camas lilies at camas prairie centennial marsh wma

Camas Prairie – Centennial Marsh WMA

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Camas Prairie – Centennial Marsh WMA is a high prairie, seasonally-flooded wetland.  It is best known for it Camas Lily bloom that occurs in late May to early June.

I called the regional office to find out about the bloom, dogs and hiking trails.  The young lady didn’t know much about dogs and hiking trails.  She replied, “Yes, I think they are allowed, and I think there are some trails.”

In regards to the Camas Lily, she said, “They are supposed to peak in 3 or 4 days, but it is not a super bloom.  They are just average this year.”

Getting to Camas Prairie

While her description didn’t sound riveting, if the Camas Lily bloom was near its peak, it seemed like a worth while 7 mile detour off Hwy 20 on my way from Hailey to Boise.

The road to the Camas Prairie-Centennial Marsh WMA is a well graded dirt road that any passenger car can handle.  VANgo bounced along effortlessly, and Annie perked up as we neared.

Given the recent rain and snow, we simply took advantage of a shower, laundry, and good internet at my cousin’s house and didn’t venture out much.  It’s nice to enjoy a home base every now and then.

I showed up to Camas Prairie around 6:30pm and there were only a few other visitors.  I selected a late arrival in hopes for better light for photography.  These days, the sun doesn’t even set until 9pm, so it was still sort of high in the sky.

Regardless, Annie and I walked the road (there aren’t any trails) as ducks, geese, snipe, red-winged blackbirds and others flitted around in the flooded grasslands.  The Camas Prairie provides a habitat for breeding, nesting and feeding waterfowl and shorebirds, and is popular among birders.

The Camas Bloom

I, however, wanted to see the purple fields of Camas Lilies located at the Eastern end of area.  It was an added bonus to see snow-capped mountains behind them!  Having never been there before and thus no comparison, the bloom seemed nice enough to me.

An abundance of flowers popped up in the middle of the field, but few were near the road, which made it a little hard to zoom into the flowers and still get the mountains in the background.  That said, who can complain about a field of flowers, especially ones that were so important historically?

History of the Camas Bulb

In the past, the Bannock, Shoshoni, and Northern Paiute tribes came to the meadows to harvest the bulbs every fall.

Women held rights to family camas patches.  They dug 50 pounds of bulbs a day, only taking the big ones and replanting the rest.  They cooked the bulbs for one to three days and ground them into meal which could be used for pancake batter or formed into large bricks, cooked and stored for later use.

They also kept excess to trade.  Cooked and dried bulbs were second in importance only to smoked salmon as a trade item.  Over time, the Camas Prairie became a crossroads for trading.

Now it is 6,240 acres of wetlands surrounded by fields of farmland that attract birds, birders, hunters, and flower lovers.  While there are no designated camp spots, there are a couple of pullouts, a bathroom, and two picnic tables, so I ended up staying for the night with one other camping couple.  It was a great place to watch the sunset and wake up to chirping birds!  ETB

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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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