idaho with Steelhead and Chinook leading the way. Spring Chinook numbers should be double last year’s runs to the Snake River according to the Columbia River Recreational Advisor Group.  They are predicting “the largest flood of salmon since fish counts began at the new Bonneville Dam in 1938” so your chances are pretty good!

Steelhead are running now and there are guides and outfitters ready to help you make fishing memories.  Start fishing for hatchery Chinook in April as they return to the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon Rivers. This wild fish is endangered so catch and release is required, but the thrill is in the catch.

Southwest Idaho

In Boise, the buzz is all about the Treefort Music Fest (best for adults and young adults). The festival is March 20-23 in venues all around downtown Boise. Treefort began with a straightforward music focus but now offers:

  • Treefort Film Fest, the best in emerging independent cinema
  • Hackfort, pairing Idaho’s best coders, engineers and designers with some of the best national tech minds
  •  Yogafort, yoga and dance classes taught by certified yoga instructors from studios around Idaho and featuring live music classes
  • Storyfort a forum for authors, songwriters, bloggers and other literary junkies
  • Alefort to showcase the best local and regional brews
  • Development Sessions, informative music industry-related sessions, panels, and speakers
  • Treefort Comedy Showcase

    Centripetal spinner at Discovery Center of Idaho

    Centripetal spinner at Discovery Center of Idaho

  • Skatefort – skate and music events

There is so much happening at the Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise that it’s a good idea to plan your visit to see and experience the programs, exhibits and events you don’t want to miss, like one of the daily science demonstrations or a Young Discoverers program designed for preschoolers. DCI is also offering a Spring Break Day Camp March 24-28 for grades 1-4.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is discounting admission fees and offering special activities for children March 25-30. Activities include live bird presentations, craft projects and a special spring break scavenger hunt. Watch films on birds of prey and take a tour of the Archives of Falconry. Be sure to spend some time at the outdoor California condor exhibit.

South Central Idaho

Astronaut - now showing at the Faulkner Planetarium

Astronaut – now showing at the Faulkner Planetarium

Herrett Center’s Faulkner Planetarium on the College of Southern Idaho campus hosts daily planetarium shows at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  On March 29, catch “Earth Hour” Night Telescope Viewing — the night the world is asked to turn out all unnecessary lights for one hour as a gesture of energy conservation. Visit the Centennial Observatory at the Herrett Center and enjoy the dark skies.

Eastern Idaho

At the Museum of Idaho, the Race to the End of the Earth exhibit tells one of the most stirring tales of Antarctic exploration, the contest to reach the South Pole. It focuses on the challenges that Norwegian and British explorers faced as they undertook their separate 2900 km journeys from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back.

Southeastern Idaho

Visit the Lava Hot Springs hot pools. For centuries, many Indian tribes called these natural hot water springs “healing waters.” Geologists theorize the water has been a consistent 110 degrees for at least 50 million years. Today this world-famous, family-friendly, year-round resort complex is a playground for young and old.  There are a number of lodging properties in town that also offer private hot pools and spa services on their property.

Catch some air at the Airbag Tour at Brundage.

Catch some air at the Brundage Airbag Tour.

There is still great snow at Idaho’s ski areas.  When the temps warm up, there is sure to be even more fun on the slopes.  Here is a quick list of ski area spring celebrations.

 

 

  • Solfest, a celebration of sun, soft snow and spring, takes place March 22-23 in Sun Valley.
  • Mountain Dew Big Bowl Super Cross will be held at Boise’s Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area March 22-23.
  • Brundage Mountain has a lot going on for Spring Break with specials, live entertainment, US Airbag Tour (March 21-23) and Winter Games (March 27-28).
  • Grand Targhee is going all out with its Spring Break Away celebration March 22-30.
  • Lookout Pass will have a scavenger hunt and Crazy Costume Day on March 29, followed by a beach party and Big Kahuna Downhill on March 30.
  • Pebble Creek will hold its Spring Celebration & Deck Party March 28-30, including the Monster Dummy Jump March 22 and the Boxes for Dayze competition March 28-29.
  • Don’t miss the Costume Party Competition March 29 and Slush Cup Pond Skim (April 5) at Pomerelle Ski Resort.
  • Enjoy the outdoor brewfest at Schweitzer Mountain’s Winterfest on March 29.
  • Catch the Silver Cup Races at Silver Mountain on March 29.
  • Join Tamarack for its spring break celebration March 20-30 with themed specials (tie-die Tuesday, flannel Friday, etc.) and the Beach Party End of Season Celebration on March 30.

Learn more about these events and Idaho’s ski areas at www.skiidaho.us. For lodging information and more Idaho spring travel ideas, go to www.visitidaho.org.