Monday, August 29, 2016

Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, Idaho

Well of course there are scenic byways in Idaho too, and I found one that coincided with my route through the southern part of the state. Thousand Springs Scenic Byway roughly follows US 30 south of I 84 from Bliss, ID to Burley, ID. It also follows the Snake River along that route.
I did not stop at all the points of interest, but I saw the high points. My first stop was at the Snake River Canyon Overlook, just outside of Bliss. This canyon was born of fire and water and reshaped by one of the largest floods in geologic history, so says the sign.
There are ancient fossil beds on the bluffs across the river. I did not visit that site, nor the museum in Hagerman that displays fossil exhibits.
I did stop at the Byway's namesake...Thousand Springs. Waterfalls that sprout suddenly from the wall of Snake River Canyon here were long a puzzle to geologists. 
Now scientists believe that their source lies 150 miles to the northeast, where the Big and Little Lost Rivers vanish into the lava beds that cover much of the region. 
Increased in volume by melting snow and seepage, the underground streams course through the porous lava until they reach the canyon and plunge into the Snake River.

Nearby along the river is a wildlife refuge and a couple of fish hatcheries. I stopped at this wildlife viewing area.
There were a few varieties of waterfowl out there...Pied-billed Grebes,
Geese and ducks...
Hagerman Fish and Wildlife viewing area.
From there, I turned south off the byway to go to my planned campground. I drove through about 10 miles of farmland.
I saw two of these old shepherd's wagons displayed at a couple of farms.
And then the flat farmland gave way suddenly to a rocky gorge. My Allstays ap that I use to find campgrounds indicated two here...Balanced Rock Park that looked like maybe tents only, and a County Fairground RV park with hookups right beside it. I was following the coordinates for the Fairground.
Descending into the gorge with interesting rock formations.

My GPS told me to turn left down there...hmmm, doesn't look like a fairgrounds.
Nope, it's the county park, and a narrow road in. I ended up staying here and it was a great find, but more about that later. The actual "balanced rock" is a little farther up the road.
The facts about the rock.
There are no formal trails up there, but looks like people have made their own. I didn't because it was hot and the grass had stickers.
Balanced Rock
The road was narrow going into the campground. I stopped and asked a picnicker about the fairgrounds. She just shook her head. So I checked out this free campground and decided it was a nice place to spend the night. I had to unhook the car to turn around and face out, though. Pay attention to the hole in the bank across from my RV. I wondered what kind of critter made that hole.
I had been thinking of staying at the fairground for a week with hookups to get me through the Labor Day weekend. I looked on my map and figured out the fairgrounds were 140 miles away in Pocatello, lol. Allstays really messed that one up.
But this was a lovely find, a nice breeze and shade in the gorge.
All the sites were along the creek on one side. There were several picnickers on Sunday, but only one other camper overnight.
In the morning I found out the hole in the bank belonged to a badger! Cool!! He walked right by my RV allowing me to get good photos from a safe vantage point.
"Want to see my other side?"
I read this about badgers' dens: "Dens and burrows are a very important part of the badger's life. A badgers usually has lots of different dens and burrows. It uses them for sleeping, hunting, storing food and giving birth. A badger may change dens every day, except when it has babies.  Badger dens have one entrance with a pile of dirt next to it. When a badger is threatened, it will often back into a burrow and bare its teeth and claws. It may then plug up the burrow's entrance."
The badger followed a narrow badger path at the base of the rocks and headed towards what I assume was another of his dens.
Second badger den?
Meanwhile the morning sun was shining at the top of the gorge.
You can make up your own name for this formation.
Some morning birds were perched up there...a kestrel,
A starling and a pigeon.
On the road again, heading to the Fairgrounds in Pocatello, I stopped at the end of the Scenic Byway...Hansen Bridge over the Snake River.
View of the Snake River Canyon from the wayside.
View of Hansen Bridge...and then we crossed it.
This poster tells about the building of canals diverting water from the river for agricultural purposes.
It is haying season in southern Idaho now, fields and fields of hay being harvested. Those barn-sized covered mounds are filled with bales of hay.
And I passed many large trucks loaded with baled hay. 
And fields of bales still waiting to be picked up. 
I found the Fairgrounds with plenty of RV sites available and paid for a week, so I'll have to see if there's anything interesting around here to do.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hells Canyon Adventure

If you are traveling in this area, I can highly recommend this company. No matter what level of adventure you desire, they have one for you:  We are doing the Granite Creek tour.
 This is the reservoir behind Hells Canyon Dam. A series of 3 dams along the Snake River provide hydroelectric power and recreation opportunities along this scenic byway.
 From this overlook you can see the road as it winds alongside the reservoir...sometimes high above, and sometimes down low.
 A covey of Chukar, a partridge-like bird among the rocks beside the road.
 An osprey fishing below the dam.
 You cross over the top of the dam and descend to the water on the other side.
 You park at the Visitor Center and descend the stairs to the boat launch. (There is a roadway for handicap access.)
 Our jet boat awaits.
 They start by taking us up to have a look at the dam and learn about its history.
The diversion tunnel that was used to divert the river while the dam was being built.
 And then we're off!
 The first set of rapids we encounter right away is a Class II, we are told.
 In the jet boat, it was hardly a bump. I imagine it would be a bit more thrilling in a raft.
There are rapids up to Class IV in the canyon, and we will go through one of those. They reach Class V in the early spring with the snow run-off.
 Our guide expertly maneuvers around the large rocks in the river.
 This was an exciting rapid, with a big splash going through.
 We stopped at a small beach just past the rapid to be served lunch.
 There is a small calm cove here.
 And we were invited to swim if we wanted. The water is 70 degrees.
 There were a few waders.
 The white line shows the high-water mark during the spring.
The canyon cuts between two mountain ranges, formed by the collision of two tectonic plates. This lava rock is on the Oregon side of the river.
 After lunch, we continue down the canyon through several more sets of rapids.
 There are no more dams, the Snake River is designated a wild and scenic river from below the Hells Canyon Dam to it's mouth at the Columbia River. The river flows north.
 Looking back at the rapid we just came through.

 There are some calm places.

 The guide points out an old homestead site on the Oregon side of the river. Someone built a small cabin here, raised some cattle, and a family here in the canyon, back in the last century. To get supplies, they had to climb out of the canyon and go over the mountains to Joseph and back. Bet they didn't do that often.
 They chose this spot because of a small creek that flowed down from the mountains.
 The small cabin is still there at the bottom of that rock scree.
 Someone is pointing to a bear on the Idaho side. I took this picture before I could see it.
 He saw us too, and started moving.
But he took his time climbing over the rocks along the bank, and everyone was able to get good pictures.
 This is a young black bear.
 He has a blond spot on his back and on his chest.

 Impressive claws. He was probably fishing for salmon which come up this river.
 This is the pool just before the Class IV rapids.
Everyone was instructed to don life jackets. I already had mine on...vestiges of my US Power Squadron training. A pfd under the seat won't help you in a sudden life-threatening boating emergency.
 Here we go... I judiciously changed my seat from the side to the middle to protect my camera and hearing aids.
 Want to go through with us? Click on the video.
Looking back at the rapids.
 And this is the seat I vacated. The man next to me was fully drenched.
 That was fun!
There are some Chukar that live down here too. They don't fly far, but they can climb the cliffs very fast.
These rafters are camping in the canyon overnight...another adventure you can have. You can see their tents set up above.
 They are fishing and swimming.
 There is a rainbow in the spray.
 We come to the mouth of Granite Creek, the deepest spot in the canyon at 1.5 miles deep.
Granite Creek begins high in the Seven Devils Mountains and falls over 7,913 feet to the river.
 Granite Creek
 This was also our turn-around point. There is an all-day tour that goes farther, and overnight trips are also available.

 So back up the river we go.
 Back through the rapids.
This boat was about to go through the Class IV rapids, so we stopped to watch them. The guide is closing the front windows, lol.
 Watch them with on the video.

 Afternoon light on the canyon walls.
A great way to end a summer in Oregon! Thanks to all my friends and family who told me to go here, lol.