Marsh, Mountain, Reservoir, Fossil, and Beer
Only half the time we spent in southwestern Idaho was spent viewing the springs along the Snake River however – the other 3 days we ventured out to see other sites. Our first day of exploration led us to C.J. Strike Reservoir and the Bruneau Sand Dunes, neither of which we found particularly interesting or picturesque though Abbs was enthusiastic about all the smells around the shore of the former. Following days took us north towards the Sawtooths where we ventured into the Camas Prairie Marsh in search of the Camas Lily which carpets the valley floor from the end of May through the beginning of June. Alas, we were a bit early for the full bloom but we did see some of the early blue-purple flowers and a whole lot of gorgeous marsh land stretching to the base of the snow-capped peaks of the northern ranges. Wildlife abounded here and we spent our time there serenaded by ducks and birds and all manner of waterfowl.
From there we drove north into the foothills, somewhat aimlessly exploring the terrain until we decided to turn towards Anderson Ranch Reservoir on the South Fork of the Boise River. Once we reached the reservoir we walked into inlets and along tributaries, overlooks and surrounding highlands, and finally along the South Fork itself north. We also came across some stunning forest and surprise hot springs as we climbed in elevation. Unfortunately it was too early in the season for the forest roads leading to higher ground to be anywhere near clear or dry so despite the truck having 4-wheel drive we decided to pass on these since we had no knowledge of the terrain or of opportunities to turn around with our long wheel base.
Our last day before moving on was spent scouting the sights remaining along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. There we did some short walks along the Snake and a tributary or two before finding a lovely access spot that Abbs decided to briefly swim in. Further south from the swimming spot we drove to the overlooks in Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument; here we learned this area was host to the densest concentration of Pliocene Era fossils covered by repeated depositions of silt, sand, and clay by the ancient Snake River 3-4 million years ago. At the time Lake Idaho stood here, larger in size than Ontario and as deep as 1,500 feet in places; as the current of the ancient Snake slowed approaching this massive body of water a massive amount of earth from upstream was deposited and during flood seasons many animals were trapped, their bones forever fossilized. Fossils of camels, ancient horses, mastadons, turtles, fish and more that lived more than 3 million years ago are documented here, forever preserved in the layers. Though there was/is a visitor center nearby it was/is still closed for relocation so we were unable to see any of the actual fossils they display. Nonetheless, the informational signage at the overlooks was very helpful in allowing to understand the geologic events that led to this being a special place.
Last and not least we of course visited the nearest brewery to where we stayed during our time here. Blue Pit Brewing in Mountain Home (named for it’s owners’ blue-silvery-gray pitbulls) was a delightful place for refreshments after a couple of our excursions. They obviously were very welcoming to dogs, allowing them to lounge indoors in the hot hours of the afternoon and Abby relished all the attention that she received there while we sampled some delicious beer and chatted with the owners and staff. It was one of those places that we felt immediately at home in and would love to return to someday.