Bluebirds, Raptors and Sandhill Cranes – Birding in Idaho

With over 400 known bird species, Idaho has become a gathering spot for birdwatchers of all experience levels. Locations such as American Falls Reservoir and Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge are teeming with birds year-round.

Your birding bucket list should include exploring and seeing:

Idaho’s state bird, the Mountain Bluebird, is found in all regions above 3,500 feet and is the star of the new documentary that releases on June 13 along with human co-star Al Larson AKA Bluebird Man.

Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Idaho has the largest nesting population of Sandhill Cranes in the world.


The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area is believed to have the largest density of nesting raptors in the world, with an estimated 800 pairs in the area.

The World Center for Birds of Prey near Boise is the headquarters for the Peregrine Fund. The Peregrine Fund’s captive breeding program successfully removed the Peregrine Falcon from the endangered species list and is having great success with other birds and raptors, including the California Condor and Aplamado Falcon.

Finally, check out the Idaho Birding Trail to increase your awareness of birding locations and wildlife conservation throughout Idaho.

Upcoming Birding Events:

June 13 in Boise, Premiere of Bluebird Man
June 14 in American Falls, an event for new and experienced birders
June 16 in Boise, Birds of a Feather 

#18 Summers – June Vacation Ideas

by Laurie McConnell, Idaho Tourism Staff

The kids grow up so fast, and before you know it, they’ve moved on to college and careers. We really have just 18 summers to make those family memories. This idea hit home with me. I immediately started thinking about the few remaining summers I have with my boys and what our family could do together this summer.   We’ve come up with some vacation ideas that promise thrills, giggles, and stories your family will share forever.

Stay tuned to this blog for more ideas in the coming months. Be sure check out our 18 Summers docu-memory at and enter to win a sweet family vacation in Sun Valley.

Bikes and Boats – Head to northern Idaho for spectacular scenic bike trails and thrilling jet boat action.

Route of the Hiawatha.

Route of the Hiawatha.

The North Idaho Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and Route of the Hiawatha put you in the center of spectacular scenery. Sparkling lakes, bubbling rivers, towering trestles, shadowy tunnels and sometimes wildlife are the highlights along these trails. Bring your own, or rent bikes with trailers for the little ones. Bike shops are located in nearby towns, including St. Maries, Kellogg, Coeur d’Alene and at Lookout Pass, the access point for the Route of the Hiawatha.

If you are looking for water thrills, give jet boating a try. Jet boat outfitters provide relaxing and highly entertaining trips into beautiful river canyons with half-day trips, lunch and dinner tours or longer trips with an overnight stay at a riverside guest lodge. Guests can learn about geology, river lore and history, but crashing over the waves is the best! The Hells Canyon section of the Snake River is a popular trip. It is the deepest canyon in North America and very narrow, so big waves are the norm. The Salmon River and southern stretches of the Snake are also great trips.

Rocks and Rafts – These southern Idaho activities are sure to induce entertaining stories and a good night’s sleep.

Family rafting on the Salmon River.

Family rafting on the Salmon River.

With more than 3000 miles of whitewater, it makes sense that whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular activities. Rafting outfitters offer trips ranging from a half-day float to multi-day trips through scenic wilderness. Family trips appropriate for first-timers are available on the Payette River and the Salmon River. More challenging trips are offered on these Rivers, as well as the Snake in southern Idaho, and the Lochsa and Selway Rivers in the northern panhandle. Check out the Thunder Mountain Line’s Payette River Flyer — rafters and rafts ride the train to the rafting put-in location.

There are many unique and interesting geological features in southern Idaho that give kids the chance to explore and even learn something along the way. Walk on a moonscape at Craters of the Moon and see fossils of long extinct animals, including the Hagerman Horse, Idaho’s state fossil, at the Hagerman Fossil Beds, both are National Monuments. The primary units of Thousand Springs State Park include: Malad Gorge, where the Malad River crashes down stairstep falls and into the Devils Washbowl, then cuts through a beautiful 250-foot gorge on its way to the Snake River; and Niagara Springs, where churning water springs from the canyon wall. Near Almo, at City of Rocks National Reserve, see granite spires and monoliths reaching 60 stories tall – a climbers’ mecca. Neighboring Castle Rocks State Park, a former ranch, also has outstanding rock formations and early 20th century ranch structures. North of Twin Falls, Idaho’s Mammoth Cave and the Shoshone Ice Caves offer an underground look into Idaho’s past.

Springs and Falls – Idaho Falls and hot springs resorts make family fun easy.

Soda Springs Geyser.

Soda Springs Geyser.

Did you know some of Idaho’s family-friendly destinations were developed around hot springs? At Lava Hot Springs in eastern Idaho, kids and adults alike will enjoy the natural hot pools and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, complete with towering water slides and splash parks for the little one. For a real blast, tube or kayak down the Portneuf River! In Downey Idaho, 100-year-old Downata Hot Springs Resort has hot spring pools with big slides, kiddie slides, spa services, a restaurant, a campground and picnic areas. East of Idaho Falls in Ririe, Heise Hot Springs has been a site for respite and recreation since the early 1900s. Today the resort offers swimming, golf, camping, and a zip line tour. In Soda Springs, kids thrill to see the captive geyser erupt every hour, on the hour, between 7:00am and 10:00pm.

In Idaho Falls, visit to the Museum of Idaho’s Race to the End of the Earth exhibit, chronicling the epic quest of two teams to be the first to reach the South Pole. Interactive and hands-on activities help visitors understand what it would have been like to travel to the coldest place on Earth 100 years ago, and what it is like there today. Photographs, paintings, and rare historical artifacts from the expeditions are also featured. The city’s 6-mile greenbelt follows a placid stretch of the Snake River. A stroll or bike ride lets families relax or get the wiggles out after a day of exploring. Travel north to Rexburg to visit Yellowstone Bear World. You will be surrounded by the free-roaming wildlife of North America as you drive your vehicle through the park. Take the Curator Tour and get close to Rocky Mountain Elk, American Bison, Timber Wolves and Arctic Wolves – and you can feed the bears!

Idaho’s cities and town offer the lodging, dining and amenity options families enjoy with easy access to memory-filled activities. Visit for travel information and ideas.

Northern Idaho – Birthplace of Idaho Wines

Max the Grape Dane, at Lindsay Creek Vineyards.

Max the Grape Dane, at Lindsay Creek Vineyards. Credit Lindsay Creek Vineyards

June is Idaho Wine Month, and what better way to celebrate than visiting the birthplace of Idaho wines? A tour of northern Idaho wineries begins in Lewiston and continues north to Sandpoint, showcasing the wine variety available in our state.

Start your trip in Lewiston, where Idaho’s wine industry began in the 1860’s and flourished until prohibition brought production to a halt in 1916. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that wine grapes were planted again in the state, this time along the Snake River.

The three wineries to visit in the birthplace of the Idaho wine industry are Clearwater Canyon Cellars, Colter’s Creek Winery, and Lindsey Creek Vineyards. All of these wineries also grow grapes in the Lewis-Clark Valley.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars, owned by Karl and Coco Umiker, is located in the Port of Lewiston. Clearwater Canyon Cellars was founded in 2004 by four couples and in 2010 Coco and Karl became the sole owners. They are inspired to regain the notoriety of the world-class wine region by making award-winning wines.

Vineyards at Colter's Creek Winery

Vineyards at Colter’s Creek Winery. Credit Colter’s Creek Winery

Mike Pearson and Melissa Sanborn own Colter’s Creek Winery in Juliaetta, along the Potlatch River. Mike and Melissa purchased a deserted vineyard in 2007, then spent the next few years retraining the vines and putting in drip irrigation systems. Now seven years later, the 25 year old vineyard is healthy and thriving. Its 2011 Syrah recently received a 90-point rating by Wine Enthusiast. The tasting room in Juliaetta is a great place to enjoy lunch with Colter Creek’s award-winning wines.

Lindsey Creek Vineyards is the newest addition to the northern Idaho wineries. Brothers and owners Art and Doug McIntosh are fourth generation grain farmers in Lewiston, but began planting vineyards because of their appetite for wine. The brothers went back to school at Washington State University to pursue their passion – Doug for Viticulture and Art for Enology. They made their first “hobby” wine in 2009 and are now well under way. Lindsey Creek Vineyards is open by appointment so be sure to call ahead.

Heading north from Lewiston, there are a three more wineries to visit. Camas Prairie Winery in downtown Moscow has operated for 31 years and produces around 1,100 cases per year. University of Idaho Vandals fans will love Camas Prairie’s four Vandal Crest wines.

Barrel Room No. 6 at Coeur d'Alene Cellars.

Barrel Room No. 6 at Coeur d’Alene Cellars. Credit Coeur d’Alene Cellars

In Coeur d’Alene, spend the afternoon at Coeur d’Alene Cellars with owner and winemaker Kimber Gates. The winery was founded in 2002 and now produces over 3,400 cases per year. The first two vintages of its Syrah both earned 90-point ratings from Wine Enthusiast.

Just north of Coeur d’Alene in Sandpoint, Steve Meyer has been making award winning wines at Pend d’Oreille Winery for 17 years. Steve and his wife, Julie, believe that wine brings people together and host family-friendly live music nights once a week at their tasting room. Enjoy great wine along with appetizers from the Bistro Rouge Café.

As you travel around northern Idaho enjoying the wines, be sure to enjoy the great recreation, interesting attractions, activities, and events in the region. Learn about all of Idaho’s wineries at and find more vacation ideas at

Byway Bites: Foodie Stops Along Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway starts in Boise. It follows Idaho 21 north to the historic mining town of Idaho City, where you can still pan for gold in a nearby stream bed. You will proceed to Banner Summit, one of Idaho’s highest at 7,056 feet and then begin a descent into the town of Stanley. As the roadway grooves through the steep foothills and thick forest, you can catch glimpses of the Sawtooth Mountains ahead; finally, they come into full, magnificent view.



Pulling into Idaho City, “you will see the forest as it should be; silent, without the hustle bustle” exclaims Skip Myers of Donna’s Place. You will indeed find that the mountain air is clean and fresh, with a fragrant hint that something yummy is being dished up at this mountain city restaurant.

As Skip and Chef Patrick meet, Skip firmly informs him: “Now Donna my wife is the owner. I’m just the worker!”

Q: It appears that both Idaho City and Donna’s Place behold a real piece of local history.

A: Donna and I started this place in 1993 with a dream to take care of the residents of Idaho City as if they were our own family. We both have ties to Idaho City. Donna’s grandfather Sam Ross was part owner of the Shannan Heggerty Saloon; he was killed in a gun fight in 1936 by Dub Reeves.   My grandfather George Myers drove a team with gold ore in 1904 in Idaho City and then went to Thunder Mountain in 1905 hauling ore. As a kid I used to take branches from the trees and make pencils out of them, selling for $1.00! I’ve written a bit of history of Idaho City both in a published book called “Boise River Gold Country” and a brochure that is given out through local businesses. And we’ve had our share of battles through the years. In 2004 a fire took away Donna’s Place and left us with nothing but smoke and a memory. The fire, as it was discovered, started in an old soda pop machine.   Then in 2010, we were once again left with charred wood and ashes to another fire. But we keep rebuilding to serve the locals the best way we know how.

Q: So you are really here for the community? Yes, we believe in taking care of the local people first, giving them good food at reasonable prices. Plus the café is part of a general store, and we have another smaller store in Placerville. We let the tourists come through and enjoy what the locals like. We serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so we are here to supply any hungry traveler on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. This year we put in a taco bar that has taken off quite well, but I’d have to say our signature dish is our big 1.5 lb. burger. It’s a doozy! And in the summer who can resist a hand scooped ice cream cone?



The end of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is one of the most beloved scenic views in Idaho. The mountains, meadows, and streams converge together with breathtaking beauty. But this really isn’t the end of your journey until you have experienced a good Idaho “Meat and Potatoes” meal at Bridge Street Grill.

Chef Patrick is in awe of the beauty driving into Stanley. And with just a little jaunt into Lower Stanley, Chef finds himself with Brett Woolley, the owner of Bridge Street Grill.

Q: So rumor has it that this is the place for a real Idaho “Meat and Potato” meal!

A: That’s right! I am a traditional Idaho cowboy, so that’s basically what I serve. The menu is me! My favorite is a big Ribeye steak (which we hand cut) and a huge Idaho potato. But my motto over the years has been “Feed the monster”. What I mean by that is to constantly make adjustments to what the people need and what the employees need. That balance has evolved into a nice menu and remodeling projects every year. The view is our stage and adding on good food and service has put us on the map. Our signature items now are our Idaho Ruby Red Trout with lemon butter and grilled capers, Prime Rib, and our Burgers with hand-cut Idaho potato French fries. We don’t offer any specials, just the main menu so we can focus on what we do well.

Q: What’s next for Bridge Street Grill as you “Feed the monster”?

A: Well, our position on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway brings people from all over the world. So staying true to our Idaho Cowboy menu is part of the charm for them while visiting our state. However, there are trends that need to be incorporated. Shooting for this Memorial Day, we want to add Sushi and a bit of fresh seafood including maybe a scallop shish kabob. We will probably roll out this program on the upper deck where the view is most spectacular.


Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Several camping and fishing opportunities dot the route of the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, particularly between Idaho City and Lowman and along the Payette River.

At the cutoff road to Grandjean, the roadway leaves the Payette River and squeezes between two of Idaho’s wilderness areas. On the right, the Sawtooth Wilderness and its 217,000 pristine acres of coniferous forest lands and wilderness lakes. To the left, the Salmon-Challis National Forest, entryway to the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, with more contiguous acres of road-less wilderness than anywhere in the lower 48 states.

Location: From Boise on Idaho 21, northeast to the junction of Idaho 75 at Stanley.

Length: 130.9 miles. Allow 3 hours.

Special attractions: Lucky Peak State Park; Idaho City; The Springs; Granite Creek Interpretive Trail; Kirkham Hot Springs; Stanley Lake

Food & Scenery Roadtrip Ideas

Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Western Heritage Byway Bites



American Craft Beer Week Roadtrip to Fine Ales and Epic Recreation

You’ll begin your Mountain Craft Beer Trail tour in Boise—Idaho’s capital city.

Urban comforts rest seamlessly against hundreds of miles of single track mountain bike and hiking trails in the Boise Foothills—the Treasure Valley’s buffer from the Rocky Mountains. Bisected by the peaceful waters of the Boise River, the Treasure Valley is the perfect starting point for your brewery tour, with endless options for recreation, wining, dining, and craft beer. Often regarded as one of the top places to live, work and play in the United States, the so called “City of Trees” has become a delightful haven for beer drinkers and craft brew enthusiasts.

Drop by Payette Brewing Company for an Outlaw IPA or Payette Pale Ale on a green spring afternoon. The brewery, named for one of Idaho’s staple rivers, offers many seasonal beers and is known to bring in evening eats from some of the areas top food trucks.


Just up the street is the Crooked Fence Brewery Barrelhouse—another laid back beer maker with a prolific local following. Try a Rusty Nail Pale Ale after a cruiser tour of the Boise River Greenbelt corridor.

From there, you may want to shift your attention to the lively downtown Boise beer scene.  10 Barrel Brewing Company offers excellent options for foodies, not to mention a diverse spectrum of tasty in-house brews. You might want to make Bittercreek Ale House (just around the corner) your next stop. With a refined menu and robust beer and wine selection, you could get lost in the menu. But don’t worry, the highly trained staff can recommend something for any preference.



Once you’ve had your fill of hiking, biking, and craft beers in Boise, head north on Historic Highway 55 (Payette River Scenic Byway). This well traveled byway is one of the most scenic roads in the United States. Just 22 miles from Boise, you’ll come across Horseshoe Bend—gateway to the Payette River system. Stop by Kits Riverside Café for a legendary finger steak lunch on the patio overlooking the rippling waters of the Payette. Day and evening trips on the Thunder Mountain Line  railway offer some epic canyon scenery and many opportunities to test your photographic abilities.

A few miles up the road is Banks—your starting point for a day of whitewater action. Day trips down the South Fork and Main Payette are affordable, and arguably the most sought after excursion in the Gem State.


From Banks, you’ll head into some of the most picturesque country in the Northern Hemisphere. The next fifteen miles encompasses non-stop class five+ whitewater, with plenty of turnouts to watch kayakers tackle enormous haystack waves. A handful of beaches and camping options are available along this stretch.

Just north of Smiths Ferry and Cougar Mountain Lodge, you’ll cross over the Historic Rainbow Bridge and the end of the Cabarton—another wonderful whitewater day trip.

A hop and a skip and you’ll enter Round Valley, Southwest Idaho’s high mountain country. The old logging town of Cascade is home to majestic Lake Cascade and Grandma’s Café—home cooking at its finest.

Passing over Little Donner Summit, you’ll enter the quaint valley town of Donnelly and the turnoff to Tamarack Resort—a four-season getaway with mountain bike trails for every skill level, and the world class Osprey Meadows Golf Course. You can also spend an evening soaking in the legendary Gold Fork Hot Springs, just 20 minutes from town.

Now you’re nearing the end of your tour—but we’ve saved some of the best for last. The resort town of McCall is one of the most relaxed and enjoyable places to visit in Idaho, with summer being especially pleasant. Myriad wining and dining options abound before, during or after an action packed day of boating on Payette Lake, mountain biking at Brundage Mountain, or exploring the historic relics around Burgdorf Hot Springs. But the high mountain air and clear skies may be McCall’s best amenity.

Drop in to the Salmon River Brewery for a bite to eat and its staple Udaho Gold—a refreshing ale for any pallet. The McCall Brewing Company also offers a nice food menu and a tasty Hippie Hopped Pale Ale, among many other draft beers.

For high end surf and turf in McCall, check out Steamers or The Mill. If sushi’s your poison, try The Sushi Bar near the waterfront.

Overview: The route from Boise to McCall is 106 miles.  Plan on 1 to 3 days to experience many of the highlights along the way.

Guest Blogger: Andrew Mentzer

Food & Scenery Roadtrip Ideas

Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites
Western Heritage Byway Bites


Four Recipes Guaranteed to Turn Your Backyard Barbecue into a Backcountry Feast

May is National Barbecue Month. Warm weather and longer days make this a great time to scrape off the grates and fire up the grill.  For a twist on the traditional, try these tried and true recipes that have filled the hungry bellies of Idaho river rafters, anglers and backcountry adventurers for years. They are sure to turn your backyard barbecue into a backcountry feast.

We recommend fresh, flavorful ingredients, including Idaho meats, produce and dairy products. Rivers and mountains provide the perfect backdrop, but aren’t required for a delicious meal.  Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin ala MFRT

Courtesy Middle Fork Rapid Transit

1 pork tenderloin
2 TBS vegetable oil
1 TSP sesame seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup soy sauce
2 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS sugar
½ TSP ginger.

Marinate pork for at least 4 hours. Broil on open grill.  Slice thin and serve.

Sugar Grilled Salmon

- Courtesy Sawtooth Wilderness Outfitters, Doug & Kathy Smith

1-½ lbs fresh salmon steaks or fillets
2 TBS dry sherry
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 TBS soy sauce
4 TBS melted butter

Place salmon on aluminum foil or disposable aluminum pan.  For fillets, place skin side down in pan. Combine all remaining ingredients and set aside ¼ of mixture. Stir until sugar dissolves.  Pour over salmon.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  Place over hot coals or grill. Baste salmon while cooking. Turn steaks after 5 minutes; do not turn fillet. Cook until salmon just begins to flake. Remove skin and drizzle set-aside mixture over salmon and serve.

Campfire Potatoes

- Courtesy Sawtooth Wilderness Outfitters

5 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 TBS fresh parsley, minced
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 medium onion, sliced
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes and onion on a large piece of heavy-duty foil with butter. Combine the cheese, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper; sprinkle over potatoes. Fold foil up around potatoes and add broth. Seal the edges of foil well. Grill, covered, over medium coals for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Barbecued Corn With Sour Cream, Lime and Chili

- Courtesy Idaho Preferred

4 ears fresh sweet corn
2 fresh limes
1 small tub light sour cream
1 TBS chili powder
Salt and pepper

Shuck the corn and place cobs directly on the grate of a hot grill. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning to ensure consistent browning and tenderness. While the corn is grilling, slice the limes in quarters and coat in chili powder. Brush the finished cobs with sour cream and squeeze chili lime juice over the surface. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you’d like someone else to do the cooking, contact the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association to schedule and Idaho adventure, or go to to plan your Idaho vacation. For more backcountry recipes, check out “The Outdoor Dutch Oven Cookbook” by Sheila Mills, founder and longtime owner of Rocky Mountain River Tours.

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
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites

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  For lodging information, go to