In the beginning, this column was supposed to be a, “where and when to go and what to do to enjoy nature.” That got boring pretty fast and it has expanded to cover all sorts of topics from the natural world. However, at the commencement of a new year, it seems appropriate to take a few minutes and consider some activities available for the upcoming winter months to better plan our activities. So, here is a list of just a few of the wonderful opportunities that abound around eastern Idaho during the next few months.
If you have never done a winter tour into Yellowstone National Park, you should get it on your bucket list. Very few private snowmobiles are allowed in Yellowstone so you will almost have to sign up for a tour. That isn’t so bad, as the tour guides are usually quite knowledgeable and can fill your head with a lot of interesting information. Tours can be in the comfort of a snow coach or the more adventuresome can opt for snowmobiles. A typical tour leaves West Yellowstone early in the morning and heads to either Canyon or Old Faithful, returning by mid-afternoon. Tours do cost money, but it is worth it to see the park during the winter.
The yurts at Harriman State Park in Island Park are another fun adventure. For $55 per night, you can stay in a comfortable yurt—basically a round tent with a wooden floor, bunks for up to six and a wood stove—and ski Harriman all day long. You can drive to within 50 yards of the yurts. These two yurts are quite popular during the winter months and you will need to visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/harriman for more information and to find out how to reserve your night or two in paradise.
Henry’s Lake is open to ice fishing through Jan. 1, 2018 but there are other places to go once it closes. Island Park Reservoir is an alternative in the Caldera. Close to town is Ririe Reservoir. When its ice gets thick enough to be safe, it can be hot fishing for kokanee, and two years ago my son caught an eight-pound rainbow through the ice there. Mackay Reservoir is a bit further to travel, but the rainbow trout and kokanee fishing there can be terrific.
While Mud Lake, Market Lake and Cartier wildlife management areas are pretty quiet during the winter months, Deer Parks Wildlife Mitigation Unit is usually bursting with activity. As part of a sharecrop agreement, many acres of grain and corn are left standing or are mown down for waterfowl. Thousands of waterfowl, including up to 2,000 trumpeter swans, often call Deer Parks home during winter days. It is a real pleasure to be amid such wildlife plenty.
If you want to see lots of big game animals up close, head to Jackson, Wyo. From the highway north of town you can see thousands of elk on the National Elk Refuge or take a sleigh ride tour out and among them. Wintering mule deer are common on the foothills and bighorn sheep can be seen behind Miller Butte (take main street past the hospital and just keep going. You can’t miss it). You may also see mountain goats on the south facing slope of the Snake River Canyon just east of Alpine Junction.
With all these exciting places to go, don’t forget to just do a little quiet wandering. One of the best things about winter is the relative tranquility and peace that abide while the world slumbers.
Terry Thomas is a wildlife biologist and naturalist. “The Best of Nature,” a collection of more than 100 of Thomas’s best nature essays is now available. Pick up your copy at the Post Register or order one through his website, www.nature-track.com and follow him on Facebook, Nature-track.