Find Treasure Valley Wildlife While Barely Leaving Home
If you love wildlife, Idaho is a great place because we have such a diversity of animals. If you live in the Treasure Valley, you don’t even have to leave the city limits to find it.
We all know about the Boise River and the Greenbelt, and depending on which section of this 25-mile path you visit, there’s a good chance to spot a variety of wildlife ranging from mink to mule deer. Let’s consider that the main corridor for wildlife because that’s exactly what it is.
But it can also be a hit-or-miss affair, and its popularity means you’re more likely to see walkers, bikers and runners than you are furry or feathered critters.
If you want a higher probability of seeing wildlife, here are three options in or near cities in the Treasure Valley that are magnets for local fauna. Grab your binoculars and plan to spend some time relaxing and watching nature. With a little patience and a sharp eye, you can see some cool animals in a natural setting that’s tucked away in the heart of the valley.
These spots are suitable for nature watching year-round, so each time you visit them, they can look and feel very different and have a whole different vibe. For example, fall features vibrant colors and the arrival of many migratory birds, the dead of winter is prime season for spotting bald eagles, and with the rebirth of spring comes blooming foliage and baby birds and animals.
Regardless of the season, these are worth a visit.
MK Nature Center
This natural area is off Walnut Street near the ParkCenter bridge and between the Boise River and Kristin Armstrong Park (formerly Municipal Park). It has a pond, a small stream and several man-made features including two aquariums loaded with trout and other fish.
The area is home to squirrels, mink, songbirds and waterfowl, and deer occasionally visit the center.
The most reliable stars of the center are the sturgeon in the pond, which dwarf the trophy-size trout there. The sturgeon are in the 5-to-6 foot range and can be seen swimming along the bottom of the pond. Bring your polarized glasses—the best time to spot them is on clear days with the sun directly above.
Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve
This 44-acre marsh is off Maple Grove Road near Chinden Boulevard is on the edge of Boise’s West Bench and has trailhead parking, pathways, restrooms and a scenic overlook. It’s a year-round home for ducks, geese and other waterfowl, and also attracts other resident and migratory birds.
The beauty of this spot is you can hike around for a little exercise, or just wait in one of the resting spots and enjoy the wildlife around you. Many of the birds in the reserve are used to people, so you have a chance to get some great photos or an opportunity to see and hear them relatively close by. But unlike the tame ducks at other Treasure Valley parks, these are all wild.
Remember to leave your dog at home when you visit because they’re not allowed on the reserve, and trails are open to walking only.
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
If you go south a short way from Nampa or Caldwell, you will hit Lake Lowell, which is nearly surrounded by the wildlife refuge. There’s diverse terrain including the lake, riparian areas, croplands and sagebrush shrub/steppe communities. All the different terrain attracts a multitude of animals. The lake is home to tens of thousands of ducks and geese, and fall and winter is when it hosts the majority of them. The refuge is also the winter home and nesting area for many bald eagles.
This is obviously a large area, so check out the visitor’s center at 13751 Upper Embankment Road south of Nampa or the website, FWS.gov, before your visit. If you want to see birds up close, check out the special blind built a short walk from the visitors center.
A quick note: If you hear gunshots in the area, don’t be alarmed. The refuge is open to hunting and is a popular spot for duck hunting in the fall and winter, but most of it takes place along the south shoreline.