Spring is happening at Castle Rocks State Park / City of Rocks National Reserve

Plan a trip to go climbing, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, birding and more!

City of Rocks

By Steve Stuebner

City of Rocks National Reserve is nationally known as one of the top 5 rock-climbing destinations in the United States. It has over 600 technical climbing routes that draw climbers from all over the world.

City of RocksNow that that weather is warming up, the climbers are coming to scale the impressive granite walls and spires and camp out at this scenic wonder in Southern Idaho near Oakley and Almo. "Camping and rock climbing are really starting to take off," says Wallace Keck, superintendent of City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park.

The wildflowers are beginning to pop at this high-elevation destination near Oakley, and that's a sure sign of spring. An expert birder, Keck catalogues the arrival of spring migrants and resident birds as they arrive. See his posts on the Birding Idaho Facebook page.

"It's really kind of magical experience when you come over the hill and see the beauty of the rocks, the aspen trees and all of that beautiful countryside," says Chris Volk, who has been visiting the area on a regular basis since the mid-80s. "It has this kind of micro-ecosystem of wildflowers and aspens -- it's just fantastic."

Volk often goes to the park to go rock-climbing, hiking and camping. For people who are just getting into climbing, he recommends starting out at Castle Rocks State Park, where the routes are easier, safer and well-planned by park staff.  And then in the City of Rocks, the routes are more challenging and difficult. There are many routes to explore for all ability levels.

"If you have never been here before you are in for a treat," says a narrative about City of Rocks on rockclimbing.com. "World-class climbing awaits you no matter what your free-climbing genre."

City of RocksGuidebooks on rock-climbing are available at the City of Rocks gift shop. There also are five outfitters and guides that offer supported climbing trips, and the park itself has Climbing Experience Program for  beginners and kids. All of the equipment and instruction are provided. Call the park for reservations.

Castle Rocks State Park and City of Rocks also are a great place to go camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and birding. The area has great history, too. Settlers heading for California in search of gold passed through the City of Rocks via the Salt Lake Alternative Trail. In 1852, more than 50,000 took that route. You can still see the initials and names of emigrants who came through on a rock along the trail.

At Castle Rocks State Park, you can rent "The Lodge at Castle Rocks Ranch," a century-old brick home that's large enough to fit the whole family. The lodge has been remodeled to "blend the quaintness of yester?year with the convenience and comforts of today." It costs $159/night to rent the lodge. It's equipped with a large-screen TV, DVD player and video game plug-ins to keep the kids happy at night. There's a bunkhouse out back that sleeps up to 12. That runs $106/night. It's popular with climbers.

There's also a trout fishing pond and archery range at the park. The archery range is open year-round.

City of Rocks Archery Course

Visiting City of Rocks is free year-round, but there's a small entrance fee at the state park. If you have a $10 state parks pass, you're good to go.

To reach Castle Rocks and City of Rocks, take the Declo exit #216 on I-84 and follow signs to the park. The City of Rocks Backcountry Byway is a fun adventure by itself! You also can access the park via Oakley by taking Highway 27 south of Burley and 150E to City of Rocks.

More information:

Castle Rocks State Park: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/castle-rocks

City of Rocks National Reserve: https://www.nps.gov/ciro/index.htm

City of Rocks map
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Lake Walcott and Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge — An Oasis in the Desert

By Steve Stuebner



lake-walcott-state-park-idahoLake Walcott State Park, northeast of Rupert, is a hidden treasure that's chock full of outdoor amenities.

The park is situated next to Minidoka Dam on the Snake River. The dam, one of many built in Southern  Idaho to bring the desert into bloom, creates 17-mile-long Lake Walcott, a popular spot for fishing and recreation.

Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge rings the shoreline of the lake and protects the islands for nesting waterfowl, including hundreds of white pelicans in the spring. "A lot of local people don't realize that they have a national wildlife refuge in their backyard," says Jeff Krueger, Refuge Manager.

Disc Golf at Walcott State Park IdahoThe leafy state park is the primary place for launching a boat on Lake Walcott. On any given day, you might find people water skiing, jet skiing, Stand Up Paddle-boarding, and often, sailing. It's also a great place to catch big small-mouth bass and rainbow trout. On days with little or no wind, the lake would be fun for kayaking or canoeing.

Two, new 60-foot-long docks are being installed at the boat launch this spring; they are expected to be operational by early May, says Travis Taylor, Park Manager. "Those docks will be a big improvement," he said.

Disc golf is a major activity at Lake Walcott State Park. It's very well known by disc golfers throughout Southern Idaho. It has an "A" and "B" course with 21 holes. They've held three disc golf tournaments  there already this year.

"This is the nicest course I've ever played," said Chance Schaner, who was playing the course recently with his friend, Kevin, on a sunny day under the shadows of huge cottonwood trees. They went fishing in the morning, and switched to disc golf in the afternoon.

"It's a beautiful place with the nice old trees," adds Kevin Simmons of Rupert. "The Idaho State Championships have been hosted here."

Lake Walcott IdahoLake Walcott also is popular for tent and RV camping, family reunions and weddings. It has 30 tent spots, 22 RV spots and two small cabins right next to the waterfront are available for rent.

White PelicanYou might say, Lake Walcott State Park and Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge are an oasis in the desert. Bird-watchers flock there to see more than 200 white pelicans and other waterfowl that nest in the refuge.

"The pelicans here represent one of only three nesting colonies in the state of Idaho," Krueger says. "We get a lot of bird watchers that come here from throughout the country. They come to see different kinds of waterfowl, as well as shore birds and neotropical birds as well."

Lake Walcott State Park is located northeast of Rupert on Idaho Highway 24. Take exit #211 off of I-84 and follow signs to the park.

Be sure to reserve time to visit Lake Walcott State Park and Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge ... once you've been there, we know you'll come back!

Lake Walcott State Park, Idaho
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Southern Idaho icon Balanced Rock is a sweet springtime destination

By Steve Stuebner

balanced-rock-southern-idaho

World-famous Balanced Rock near Castleford is a true Southern Idaho icon. The mushroom-shaped rock measures 48 feet wide at the top and only 3 feet, 17 inches at the base. Thousands of people have climbed up to the rock over the years to take a unique photo or visited the county park for a picnic or overnight camping.

Selfie at Balanced RockNowadays, it's very popular to visit Balance Rock and take a unique selfie to post in the social media.

April is a great time to visit Balanced Rock. The park, managed by Twin Falls County Parks and Waterways, is situated in a beautiful box canyon shaded by cottonwood trees along Salmon Falls Creek. You can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the quiet setting in the park for an afternoon or camp overnight. It's self-support camping; there are no RV hookups. You also can fish Salmon Falls Creek.

balanced-rock-park

The park is shaded by the canyon and mature trees. Self-support camping is allowed.

How to get there: Balanced Rock is easiest to access via Buhl on U.S. Highway 30, the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, and then follow signs to Balanced Rock.

Balanced Rock was carved by wind and weather over time. It's part of a rhyolite lava formation that was created 15 million years ago by multiple volcanic eruptions in the area. It's the same type of rock that forms the Jarbidge Canyon and portions of the Bruneau Canyon.
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Anglers have many choices fishing at Hagerman Wildlife Management Area

By Steve Stuebner

young-angler

fishing-in-hagermanIt's rare to go home empty handed after fishing at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area, near Hagerman.

There are multiple ponds to fish for rainbow trout, bass and bluegill. The fishing season opens early at Hagerman WMA, March 1st, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game stocked the ponds with more than 5,000 rainbows prior to the opener.

This is going to be a great year to catch big fish, the best year in the 21 years I’ve been here,” said Joe Chapman, Hagerman hatchery manager. “If you want to catch fish, this is the place to come.”

Boy, that gets me revved up to go there now!

It's also a kid-friendly and family-friendly fishing location with easy dock access for young kids, disabled folks or senior citizens. Idaho Fish and Game added several new fishing docks in the Hagerman WMA to make access even easier. It has public rest rooms, too.

Hagerman WMA is located about two miles east of Hagerman along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway.  The fishing ponds are next to a state fish hatchery, where they produce catchable rainbow trout throughout the year. The fishing waters are spring-fed by the Thousand Springs complex, creating ideal conditions for growing quality fish.



Kids like the fish-viewing pond at the area, where they can see multiple species such as sturgeon, steelhead, trout, bass, bluegill, crappie and more.

Right now, people should fish at the Riley Pond (trout) and Oster Lakes (trout), a short walk from the fish hatchery. All kinds of fishing tackle can be used to catch trout there -- some people fish with worms or spinners, and some fly fish with dry and wet flies.

Please note that the four Anderson Ponds (bass and bluegill) are closed from Nov. 1 - June 30 to protect nesting waterfowl. On July 1, the Anderson Ponds will be open for the summer through Oct. 31.

A series of foot trails provide access to all the ponds, and there are stream channels between the ponds that can be fished as well.

A visit to Hagerman WMA also could be paired with a tour of the state fish hatchery, a federal steelhead fish hatchery immediately adjacent, (see video clip), and bird watching.

Be sure to check the Idaho Fish and Game regulations for fishing bag limits.

Have fun fishing! Once you go to Hagerman WMA, you'll definitely come back.

fishing-hagerman
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Visiting Ritter Island and Minnie Miller Springs

By Steve Stuebner



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.

Ritter Island, Southern IdahoRitter Island is one of five units in Thousand Springs State Park. It's easiest to access from the Wendell exit on Interstate 84, but also accessible from Highway 30, the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. See locator map on the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation web site for detailed driving directions. The park is about 30 minutes west of Twin Falls and 1.5 hours from Boise.

dairy-barnMany people think of Ritter Island as the central feature of the state park because of the springs that flow there. One of the last remaining natural springs in the whole Thousand Springs complex is called Minnie Miller Springs, named after an enterprising Utah woman who built a successful dairy farm on Ritter Island in the early 1900s.

The springs flow 24/7 across a gin-clear water channel from the island. A trail leads to the springs from the old dairy barn. It might be a quarter-mile walk to the springs, where you can have a picnic lunch by a bench or picnic table, and enjoy the sounds and sights of the park.

Teachable moment: The Thousand Springs are the outlet for the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, a vast underground body of water that stretches from St. Anthony, Idaho, to Hagerman. The water comes out of the Snake River cliffs at a constant temperature of 55 degrees. It might take more than 100 years for water to travel through the aquifer to the springs.

"With Minnie Miller Springs right behind us, it's a unique place for the public to come walk around an island," says Dave Landrum, Manager of Thousand Springs State Park. It's about two miles to walk around the whole island. The park keeps a path mowed for the public to enjoy.

When the weather warms up, you also can go swimming in the clear spring water or paddle a canoe,  kayak or Stand Up Paddle Board around the island, following the channel below the springs, and then the Snake River to tour the island in a clockwise direction.

While you're at the park, you have to tour the dairy barn to soak in the history.  "I'd like to show you Minnie Miller's barn," Landrum said. "Minnie Miller was a business woman from Utah. Her goal was to find the purest Guernsey dairy cow she could find, and have the purest and No. 1 herd in the nation."

"She created this barn that was way ahead of its time, and she reached her goal."

Visitors also can hike a 1.5-mile trail out to "Bonnieview" on the south end of the park property. This was a favorite place for Minnie Miller's daughter, Bonnie, to visit next to the Snake River. The trail leads to the site of the Payne Lewis Ferry crossing n the Snake River. It'd be possible to go fishing on the Snake from this location, too.

In September, Ritter Island hosts the annual Arts & Crafts Festival in September, a very popular event in which many artists display their work against a backdrop of live music, arts and crafts, and the park amenities.

If you wanted to stay overnight nearby, one could camp the RV Park in Hagerman or grab a hotel room in Hagerman, the closest community with full services, including several great spots to eat lunch or dinner. IDPR parks staff are working on remodeling the old two-story Stone House and guest cabins on Ritter Island so the public can rent them and stay overnight in the future.

Enjoy your visit to Ritter Island and remember that it's open year-round, Thursday-Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, see Thousand Springs State Park online or call 208-837-4505.
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Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 1 = Golf


Southern Idaho Golf PassportPick up a Southern Idaho golf passport for $40 and get great discounts on 9 golf courses in the Magic Valley, including the 93 Golf Ranch in Jerome, Canyon Springs in Twin Falls, Clear Lake Country Club in Buhl, Pebble Ponds in Filer, Pleasant Valley in Kimberly, River's Edge in Burley. This photo is from Clear Lake CC. http://www.golfmagicvalley.com/

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 2 = Hiking


Three hikes to keep you happy and get your legs snappy!  Snake River Canyon Rim Trail, Box Canyon or Auger Falls. See details here: http://www.kmvt.com/content/news/Day-Trippin--371300781.html

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 3 = Base Jumping


Go tandem base jumping for the biggest adrenaline rush of your life, leaping from the Perrine Bridge with a pro! http://tandembase.com/

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 4 = Rafting


Go rafting on the Hagerman reach of the Snake River to enjoy some fun whitewater, beautiful scenery and have fun with your friends! Day trips cost only $70/person including lunch! Contact Idaho Guide Service to schedule your trip! 

 

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho


Day 5 = Fishing


Go fishing on Crystal Lake near Niagara Springs State Park and catch a whopper! This feller caught one heck of a lunker! Lots of big rainbow trout live in Crystal Lake.

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 6 = Kayaking, Canoeing, or SUP


Go kayaking, canoeing or ride a Stand Up Paddle Board to the base of Shoshone Falls from Centennial Park. Rent your gear from AWOL Adventure Sports and you'll be good to go!

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Day 7 = Hot Springs


Soak in one of the soothing hot springs pools at Miracle Hot Springs and top it off with a wine tasting at Thousand Springs Winery nearby. The winery has a bed and breakfast, too!

Seven Days of Spring Break in Southern Idaho

Bonus


Go spring skiing at Pomerelle Mountain Resort, enjoy deep discounts and dress up for an additional $5 off each day! Pomerelle just got creamed with over 15 inches of new snow. Discounts: Every day is 2Can special, meaning you bring in 2 cans of non-perishable food to donate for a $30 lift ticket, and then get $5 off for dressing up. Get festive! Themes are Manly Monday (wear a beard), Tuesday 2x2, Womanly Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, and Freaky Friday.

Great food


While you're visiting Southern Idaho we'd recommend some of our favorite foodie locations: , including Elevation 486 for dinner, perched on the edge of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Snake River Grill for lunch or dinner in Hagerman (fabulous fresh fish), Stevo's in Heyburn, Twin Falls Sandwich Company for a delicious lunch, or the Buffalo Cafe for a hearty breakfast. For coffee, there are many options, but we recommend Expresso Heaven in Filer (gotta try the chocolate-covered beans) and the Coffee Shack in Jerome.

See Trip Advisor's list of the top restaurants in the Twin Falls area for more choices.

Lodging


Go to the Southern Idaho Tourism web page for a list of lodging options and remember that there are lots of places to park your RV or camp in the region.

Have a great Spring Break! And we want to know which activity you liked best! Tell us about your Spring Break adventure on our Facebook page.
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