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Birding Hotspots - Hagerman Valley


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Hagerman Valley Birding Hotspots map

In the Hagerman Valley, about 30 minutes west of Twin Falls, the Snake River Canyon widens and numerous springs from the Snake River aquifer pour out of the basalt cliffs creating extensive wildlife habitat. The northeast rim land is predominantly agricultural and the southwest rim land is mostly sagebrush badlands including the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. The valley itself is a mixture of fish farms, vineyards, and dotted with many public wildlife preserves. The Hagerman Valley Christmas Bird Count often has the highest number of species for the state and the area has gained a reputation for attracting unusual species such as the Tufted Duck and Whooper Swan.

Hagerman Wildlife Management Area

Hagerman Wildlife Management Area

Photo Copyright © 2010
John & Melissa Kopsky

The Hagerman WMA is an Idaho Department of Fish and Game managed preserve consisting of multiple large ponds and extensive wildlife/habitat plantings. If you only have time to bird one area, this would be it.

Habitat:

Extensive spring fed ponds, marsh areas, cottonwood/willow riparian, conifer habitat plantings, farmland planted with sunflowers/corn to attract wildlife.

Birds:

Waterfowl including Northern Pintail, Greater Scaup, Wood Duck, many gulls including rarities such as Herring, Thayer’s, Mew, Glaucous-winged, and Glaucous Gull, Black-crowned Night Heron, Bald Eagle, Prairie Falcon, three accipters, Lincoln Sparrow, occasional Swamp Sparrow, and many more.

Directions:

From I-84 take Exit #155 (Hagerman/Wendell); drive West on Hagerman Hwy (2950 S); descend Vader Grade into the canyon, at T intersection turn Left (South) on US 30; drive South on US 30 and at milepost 183.3 turn Left onto State Fish Hatchery Rd; go 0.4 mi to state and federal fish hatchery.

Clear Springs Fish Hatchery Area

Clear Springs Fish Hatchery

Photo Copyright © 2010
John & Melissa Kopsky

Another large Snake River Aquifer spring creates Clear Lake and the water for the Clear Springs Fish Hatchery. This area consists of mostly private land owned by the fish hatchery and open for public use. Clear Lake typically does not freeze in winter and is an important refuge for winter waterfowl. A small Idaho Power hydro plant also has a public park that is excellent to bird and provides access to the Snake River.

Habitat:

Spring-fed creeks and lakes, basalt cliffs, Snake River access, willow/Russian olive riparian areas.

Birds:

Waterfowl, Rock and Canyon Wren, Raptors, warblers and sparrows.

Directions:

Exit I-84 at Wendell and head South on 1950 East, after 5 miles turn Right onto Bob Barton Road (3400 South). After 2.5 miles turn Left onto 1700 East and descend into the canyon. Turn Right into the Clear Springs Fish Hatchery/Clear Lakes Country Club road at the bottom of the canyon and before crossing the Snake River. Do not turn into the residential area, but keep going towards and just past the Clear Springs hatchery. After about one mile a sign will indicate the lake and golf course.

Upper Salmon Falls Dam and Park

An Idaho Power park with excellent birding along the Snake River.

Habitat:

Slow and fast moving water along the Snake River, mature Peach-leaf Willow and Russian Olive riparian areas, spring seeps, brushy uplands.

Birds:

Waterfowl, herons, American white pelican year round, American pipit, Wilson’s snipe, huge flocks of gulls roost on the big eddy below the park in winter.

Directions:

From I-84 take Exit #155 (Hagerman/Wendell); drive West on Hagerman Hwy (2950 S); descend Vader Grade into the canyon, at T intersection turn Left (South) on US 30; drive South on US 30 and cross Snake River on Gridley Bridge, turn Right soon after the bridge onto the Bell Rapids Road, continue past but don’t cross the Owsley Bridge and waterfront park (good birding across bridge), then take Right onto Upper Salmon Falls Power Plant road (signed). Several parking areas provide access.

Bell Rapids Boat Dock / Sportsman's Access

The birding along the road to the dock is often as productive as the destination. Stop and glass the various ponds and springs along the way.

Habitat:

Ponds, agricultural lands, and wildlife feed plots along a road to the Snake River.

Birds:

Herons, swans, waterfowl, occasionally Barrow’s Goldeneye and Long-tailed duck on snake river, Lincoln’s sparrow, occasionally Swamp sparrow.

Directions:

From I-84 take Exit #155 (Hagerman/Wendell); drive West on Hagerman Hwy (2950 S); descend Vader Grade into the canyon, at T intersection turn Left (South) on US 30; just before the Hagerman WMA turn Right onto 2900 S, then Right on 900 E, then Left onto 2830 South and follow to sportsman’s access.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument area

Habitat:

Mostly upland scrub and badlands, riparian area around Yahoo creek. Some of the best birding is near the mouth of Yahoo creek across the road from the first overlook.

Birds:

Raptors including Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle and Ferruginous Hawk, Brewer’s and Vesper sparrow, Horned Lark, Shrikes.

Directions:

From I-84 take Exit #155 (Hagerman/Wendell); drive West on Hagerman Hwy (2950 S); descend Vader Grade into the canyon, at T intersection turn Left (South) on US 30; drive South on US 30 and cross Snake River on Gridley Bridge, turn R soon after the bridge onto the Bell Rapids Road, continue past the turnoff for Upper Salmon Dam and watch for interpretive signs and overlooks.

Balanced Rock State and County Parks

Balanced Rock Park

Photo Copyright © 2010
John & Melissa Kopsky

The actual geologic wonder is worth checking out but the best birding is in the county park at the bottom of Salmon Falls Creek Canyon about a mile before the balanced rock.

Habitat:

Riparian oasis in the bottom of a deep, shady rhyolite canyon. Small park area with grass and deciduous trees. Primitive walking trail or canoeing upstream from the park.

Birds:

Canyon, Rock, and Winter Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lazuli Bunting, White-throated Swift, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Chukar Partridge.

Directions:

From the town of Buhl (on Highway 30) follow signs for the town of Castleford and Balanced Rock Park. Take Castleford Road (1400 E) four miles south to 3700 N. (If coming from Twin Falls you can take Blue Lakes Blvd south to 3700 N). From Castleford Road travel west nine miles on 3700 N until you descend dramatically into the canyon. The county park is at the bottom of the canyon on the left/south side of the road. Or you can continue another mile to the balanced rock on the west rim of the canyon.

Thousand Springs State Park

Thousand Springs State Park

Photo Copyright © 2010
John & Melissa Kopsky

Thousand Springs State Park consist of five separate units, each created by springs from the Snake River Aquifer. The five units are: Malad Gorge, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Box Canyon, and Niagara Springs. All are interesting and excellent birding areas. See the Thousand Springs State Park Birding Hotspots page for details.

 
South Hills Crossbill

South Hills Crossbill

How often do you get to discover a new bird species in the continental United States - let alone in your own backyard? Learn all about the South Hills Crossbill and the challenges faced to have it listed as a new species.

Read on for more info