Q: I have a question on grazing in Idaho state parks, namely Malad Gorge down here near Hagerman.
There are cattle in the park, and I dont think the grazing has been open to bids yet.
JACK W., Hagerman
A: Grazing has been going on at Malad Gorge State Park as far back as 1996, according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. It was approved by the state Parks and Recreation Board.
The purpose of grazing at the park is to help manage the health of native grasses and help lower the fuel load for wildfires, said David W. Landrum, who manages the park located right off I-84 between Bliss and Tuttle. You can see the gorge from the freeway.
The park currently doesnt make any money from the grazing program that was set up in 1996, but park officials are in the middle of working on a new grazing permit system that will bring some income to the park. The final draft of the proposal should be ready soon.
As far as public safety, the 16 to 20 cows are fenced in by an electric fence to keep them contained in one area.
The herd is checked daily by both the rancher and park staff, Landrum said.
The cows are in the back part of the park, which is closed to vehicle traffic during the winter season by a gate, he said. We do keep the front part open year-round like the day-use area, restrooms and the Devils Overlook for park visitors.
Malad Gorge does get walkers with their dogs in the back part of the park in winter, and there never has been a problem with cows that visitors reported to the park staff, he said.
Since were talking about the park, if you dont visit it in the winter, youre missing a neat experience. Its a blur as you drive by at freeway speed, but stop and you will you see a deep chasm with interesting rock formations and waterfalls.
I think the photo opportunities of the gorge are better in the winter months. You get some good shadows and winter lighting. You can get better detail on cloudy days without the sun creating harsh shadows.
For me, the gorge and its texture and lighting have been different on each visit.
The gorge, also called the Malad River Canyon, is 250 feet deep and 2.5 miles long. The river and the greenery at the bottom of the canyon also add to photo ops.
The easiest way to photograph the gorge is to park in the state park lot and walk a few steps to the overlook and the walking bridge that crosses the canyon.
Dont forget to look down. Below is the Devils Washbowl where the river cascades down a cliff into a pool.
One warning about the park in winter: WIND. It can be brutal on a cold day, so dress for the worst.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors