This book, Roadside Geology of Idaho, is part of a series of books on geology written for the layman to use when traveling to better understand the rocky world upon which everything else depends.

I have had zero professional training in the world of geology, so when I take on a geology topic like last week’s basin and range, I really stress about getting things right. And I have several geology friends who don’t hesitate to correct me when I make a mistake. In fact, several years ago one of them complimented me on a geology topic, now long forgotten, by saying, “Pretty good—for a non-geologist”, implying that while I wasn’t one hundred percent accurate, I was close.

The more I learn about biology though, the more I realize just how important understanding the hard-rock science of geology is. Rocks and minerals are the underpinning of life on this planet. Despite the fact that geologic time is hard to grasp, geology shapes our world and all living things adapt to that geology or fade from the scene.

However, I have found geology to be a difficult topic. This science examines the world on a grand scale and where eons of time are tossed about like parade candy. The core of the earth can be discussed in the same sentence as the unimaginably huge continental plates that are moving under our feet as I write this.

To explain it all, geologists have pretty much invented a new language and don’t hesitate to throw around words like lithosphere, diabase and gneiss. If that isn’t enough to scare off the average citizen, how about:  listric normal faulting, isostatic uplift, oblique strike-slip and metamorphic core complexes, all terms used in Wikipedia to “explain” the basin and range formation.

Most of that went right over my head and I scrambled to find an explanation I could understand. I found fathomable enlightenment in a used book I had purchased several years ago to accompany our travels around Idaho. It is called, Roadside Geology of Idaho, by David D. Alt and Donald W. Hyndman.  This book is published by Mountain Press Publishing of Missoula, MT. A quick visit to their website revealed that they have published 33 Roadside Geology books. All of the western states are covered including one specifically on the Yellowstone area, another of the series that I own.

Each book is written by different experts and so may diverge in their treatment and complexity of geologic phenomena, but my sample size of two suggests that the series is intended to keep a complicated subject on a level a layman can grasp.

As the name, Roadside Geology, implies, these books are designed to explain the geology of features that can be readily seen from roads and highways. The first 47 pages give what the authors refer to as the, “Big Picture” and I recommend reading it several times. The rest of the state is divided into four areas: Panhandle, central Idaho, southeastern Idaho and Snake River Plain. Each section has a lot of general information and then describes the geology along specific highways, such as: “Highway 26—Idaho Falls to Wyoming”. The pages are full of maps and diagrams but jargon and technical terms are minimized and carefully explained in a glossary.

I think I will read my copy of Roadside Geology of Idaho from cover to cover first. Then it will accompany us whenever we travel around the state. With enough effort, I might be able to finally grasp the principles of geology that underpin the world we walk on today.

Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho