Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

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I’m not sure how exactly I ended up at the Swan Falls Dam in the Snake River Canyon to camp.  As I sifted through free campsites on my iOverlander and Free Roam apps, I wanted a place within one hour of Boise that included cell service and was located near wildflowers.  I only succeeded at landing within one hour of Boise. 

Perhaps I was tired from my time in Moab and two days of driving to Idaho with a stops on the way when I selected directions to Swan Falls rather than Halverson/Bar Lake.  They were both located in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA, 40 miles south of Boise, but Halverson/Bar Lake had cell service and Swan Falls didn’t.

Camping in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

That said, after roaming along the Snake River, I settled on campsite #20, the last spot in the southeastern section of Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA.  The area is operated by the BLM. The site was well graded and provided a nice view of the Swan Falls Reservoir, created by the Swan Falls Dam in 1901.

campsite at Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

Swan Falls Dam

The dam was constructed to provide electricity to nearby mines in the Owyhee Mountains and is the oldest hydroelectric generating site on the Snake River.  The old power plant has since been replaced, but historic buildings still remain.  Additionally, the old power plant is now a museum that is open to the public on Saturdays during temperate weather seasons.

Unfortunately, I arrived on Sunday, so I missed out the museum, but I didn’t miss out on watching base jumpers leap from the bridge in Twin Falls on my way to Boise.  Twin Falls is another location on the Snake River with a dam.  It is also the site of Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump the canyon. 

30 second video of base jumper

Hiking in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

Back to my time in Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA.  After a quiet Sunday evening, Monday morning Annie and I took VANgo along the dirt road to the opposite end of the campgrounds, about 4.5 miles away.

At the end of the road is a bathroom and the River Canyon Trail East Trailhead which follows the Snake River to an abandoned homestead.  The 4.3 mile roundtrip is very easy and generally flat.  The trail wends through sagebrush and boulders until it reaches a cabin made of volcanic rock!

Anytime I see a house like this in the middle of nowhere, thoughts flood my mind.  Who built it? How did they pick this location? How long did they live there?  I suppose it would be the perfect place for river lovers with the view from its window.  And for that matter, for bird lovers as well.

The Morely Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey in NCA is home to the largest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America, and perhaps the world.  Somehow, I didn’t see one!  I saw some ducks, blackbirds, songbirds, and a bunny though.  Annie spotted the bunny too…0-18 mph in one second.  In the blink of an eye, I lost her.  Fortunately, she decided to come back.

Dedication Point or Halverson Lake

Anyway, I believe the best place to see the birds is from the canyon rim at Dedication Point or Halverson Lake.  I passed Dedication Point on the way to my campsite before I realized what it was.  I’ll just have to return and also visit the historic town of Kuna on a weekend.  I stopped in on Tuesday morning on my way to a wildflower hike in the Boise foothills.  Virtually every business was closed!

While I didn’t spend long in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA, I will return.  I want to see the old mining town, Silver City, Halverson Lake, Dedication Point, and try one of the many restaurants in Kuna on the weekend.  Perhaps it will be less windy for my next visit.  VANgo was rocking in the wind on the rim, as I set up to use internet for the afternoon.  ETB

Snake River Canyon
View from VANgo window while blogging!

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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