Idaho’s Historical Markers

By Mychel Matthews (view original article here)

Salmon Falls

Milepost 186.9 U.S. 30 near Hagerman

In 1812, Joseph Miller found 100 lodges of indians spearing thousands of salmon each afternoon at a cascade below here. Each summer, they dried a year’s supply. After 1842, they also traded salmon to Oregon Trail emigrants. Explorer John C. Fremont marveled at Salmon Falls’ 18-foot vertical drop, noting that the drop gave the scene “much picturesque beauty and make(s) it one of those places that the traveler turns again and again to fix in his memory.”

Thousand Springs

Milepost 186.9 U.S. 30 near Hagerman

A long series of lava flows buried old river channels in this area and created a multitude of famous springs here.

Payne’s Ferry

Milepost 190.4 U.S. 30

A scow powered by oarsmen let Oregon Trail wagons cross the Snake River here from 1852 to 1870.

Fishing Springs

Milepost 190.4 U.S. 30

As the Snake River’s highest salmon cascades, Fishing Falls was included on many early Western maps.

Magic Dam

Milepost 91 Idaho 75 near Shoshone

The $3 million Magic Dam stores up to 190,000 acre feet of irrigation water for 89,000 acres of farms near Shoshone and Richfield.

Wood River Mines

Milepost 112.8 Idaho 75

Rich strikes in 1879 precipitated a rush to the lead-silver mines of this valley. One mine alone, the famous Minnie Moore Mine, produced $8.4 million worth of ore.

Ski Lifts

Milepost 130.8 Idaho 75

When Sun Valley Lodge was built in 1936, Union Pacific engineers developed chair lifts to transport skiers uphill.

Starting with two modest ski slopes on Dollar Mountain and Proctor Mountain, chair lifts were used for all Sun Valley ski runs. Far superior to tow ropes and similar devices employed before 1936, they quickly became popular at ski resorts everywhere. New designs were adopted for additional Sun Valley ski runs, but one 1936-style chair lift still is preserved four miles up Trail Creek Road from here.


Milepost 151.8 Idaho 75

Warren P. Callahan found a rich lead-silver mine here in 1879, followed by thousands of miners into Wood River in 1880. Galena had a hotel, four general stores, a livery stable, several saloons and dining halls, a shoe store, and daily stage service to Hailey.

Hudspeth’s Cutoff

Milepost 2.8 Idaho 77 near Malta

This shortcut to the California gold fields, followed by most of the ‘49ers, came out of the hills to the east and joined the old California Trail just about here.

Diamondfield Jack

Milepost 18.4 on Idaho 77 at Albion Public Square

By far the most famous gunman of Idaho’s sheep and cattle wars, “Diamondfield Jack” Davis was tried here for shooting two sheepherders in 1896. Twice he narrowly escaped hanging, before the pardon board turned him loose in 1902.

Salmon Dam

Milepost 11.2 U.S. 93 near Rogerson

Intended to create a large reservoir to irrigate desert lands north of here, the Salmon Dam was only a partial success.

Shoshone Falls

Visitors center at 2015 Neilsen Point Place in Twin Falls

Four miles east of here, the Snake River falls thunders 210 feet over a rocky ledge higher than the famous Niagara Falls.

College of Southern Idaho

Visitors center 2015 Neilsen Point Place in Twin Falls

In 1964, Twin Falls County voters established a community college, and Jerome County soon voted to join their college district. In 1968, a modern campus was born.

Shoshone Historic District

Milepost 72.9 U.S. 93

South-central Idaho’s rail center since 1882 when trains reached here, Shoshone has a historic district of unusual interest. Vast sheep grazing lands made this a major early center for Basque herders.

City of Rocks

Idaho 27 1 mile north of Oakley

A vast display of towering granite rocks that were miles southeast of here attracted emigrants on their way to California. A gold rush visitor on July 14, 1849, said “you can imagine among those massive piles, church domes, spires, pyramids … with a little fancying you can see (anything) from the Capitol at Washington to a lowly thatched cottage.”

Minidoka Dam

Milepost 10.6 Idaho 24 near Acequia

An important pioneer federal reclamation dam and power plant provides water and electricity for farms and cities nearby. Constructed five miles east of here between 1904 and 1906 at a cost of $675,000, Minidoka Dam diverts water into canals 86 feet above the Snake River.

Camp Rupert

Milepost 41 Idaho 25 west of Paul

From 1943 to 1946, Camp Rupert was the largest prisoner of war camp in Idaho, housing some 4,000 POWs. Most were German and Italian. The Camp was maintained by nearly 1,000 army personnel and civilians. The historical marker was the last erected in the Magic Valley.

IDPR Plans $8 Million Improvements for Billingsley Creek Park

By Mychel Matthews (view original article here)

HAGERMAN — Visitors to the Billingsley Creek unit of Thousand Springs State Park will in a few years find new features, unveiled Wednesday by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

Plans include a visitor center, campground, road improvements, multi-use trails and enhanced fishing and paddling access on the creek.

“It was important to the agency that we remain committed to developing Billingsley Creek in a manner that would satisfy as many recreational needs and interests as possible,” Gordy Hansen, a member of the Idaho Park and Recreation Board from Burley, said in a statement. “We challenged our staff to explore innovative designs and cutting-edge outdoor opportunities, a few of which will soon be part of the Billingsley Creek experience.”

More than 100 people came to hear what the agency had planned for the 170-acre property, 120 acres of which are now leased out to farmers. But that will eventually change, as roads, trails, and improvements expand from the entrance of the park into the canyon toward Billingsley Creek below.

The long-term cost of the proposed project totals about $8 million. Funding for projects within the park initially will come from the sale of the nearby Vardis Fisher property, which was sold in 2015. Additional funding will come from programs such as the Recreational Vehicle Fund (RV registration fees), the Land and Water Conservation Fund (federal oil and gas excise taxes), and the Road and Bridge Fund (state fuel taxes).

As with any long-term project, the design phase will start with roads and utilities once funds are available next year, said Jim Thomas, IDPR development bureau chief. A new entrance to the park will be constructed farther north of the present entrance, and a 1.4-mile two-lane paved road will wind through the park, leading to a full-service, 50-site RV campground with dumping station.

Additional “primitive” camping will also be available for those who want to rough it, said David Landrum, Thousand Springs State Park manager.

Plans also call for an amphitheater, arboretum, information huts, a large picnic shelter, a group camp and a concrete “pump track” for bicycles.

Gooding County Commissioner Marc Bolduc said the park will be a huge economic driver for the Magic Valley.

Residents are especially excited about a walking and biking path — the Hagerman Valley Pathway — that will connect the town with Billingsley Creek, said Suzanne Jensen, a member of the bike and walk committee and secretary of the Hagerman Valley Chamber board.

“This is going to be so great for our community,” Jensen said. The second annual “Dinner on the Owsley Bridge” fundraiser for the pathway is scheduled for Sept. 15.

IDPR plans for the Billingsley Creek unit to be the hub of Thousand Springs State Park, which also includes Malad Gorge, Ritter Island, Kelton Trail, Niagara Springs, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Nature Preserve and Crystal Springs.

“Thousand Springs State Park is a testament to why this rugged portion of southern Idaho is called the Magic Valley,” said David Langhorst, IDPR director. “Our goal is to maximize the potential of these special places and create opportunities that will draw more interest to unique attributes of the area while complementing the community and efforts to accommodate growth.”

Hidden in Plain Sight: Ritter Island’s Secret World

By Virginia Hutchins (view original article here)

WENDELL — Perhaps you’ve joined the crowds at the annual arts festival on Ritter Island. You probably stood on the bridge, admiring the extraordinarily clear spring water tumbling from the Snake River Canyon wall and forming the pretty channel that separates the island from the mainland.

But unless you’ve launched a kayak or a standup paddleboard into that cool water, you haven’t really seen Ritter Island.

Hidden in plain sight, the island’s secret world is a wildlife and photography wonderland. But keep your feet on the ground, and you’ll see only the edges.

“It’s amazing what’s out there,” park manager Dave Landrum said, ticking off a few of the occupants: eagles, hawks, ospreys, pelicans, muskrats, river otters, deer. “As soon as you get in a boat, it opens a whole different world to you.”

On either end of Ritter Island, the spring water joins a sedate stretch of the Snake River, creating an inviting opportunity to circumnavigate the island. It’s an easy paddle that constantly reveals something new.

That crystal-clear water plunging down the canyon wall is a scenic photographer’s dream, of course, but it’s also a constant 58 degrees. In the heat of summer, that means you’ll be a lot cooler paddling in the channel beside Ritter Island than you would be touring the island on foot.

Ritter Island itself, a gated unit of Thousand Springs State Park, is open to foot traffic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, from June to September, Landrum said; a volunteer gives tours of the island’s historical dairy barn and teaches visitors about the history of the island.

But you can paddle around the island anytime from dawn to dusk, any day of the week. That’s because you’ll park your vehicle and launch your boat in Idaho Power Co.’s grassy public park connected with the adjacent Thousand Springs hydroelectric plant.

Sure, you can give Ritter Island a quick visit. But plan on taking the day, Landrum advises.

“Don’t rush it, and look up in the sky, look down on the ground,” he said. “Don’t just stare at the water.”

On the evening of June 9, to the distinctive soundtrack of red-winged blackbirds, my husband and I paddled our tandem kayak around Ritter Island, watching the fish in that clear water and cheered by the wild roses blooming on the banks.

Great blue herons rose gracefully from tall trees at the island’s north end. A deer, wading at the channel’s edge to reach up for mouthfuls from the willows, made a leisurely retreat as we approached, giving us plenty of time for admiration. Late in the evening, we watched a sleek mink swim just in front of our kayak before ducking below the surface.

We are neither anglers nor experienced birders, but Landrum and Sarah Harris, president of the Prairie Falcon Audubon chapter, helped me out on those angles later.

Big trout lurk under the island’s overhanging brush, Landrum said. “You can fish from the bank, but there’s nothing like fishing from the water to the bank.”

Many visitors fish right by the bridge, from the grassy area of the Idaho Power park. Instead, Landrum advises, they should work the channel in both directions farther away from the bridge. “That’s where you’ll find the fish.”

And the birding? It’s rich here, Harris said, but tends to get overlooked.

Among the more colorful species at Ritter Island: Bullock’s oriole, black-headed grosbeak, yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, MacGillivray’s warbler (“It’s a cool one. It’s worth seeing”), several kinds of flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat and Wilson’s snipe. Sometimes a Western screech owl.

In fact, birders who post their lists on have reported 54 species at Ritter Island in the past two years. But only seven eBirders reported from Ritter Island in those two years, Harris said, surprised as she looked up that statistic.

The island is shady, with big trees, it’s surrounded by water, and it’s fairly quiet until the annual Thousand Springs Festival of the Arts in September. In short, a great place to bird.

“We should take advantage of it,” she said.

So why do birders — even Harris — tend to overlook it? The island’s limited hours of pedestrian access have a lot to do with that, she said.

Just one more reason to see Ritter Island from the water.

Getting there

For the Ritter Island unit of Thousand Springs State Park, take Interstate 84 to Wendell, use exit 155 and head west on Hagerman Highway, then south on 1500 East (also called West Point Road). Turn west again on 3200 South, and watch for the Ritter Island signs.

Getting in

Like other state parks, Thousand Springs State Park charges a daily $5 motor vehicle entry fee year-round in most of its units — unless you have the $10 annual Idaho State Parks Passport available through the Department of Motor Vehicles. But the park’s Ritter Island unit is a special case.

Visitors to Ritter Island leave their vehicles in the adjacent Idaho Power park, which charges no fee, and — when the gate on the footbridge is open — walk onto the island. Or they launch boats from the Idaho Power park. Either way, your vehicle won’t enter the island, so you’ll never pay the $5 fee here.

Getting oriented

The fact that spring water creates the channel separating Ritter Island from the mainland has a startling result: Current in the channel flows in both directions, making the switch abruptly at a thundering waterfall beside the power plant. And it’s strong.

For the easiest paddle, you’ll want to circle the island clockwise to take advantage of the current once you reach the Snake River, which you can’t see when you launch from the Idaho Power park.

The Snake here flows toward the north; head south (left) when you launch so you can join the Snake at the island’s upstream end.

Thousand Springs State Park information: or 208-837-4505.

Trip of a Lifetime: Road Tripper Visits 3 Idaho National Sites

By Tetona Dunlap (view original article)

Mikah Meyer’s road trip started out as way to remember his late father.

Along the way he’s discovered his journey connects with many others.

In 2016 — on the 11th anniversary of his father death from cancer — Meyers started his three-year journey to visit the more than 415 units of the U.S. National Park System in 2016. Upon his completion, he will become the youngest person to experience every unit and the only person to do it in one continuous trip.

“It’s not a vacation,” Meyer said. “I use the term ‘project’ because that’s what I’m doing.”

Cost of the road
The National Park Service experts estimated his trip would cost $500,000. Meyer figures he’ll spend just $150,000. When the experts made their estimate, he said, they thought he’d eat all his meals at restaurants and stay in hotels.

Instead he cooks and lives out of a van he bought for $41,000. He also installed solar panels on his van to make it more energy efficient. If you see a white windowless van going only 63 mph in an 80 mph zone, that’s just Meyer creeping along so the panels don’t fly off. Meyer, 31, started saving for his trip when he was in his 20s. While friends were drinking beers at the bar, he was opting for water. It took him four years to plan and raise funds for his trip.

Life on the road is fun but tough. Often there is little to no cellphone service or internet connection. That makes it difficult when you are trying to file taxes or make sure your insurance is paid. The van has no air conditioning and no heating.

“It’s the stuff you don’t see on Instagram,” Meyer said.

Meyer travels with his boyfriend, who goes home every few weeks. They started dating shortly before Meyer planned to leave for his journey.

“I said, ‘You can come along, if you can figure out a way to pay for yourself,” Meyer said.

A voice for others
On Monday morning, the two pulled up in their white van in the parking lot of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. It was No. 163 on Meyer’s stop and Minidoka National Historic Site was No. 164. They arrived in Hagerman by way of Golden Spike National Historic Site in Ogden, Utah. After visiting Hagerman they planned to drive to Minidoka National Historic Site and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

Idaho was their first stop in the Pacific Northwest region.

Meyer didn’t start out as an LGBT Christian advocate but it’s become an important part of his journey. At first, he didn’t tell anyone he was gay. But after meeting LGBT national park rangers and LGBT teenagers who follow his journey online — he felt he was in a position to be a voice for the LGBT community and help break stereotypes.

“It reminded me of when I was a gay kid growing up in Nebraska,” he said. “When I thought all gays people had AIDS, were drag queens or wore Speedos on floats because that’s what Fox News told me.”

To help fund his trip, he sings and speaks at churches. Many people donate to his cause once they hear his story. Only one church has declined to let him talk about LGBT issues.

He and his his boyfriend planned to head to Logan, Utah, to sing at a church after visiting Craters of the Moon. The rest of the month would include visiting Utah parks before heading south to the Grand Canyon National Park.

“My timing is determined by what’s efficient and when churches want me to sing,” he said. “The church was always a huge part of my life.”

His father was a Lutheran campus minister. He passed away from cancer at age 56 when Meyer was 19.

“I naively thought I’ll live until I’m 80,” he said. “That was the moment I learned it doesn’t work that way.”

Days after his father’s funeral in 2005, Meyer took his first road trip to honor his father’s love of traveling. Since then, he has taken one road trip a year. His 2011 through 2012 trip consisted of a 260 day, 16,400 mile “Dream Road Trip” around 46 North American states and provinces.

An honest opinion
Meyer stamped his National Parks Passport book inside the Hagerman Fossil Beds Visitor Center before watching videos about the Hagerman Valley and the internment camp at the Minidoka National Historic Site.

He ranks his visits 1 through 10 and plans to publish his final rankings at the end of his trip.

“I hope I can use this trip to give the public an honest review,” he said.

So far his favorite has been the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. It was because of the beautiful landscape in the middle of the prairie.
“It blew my mind,” he said. “It was unexpected.”

And while places like the Grand Canyon receive millions of visitors each year, Meyer likes that his journey can highlight lesser known sites that travelers may not plan a summer to visit — even though they should.

“It’s cool that I can go to them and give them this attention they don’t usually get,” Meyer said.

Walk, bike, bird and ride: Group plans miles of trails to connect Hagerman Valley

By: Tetona Dunlap (view original article)

It all started with an idea to build a bike path connecting Hagerman to Billingsley Creek.

And what was a short stretch has now grown to miles of trails.

Hagerman Mayor Noel C. Weir approached Craig Laughlin last year to head the initial bike path project. He’s the president of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee, which is overseeing the proposed trail system that will link businesses, state and national parks and other destinations in the Hagerman Valley.

On Friday, members of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee will team up with 12 landscape architects and 12 local experts during a workshop called the Hagerman Valley Pathways Community Design Charrette. They will design the trails, create a unique identity for the trail system and promote the different types of use such as walking, biking, birding and horseback riding.

A community open house will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hagerman School Gymnasium. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on the pathway design the teams will come up with during the two-day workshop.

Laughlin estimated the completed project will cost between $7 to $8 million and will include 35 miles of new trails. The workshop was made possible through a grant from the National Park Service that was awarded in October.

The group’s plan is to finish the first leg of the project — from city park to Billinglsey Creek State Park — by next year.

“It’s just getting off the ground,” Laughlin said. “It will take four or five years before you see it all tied together.”

Charrettes, or design workshops, have been used in other Idaho community projects including the Barber Pool Conservation Area Interpretive Trail, Caldwell’s Indian Creek Daylighting Project and the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

“We are trying to boost tourism, plus we are trying to give local people something to do,” Laughlin said. “There is kind of threefold thing — tourism, safety and health for the citizens.”

Suzanne Jensen, the group’s secretary/treasurer, has lived in the Hagerman Valley for 30 years working as a real estate agent. An avid walker, she said the only sidewalks are along State Street or U.S. 30, which cuts through town. Jensen recalled more than once when she and her walking partner had to jump up on the curb to avoid getting hit by a vehicle.

“This is beautiful valley and so much what we have in the natural setting isn’t readily available for visitors,” Jensen said. “I think it’s a really sound plan. We are excited about it. There is pretty good momentum.”

They workshop attendees will also design trail signage, discuss how to make State Street look and function more like a Main Street and and how to transform Hagerman into a hub town for bicycling.

“They call it a branding,” Jensen said. “A representation of community ideals and that tell who Hagerman is.”

David Landrum, Thousand Springs State Park manager, is a member of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee.

“We get a lot of different visitors at all our park units and a lot of visitors have bikes with them,” Landrum said. “We are hoping the visitors that we get off the freeway will take these trails. It will benefit everybody and showcase what Hagerman has for people to see.”

Last year committee members took a tour of the project’s proposed sites. Jensen said there were spots in the Hagerman Valley she didn’t even know existed. Landscape architects and regional experts will also take the same tour before the weekend charrette begins.

“I’m hoping when people come to Hagerman they will stay a little longer if we have a nice bike path and walking path,” Jensen said. “A lot of times people will come and use the river, but I’m hoping they will take the opportunity to explore. Even local residents don’t realize a lot of the natural beauty that is out there.”

If there was ever a year for whitewater rafting in Idaho, this is the one

By Steve Stuebner for the Times-News (view original article)

Floating the Middle Fork Salmon River is an adventure worthy of any Idaho bucket list. (Courtesy: Idaho River Adventures)

There’s a secret place, deep inside the Bruneau River Canyon, that I call the “Valley of the Caves and Spiritual Wonders.” I named it in the coffee table book “Idaho Impressions” after experiencing it for the first time in the early 1990s, and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since.

On U.S. Geological Survey maps, it’s called Cave Draw.

The only feasible way to see it is by floating the Bruneau River. It’s possible for a small party to camp there, about 7 to 8 miles from the Hot Springs put-in. A short walk from the river’s edge, the sound of moving water surrenders to complete silence — until a great horned owl screeches and flushes from its perch on a rock spire.

Much like the incised Bruneau canyon, the grayish-blond rock walls of this side draw rise abruptly some 750 feet. A thin foot trail leads into the canyon through a carpet of grass, sage and thorny wild rosebushes. Around each bend, a new set of tall rock spires comes into view.

When a series of caves appears, I go over to explore them, and some of them even connect. Farther up the draw, more caves and rock arches punctuate the views of this secret place. Finally, the draw comes to a head at a 30-foot rock cliff, a mini-grotto that turns into a raging waterfall during rainstorms and snowmelt.

Cave Draw is one of the many hidden treasures you can explore in the Owyhee Canyonlands if you put together a private raft trip with friends — or hire an outfitter to take you there in style and handle all the boating gear, food and logistics.

The three forks of the Owyhee and the Main Owyhee River are ripe for the plucking this time of year. (Courtesy: Barker River Expeditions)

The Bruneau River, the Jarbidge, the three forks of the Owyhee or the Main Owyhee River are totally ripe for the plucking this year. Because of deep snow and a long, cold winter, the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau watersheds are primed for an especially long floating season. This is also true for the Mid-Snake reaches such as the Milner Mile, Caldron Linn and the Murtaugh, and for the Salmon River and its tributaries.

It’s going to be one heck of a whitewater season.

I just did a three-day trip on the Main Owyhee the weekend of March 17-19, with a party of six people and four boats, and I hope to do it again in April. I’m also looking forward to running the Bruneau in May or June.

Idaho outfitters have scheduled dates to run these rivers, so if you’re interested in booking a desert river trip, I recommend getting in touch with them ASAP. Far & Away Adventures, ROW Adventures, Barker River Expeditions and Wilderness River Outfitters are all experienced in running trips in the desert country. Contact them for pricing and trip dates available.

If you rise to the task, you’ll be amazed at the fascinating geology you’ll experience on the Jarbidge and Bruneau rivers, and also on the Owyhee. It’s an intimate experience to float through the Jarbidge/Bruneau canyons, with walls rising vertically from the water’s edge several hundred feet. The long passage of geologic time has polished the rhyolite lava flows exposed by the cutting forces of the river and left an especially showy display of towers, alcoves and spires.

The canyonlands are so unique and different than the Salmon River or the Snake that they deserve to be on the Idaho bucket list, in my view. The best and easiest way to see them is via a kayak, raft, cataraft, inflatable kayak or even a pack raft in late season after the big flows have withered.

The Mid-Snake

Rafting the Snake River. (Courtesy: Idaho Guide Service)

Similar to the desert rivers, the Mid-Snake region has jolted to life with more than 20,000 cubic feet per second of water passing Milner Dam. The class 5 Milner Mile is being run by expert kayakers, as are Caldron Linn (Star Falls) and the class 4 Murtaugh section of the Snake. River rapids are rated on a European scale of 1-6, with class 6 being an unrunnable waterfall. Once a waterfall has been run, it’s class 5+; this is the case with Caldron Linn.

I have 30 years of running rivers under my belt, but I’ve never run the Murtaugh. I’ve run the Grand Canyon several times and Hells Canyon many times, and running the big water of the Murtaugh is on my list. There should be boatable flows on the Murtaugh for possibly two months, perhaps longer, depending on Bureau of Reclamation water releases from the Upper Snake. That will be a rare situation for Idahoans who want to experience the thrill of running the Murtaugh.

Longtime Snake River guide Olin Gardner, owner of Idaho Guide Service, has boated the Murtaugh section many times dating back to the 1980s. His company offers guided trips on the Murtaugh for $125 per person, including lunch. (Trust me, you’ll need to eat lunch on this full-day adventure.) Minimum age is 16, and a “go-for-it” attitude is required. The Murtaugh is more action-packed than just about any day trip in Idaho, similar to the nonstop excitement of the Lochsa River or the Payette River “Canyon” section. There are 16 major rapids on a 14-mile stretch between the Murtaugh Bridge and Twin Falls Park.

“It’s always an exciting trip,” says Gardner, who lives near Hagerman at the Billingsley Creek Lodge with his wife, Shelley. “I think it’s one of the most spectacular parts of the Snake River Canyon.”

For folks who don’t necessarily want a white-knuckle experience, there’s the Hagerman reach of the Snake River, which has a series of class 3 rapids over a distance of 10 miles. This is more of a scenic trip with some fun rapids added for spice. The put-in is about 25 miles west of Twin Falls. This trip costs $60-$70 with Idaho Guide Service, with or without lunch.

Be sure to check out the other paddling adventures offered by Idaho Guide Service and do-it-yourself kayak or canoeing trips from Centennial Park to the base of Shoshone Falls after the big water subsides.

The Salmon

The Middle Fork Salmon River is the second most popular wilderness whitewater trip in the nation next to the Grand Canyon. (Courtesy: Idaho River Adventures)

During summer, you also should consider a trip on the Main Salmon River “River of No Return” wilderness section which cuts through the heart of central Idaho from Salmon to Riggins. I’ve done this trip more than 25 times, and it’s really the consummate family trip. The days are hot, the kids jump in inflatable kayaks, or a whole family can take over a paddle raft and have fun together.

If you do it yourself, a permit is required from, but an outfitter already has a quiver of permits for the season, so you just buy a trip and go on the dates that work for your family.

The Middle Fork Salmon River is another Idaho bucket list adventure. The Middle Fork is considered the second-most popular wilderness whitewater trip in the nation next to the Grand Canyon. The Main Salmon has to be in the top 5 as well. The Middle Fork runs for 100 miles from points northwest of Stanley to the Main Salmon River. Outfitters typically do it in six days. Private groups take seven or eight days, depending on party size. The bottom line: You want to spend as much time on the Middle Fork as possible.

On the Main Salmon, you can experience historic homesteads on short side hikes, camp on big sandy beaches, play volleyball, horseshoes or bocce ball on the sand, enjoy playful class 3 rapids (with a few class 4’s tossed in for spice), and visit Buckskin Bill’s place where you can buy ice cream, T-shirts, hats and cool Salmon River stuff.

On the Middle Fork, you’ll soak in hot springs for the first three or four days of the trip. You can fly fish for native trout all the way down the river (some people catch more than 100 fish on the trip; it’s all catch-and-release). Side hikes provide new insight on the river canyon, away from the bustle of the river corridor. And then there’s Parrott’s grotto, Indian pictographs and Veil Cave to explore on the last day before you leave the canyon.

It’s hard to pack in so much river fun in a single summer, but this year is shaping up to be one of the best years ever for Idaho rivers. Do what you can to carve out time to enjoy it. You’ll want to come back for more.

Steve Stuebner, a longtime Idaho outdoors writer and author of more than 10 books, works in a public relations capacity for Southern Idaho Tourism and the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, among others.

Visiting Ritter Island and Minnie Miller Springs

Ritter Island is a wonderful place to visit at this time of year. The springs are flowing, spring plants and flowers are beginning to bloom, and it’s an easy place to access for spring hiking and sight-seeing for the whole family, near Wendell and Hagerman, Idaho.

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Visit Miracle or Banbury Hot Springs

There’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in a natural hot springs and feeling the water cleanse your body and soul. Precious geothermal hot water — heated naturally deep inside Mother Earth — penetrates your pores and clears your head of all worries.

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Hagerman Birding Festival

The upcoming Hagerman Birding Festival, scheduled for Feb. 12-14, is a perfect event to learn how to get started. Pre-registration is open for the event, which is limited to the first 150 people who sign up.

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The Trip of a Lifetime

South-central Idaho — Sturgeon are the largest fresh-water fish in North America and can be found in three of Idaho’s major river systems; the Snake River, the Kootenai and the Salmon River. This prehistoric monster of the deep is fast becoming one of Idaho’s most popular game fish. Its enormous size and fighting strength have captured the hearts of anglers from around the world.

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