There’s a campground. Stop! Where’s the water pump? It’s the same scenario around every bend in the mountains this summer. My quest for finding the best campground water is getting out of control.
I don’t want to sound like a drip, but when I tasted that delicious water from the pump at Huckleberry Campground northwest of Council last month, it started an addictive search for the best-tasting campground water around.
I found out more since the column I wrote in July, and now I’m officially on a campground water-tasting tour of Idaho.
A lot can affect campground water, especially geology, said Dave Olson, public affairs officer with the Boise National Forest.
Well water at a significant number of campgrounds in the Boise National Forest, for example, has high concentrations of iron and magnesium. You end up getting a metallic taste and slight red color coming out of the pumps.
That’s because the Idaho batholith has elevated concentrations of iron and magnesium, and the batholith takes in a big chunk of Idaho. (By the way, despite the color and taste, campground water has been tested and meets water-quality standards.)
Campgrounds along the Middle Fork of the Payette River, at Sage Hen Reservoir and near Atlanta have iron-tasting water, according to Forest Service engineers.
There are varying degrees of how strong the water can taste at each campground. The water I tasted at a campground along the North Fork of the Payette River between Banks and Smiths Ferry had a very strong iron taste.
I didn’t mind it. It’s like drinking a very hoppy IPA beer. You acquire a taste for it.
Despite that taste, I always stop at the campground on the drive home down Idaho 55 for a drink. It’s cold and refreshing. I fill an insulated water bottle and it lasts until Boise.
Why buy bottled water in plastic bottles when you can stop at campgrounds along your route and get a cold drink?
You can really get hooked on campground water and start looking at the geology more closely.
Some say campground water in volcanic areas, where there is a lot of basalt, has a cleaner, clearer taste. Who knows? Maybe it’s an acquired taste.
There can be a campground right in the middle of the batholith where the water doesn’t have concentrations of iron. There could have been some sort of volcanic upheaval changing the geology and the taste of the water.
Anyway, the water I tasted this summer at Huckleberry Campground is still the best I’ve found.
Others have told me the water at the Johnson Creek rental cabin, east of Cascade, and at Poverty Flats Campground, off the South Fork of the Salmon River, is excellent.
I recently tasted water at Edna Creek Campground off Idaho 21, northeast of Idaho City, and it was delicious. It had a really cold and clean taste with just a hint of iron.
A neighbor told me he loves the water at Black Rock Campground along the North Fork of the Boise River. An online commenter said the water at the Deer Park cabin on the North Fork of the Boise River is also good.
“A couple good waters are the natural springs at Ice Springs (really cold), on the way to the Trinities, and the pump wells at Trinity Lakes Mountain Recreation Area. Both go excellent with a little (or a lot) of Jack Daniels after dinner,” said Steve Wingert of Boise.
There’s nothing better than sipping fresh campground water (with or without). I’m still open to more suggestions on the best.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Sunday. Roger is on vacation next week.