Monday, March 03, 2008

Box Canyon

From the parking lot, Box Canyon State Park admittedly doesn't look like much. It's a flat stretch of sagebrush surrounded by farms in the Magic Valley. At first glance, it looks pretty unremarkable.

But walk about a mile along the trail, and hidden treasures await: soaring eagles, rugged canyon terrain and aqua-blue waters that recall the Caribbean.

The aqua-blue waters are part of the springs that dot this section of the Snake River, near Hagerman in southern Idaho. These beautiful waters originate in the Craters of the Moon area, where the "lost rivers" sink into the lava and flow underground. Two hundred years later, they reappear as crystal clear springs in Box Canyon and Thousand Springs. The spring at Box Canyon is the 11th largest spring in the continent.

My friend Phares Book (who took these photos) recently joined my wife and I for a hike into the canyon. While the route down into the canyon was still a bit icy, we were rewarded with sightings of both golden and bald eagles, as well as large flocks of ducks, geese and coots along the Snake River. The hike goes by a nice waterfall and several springs.

This park is one of several in the area that The Nature Conservancy assisted the state in acquiring. In 1999, the State of Idaho had negotiated a purchase of nearby Box Canyon from the Hardy family. The state didn’t have the funds to purchase the property, but assigned the contract to the Conservancy. Under state terms, the Conservancy purchased Box Canyon, and simultaneously entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the state.

The Conservancy believes that Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation’s vision for the Thousand Springs Complex offers an incredible future for this area. The Conservancy also recently transferred Ritter Island, also known as Thousand Springs Preserve, to the state, and helped create nearby Billingsley Creek State Park.--Matt Miller

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