Road Trip: Swan Falls


Snake River Canyon, Below Swan Falls Dam

Snake River Canyon, Below Swan Falls Dam

WC spent a few hours at Swan Falls Friday. That statement is a bit misleading. Swan Falls is long drowned behind Swan Falls Dam, the oldest dam on the Snake River. What’s left of the Snake River is the tail water below the dam, running through that big gorge. There’s a decent road running about six miles downstream to a trailhead. The area can be decent birding; it’s sheltered from the worst of the harsh winter up on the steppe, and the river rarely freezes.

The drive in is impressive. The road takes you down through layers of basalt lava, ash and cinders, the volcanic detritus for the 14.4 million year old eruptions in the early days of the Yellowstone Hotspot.

Layers of cinder and ash, documenting millennia of volcanism

Layers of cinder and ash, documenting millennia of volcanism

Birds aren’t quite as easy to photograph as landscapes and rock outcroppings. In fact, the birds were few and far between. But WC managed a few photos.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swan Falls, Snake River Canyon

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swan Falls, Snake River Canyon

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are hyperactive little birds, in constant movement, and are almost always partially screened bybranches. This bird was no exception, with the out of focus branch in the foreground. Still, it’s as good as any of the kinglet photos WC has so far.

WC found a Great Blue Heron lurking in the reeds on the bank of the river. The shot was photobombed by an American Coot that popped up from a dive.

Great Blue Heron, Snake River, Idaho

Great Blue Heron, Snake River, Idaho

Finally, there was a pretty little Common Goldeneye hen that was close enough for a photo.

Common Goldeneye Hen, Snake River, Idaho

Common Goldeneye Hen, Snake River, Idaho

Lots of hunters, after both ducks and ground birds, lots of fishermen and recreational boaters on the river, and a few hardy campers. Anytime someone suggests there is “too much public land” they need to visit any outdoor recreation area in Idaho on a weekend.