BY CHEYENNE HARDING
In Southwestern Idaho more than 485,000 acres of national conservation area have been set aside in an effort to protect birds of prey. A dozen species of raptors are frequently spotted here, including the American kestrel, golden eagle, prairie falcon and more.
In August of 1993, Congress established protected habitat for the largest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America: Idaho’s Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. In 2009, it was renamed in honor of a bird advocate and conservationist, Morley Nelson, whose life-long mission was to protect the area. In the 1940s Nelson began to document the birds of prey in the Snake River Canyon on film with hopes to sway public opinion about the significance of these species. His goal was to have everyone appreciate the beauty of these birds and the environment within the canyon.
To get the full experience out of the Snake River Canyon, there is a variety of ways to enjoy the presence of the raptors and other wildlife. The most recommended method would be to complete the self-guided driving loop tour. The tour is 56-miles long, and one should allot a minimum of four hours. However, one can easily spend the entirety of the day gazing at the birds of prey and stopping to do other activities.
Another method to view the birds is to camp in designated areas, such as the Cove Recreation Site, to truly be one with nature. While you are camping you may want to venture out to the 5-mile bike or hike trail. This trail stretches along the northern side of the Snake River below Swan Falls Dam to Celebration Park. Along the pathway there are cultural sites, old homesteads, easy access to the river wildlife and scenic viewing.
There are designated viewing spots along the pathways to see other species of wildlife such as badgers, eight species of amphibians, fish and 16 species of reptiles. Dedication Point is full of life, including black-tailed and cottontail jackrabbits, gopher snakes, ground squirrels, side-blotched lizards and other wildlife within the sagebrush. The Ted Trueblood Wildlife Area is famous for its “duck ponds” and covers approximately 300 acres. In spring, popular sightings include Franklin’s gulls, osprey, black-headed grosbeaks and other types of wildlife. Regardless of the weather or season, there is always something to see at this incredible protected area.