Q: Weve never been to Baumgartner Campground, so I decided to take my family in July.
Ive been trying to book a campsite for the last week or so. I waited for the six-month-prior availability date to arrive, and then tried to be one of the first to book it because I know its a popular campground.
But the non-group sites are still listed as unavailable. Ive called the folks at recreation.gov a couple times to find out why, but they dont have any explanation. They just keep telling me to check back, which Ive done for a couple weeks.
Any insight? Is this common, and can you think of any reason why they arent available yet?
BRIAN DOUGLAS, via email
A: Theres going to be a gold rush of sorts at recreation.gov when the campground is deemed safe in spring and opened to reservations.
The campground has been off limits since the Kelly Fire last summer, and its also been off line for reservations.
Youre right. Its very popular, and in normal years, campers would have been trying to get key summer dates already.
However, the U.S. Forest Service hasnt opened it up for reservation because agency engineers have to go in there in spring and check out for any hazards that would have resulted from the fire.
The campground was not burned in the fire, but officials are concerned there might be hazardous trees in the area.
The nearby Kelly Flats undeveloped camping area and other campgrounds nearby are OK and will be open to camping when they become accessible. But, they are not reservation camping areas.
Youll have to keep checking with recreation.gov in the spring when reservations for Baumgartner become available.
Hopefully the Forest Service will put out a press release when it comes online for reservations (hint, hint).
Baumgartner Campground is popular because its located on the South Fork of the Boise River, about 12 miles east of Featherville in the Sawtooth National Forest.
It is a developed campground with all the amenities, such as outhouses, drinking water, fire rings and picnic tables.
But the one thing that really makes it attractive is the developed hot springs pool.
There are so many things to do at the campground, and its a great place for kids and family gathering.
It also has a nearby interpretive trail, and the South Fork is stocked with trout by Idaho Fish and Game.
A BLACK SWAN?
Q: My grandson, Beau Alan Williams, and I took photos of a black swan on Jan. 19 in the Boise River just above the Warm Springs Golf Course in the pool above that small dam where they practice with kayaks.
Beau spotted the swan, and I just about ran off Warm Springs Avenue trying to turn around!
I had just received a new camera with a 50X zoom (Sony DSC HX300) and had it in the truck.
We hung on to the concrete berm and set up the tripod. It was freezing out but luckily several of the shots turned out.
I have found few references to this Cygnus Atratus in North America. A quick search turned up one blog entry stating someone saw a black swan at Barber Park a couple of years back. How rare is it in this area?
BURTON WILLIAMS, via email
A: The black swan is not native to Idaho, and Idaho Fish and Game biologists suspect it escaped from captivity.
As they are native to Australia and New Zealand, Im guessing this one did not make the flight (here), said Evin Oneale, regional conservation educator with Fish and Game. They have eye appeal, so they are popular with some folks.
Fish and Game biologists cringe when invasive or non-native species get loose and take up residence in the wilds, competing with native species for food and space.
Ive seen this swan all summer when Ive been surfing the Weir, upstream from the golf course.
It apparently must be doing OK, because its eating and surviving, and Ive also seen it this month. A bald eagle, coyote or other predator hasnt been able to get it so far.
Its one big, tough bird. It gave me the evil eye as I paddled up one of the sloughs of the river to get to the surf wave in the summer.
I was wondering whether it was going to charge my little yellow whitewater canoe and cause me to flip over. That would be a story to tell.
Anyway, you know, geese can be a little aggressive.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors