Discovering the Rest of Idaho

Deadwood Reservoir is just one of thousands of Idaho gems and is far more attractive than its name might imply. It is worth the five-hour drive.

Most of Owyhee County, Idaho, is a black hole for me. Otherwise, I used to feel that I have done a reasonably admirable job of at least touching base with most of Idaho.

Then my son invited us to go camping at Deadwood Reservoir. My ignorance became obvious when I told him that Cascade was too far to drive for a three-day trip. “You don’t go to Cascade,” he intoned. “You will go through Stanley.” In my defense, you CAN get to Deadwood Reservoir from Cascade once the road opens later this month. But I really didn’t know any more about Deadwood Reservoir than the name and I wasn’t expecting much. Jake assured me that the fishing was hot and convinced me it was worth a visit.

Deadwood Reservoir turned out to be a great place for a spring campout. We passed through Bear Valley, a beautiful wide basin full of elk, deer and even pronghorn. We were nearly 40 miles from pavement and Forest Service campgrounds had yet to open for the season. Consequently, we shared the reservoir with only a handful of other people in the time we were there.

This big, pretty, tree-lined reservoir was indeed full of hungry kokanee salmon, rainbow and cutthroat trout and the water was already warm enough for the kids to play on the sandy beaches. Deer and even elk wandered through camp. Its only drawback was being a five-hour drive from Idaho Falls. We were glad to get to know yet another Idaho gem and we hope to return next spring.

So I really am not the expert on Idaho I thought I was. I have touched base with a lot of Idaho but with 53,530,880 acres (83,562 square miles) to explore, I still have a lot of ground to cover.

  I guess I had judged my travel expertise by those placemats sometimes found in local diners throughout the state. You know the ones: They have the state of Idaho with some of the more prominent cities listed. On that “map”, I have been to every single place except for Silver City in, you guessed it, Owyhee County. I suppose that really doesn’t make me all that well traveled as a closer look at a more detailed map reveals a lot of country between those towns.

Over the past five or so years, we have made a lot of headway in a quest to more deeply explore this state. We discovered the beautiful St. Joe River, explored Hagerman Valley and City of Rocks National Reserve. We have spent time at Craters of the Moon National Monument and walked new trails in the White Cloud Mountains. I’ve hiked a section of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and visited Chamberlain Basin. Each one has become a new favorite place and has pointed us to additional places and activities to try such as the Hiawatha bicycling trail in North Idaho, rafting the Middle Fork and Little City of Rocks north of Gooding.  

I’ve also been to only 14 of Idaho’s 30 state parks and some of those visits were 30 years ago. Clearly I can improve on this, especially if I tire of the centennial crowds in our nearby national parks.

No, I am not an expert on where-to-go in Idaho, but I am working on it. If I get around to enough places, maybe I can print up my own placemats for the diners.

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