Road Trip – C.J. Strike Dam

The much-abused, multiply-dammed and heavily tapped Snake River is the primary river system in Idaho. Except for parts of Idaho up in the far north, that drain into the Columbia River, and a small bit in the far southeast that doesn’t drain into anywhere, but evaporates into the Great Basin, all of Idaho is part of the Snake River system. The poor Snake River is dammed within an inch of its life. Above Hell’s Canyon, it’s not so much a river as a series of reservoirs. One of those reservoirs is C. J. Strike. It’s an earth-fill dam, located southeast of Boise.

WC has this love-hate relationship with big hydroelectric dams. On the one hand, they generate electricity without consuming fossil fuels, and create some good bird habitat. On the other, the big dams play pure Hell with river ecologies, devastate anadromous fish and jeopardize downstream areas. The Snake River, in particular, tapped for immense amounts of water for irrigation farming. It’s not as bad as the Colorado River, which is tapped dry well before tide water. But it’s getting close.

Anyway, this dam is named after Clifford J. Strike, the general manager of Idaho Power Company from 1938 to 1948. It’s probably appropriate that a dead electric utility manager has his name on an absolute barrier to the migration of anadromous fish on the biggest river in the state. Not the only fish-killing dam, by any means. But on most folks’ short list of the four worst dams along the Idaho portions of the Snake. The dam is located just below the confluence of the Bruneau and the Snake, and the reservoir runs a long ways up both rivers.


In the winter, once the duck hunters go away, it’s a pretty good birding destination. WC and Mrs. WC tool advantage of Saturday’s cool, clear weather to explore the area. Photos were taken.

Red-tailed Hawk, Simco Road, Idaho

Red-tailed Hawk, Simco Road, Idaho

Red-tailed Hawks are common in Alaska in the summer; the Snake River Plain in Idaho is one of the places they go the rest of the year. This fellow was doing the head sway thing, focused on possible prey, completely ignoring the guy with the big lens.

That wasn’t the only raptor.

Prairie Falcon, Simco Road, Idaho

Prairie Falcon, Simco Road, Idaho

Admittedly, this isn’t much of a photo but a Prairie Falcon is a pretty wonderful bird to find. She wasn’t very cooperative. But this bigger cousin to Alaska’s Peregrine Falcon doesn’t occur in Alaska. WC will have to try for better shots.

Cedar Waxwing, Jack's Creek, Idaho

Cedar Waxwing, Jack’s Creek, Idaho

The Cedar Waxwing’s cousin, the Boehmian Waxwing, is much more common and much more photogenic, but this is usually a tree-top, neck-cracking species. It was great to have a cooperative one at eye level.

Altogether we found 40-odd species, including thousands of Horned Larks and dozens of American Kestrels. WC will be prowling around other parts of the Snake River Canyon again soon, including the Birds of Prey Refuge.