Little City of Rocks

Little City of Rocks is a great place to visit, especially early in the season when plants are still green. Watch out for ticks though!

We drive a lot, perhaps too much some might say, in our quest to find new places to explore. Over the years we have seen places in Idaho and surrounding states that most others have never heard of. Recently, we took a drive from Hill City, west of Fairfield, over the Bennett Mountain Road and into the Bennett Hills. It was awesome expansive country completely new to us despite the fact that we have driven past it on Highway 26 on the north and I-84 on the south for years.

After we left the Bennett Hills and grabbed some gas at Bliss, we jumped on the freeway and headed to Gooding to find one more area. At Gooding we turned north onto Highway 46. After about 13.3 miles, we saw the sign we had been looking for, Little City of Rocks. We turned left on a dirt road, stayed right at the fork and in about 1.2 miles parked at the base of an old rock dam.

Despite having lived in Idaho for 35 years, I had heard of Little City of Rocks only three years ago and it had taken this long to get there. We didn’t know for sure what to expect, but I had been told that it rivaled the nationally recognized City of Rocks near Almo, Idaho. I have been to City of Rocks and found it amazing, so I had high hopes.

It was past noon when we put boots to trail so I didn’t intend to go far—just a few hundred yards to see around the next corner. I had my tripod and camera over my shoulder and that was it. No water, nothing. The first bend yielded an intriguing view of a narrowing canyon lined with dark volcanic rock spires, often called hoodoos, arches and windows. As we walked, we could look up into dark canyon branches and I thought that the Google Earth view of the canyon must resemble a tree.

While the vegetation on the canyon walls was typical of the hot and dry area north of the Magic Valley, the bottom of the canyon was very different. Along the trail it was green and lush, with a few wildflowers still in bloom. Chokecherry and hawthorn shrubs, a few willows and other plants were more reminiscent of a riparian or mountain shrub community with the wildlife, such as Bullock’s orioles, to match.

The scenery was so intriguing that we covered two miles without even really noticing it. The birding was good with hawks and golden eagles circling above, pigeons cooing from the rock ledges and a myriad of songbirds in the canyon bottom. I even showed my wife her first ever mourning dove nest, complete with two white eggs, under a bush. With just three-quarters of a mile to go before topping the head of the canyon, we stopped where rain water still sat in pools in the shady creek bottom.

When we finally got back to the truck, we were hot and thirsty, but well satisfied that we had begun the exploration of an awesome place. I could see us camping there, perhaps even backpacking up a mile, and spending several days hiking the side canyons.

It was a bit of a drive to get to Little City of Rocks, but the windshield time was pleasant as we enjoyed a new corner of Idaho and Little City of Rocks was definitely worth it.  

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