Pete Zimowsky: Idaho 21's scenic byway now has a viewer's guide

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comJune 12, 2014 

The gurgling, or croaking, sound of sandhill cranes is unmistakable and a signal to start scanning the meadows for the birds.

I spotted a carpet of purple wildflowers along Idaho 21 west of Stanley last weekend, immediately stopped the car and headed out into the meadow to get a photo.

The flowers near the Vader Creek rest stop glowed in the morning light.

What a sight. Then, a faint sound came from a hundred yards away in the meadow.

It was the crane I heard. I see them in this area every spring, and although they're usually too far away for a photo, just listening to their sounds and watching them through binoculars is a treat.

You can see sandhill cranes in several areas near Stanley, including some of the meadows around Bear Valley.

In fact, if you drive and picnic or camp along Idaho 21 - Idaho's Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - you can't help but see wildlife, wildflowers and beautiful scenery, especially this time of the year.

Coincidentally, the Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game are releasing a new Boise-to-Stanley State Highway 21 Wildlife Viewing Guide this week.

It's a coordinated project with the state's Watchable Wildlife program and gives lots of tips on where to stop along the way and enjoy nature.

The free guide shows 18 locations where a traveler can stop and learn about wildlife, fish, wildflowers and insects that live in the foothills, forests and alpine areas.

"One of the main reasons we created this guide was that we realized many people drive the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway to Stanley from Boise when they have friends visiting from out of town," said Deniz Aygen, coordinator of the Watchable Wildlife and Wildlife Diversity Program for Idaho Fish and Game. "It is one of the most beautiful drives in the state and traverses some unique habitats."

"It captures a great snapshot of what Idaho is all about - the wilderness, the river and the wildlife," she said.

Families can use the guide to plan day trips, short hikes or camp-outs to enjoy the natural world on a deeper level, said Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, a forest botanist who was involved in producing the guide.

You never know what you'll see on the drive - deer, elk, bald eagles, cranes, whatever.

The guide is just off the press and expected to be available in Boise at Idaho Department of Fish and Game headquarters on 600 S. Walnut St., at the Boise National Forest Supervisor's Office at 1249 S. Vinnell Way (near Wal-Mart off Overland Road), and at Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation headquarters at 5657 Warm Springs Ave.

A digital copy is also expected to be online this week at fishandgame.idaho.gov/explore.

To help promote the new guide in conjunction with National Get Outdoors Day, biologists will be stationed at three sites along Idaho 21 on Saturday, June 14.

• 9 to 11 a.m.: Idaho Wildlife Underpass, Milepost 18.2 (just east of Mores Creek Bridge on left side of highway).

• 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Lowman Fish Pond, Milepost 85.5 (as part of Free Fishing Day).

• 1 to 3 p.m.: Stanley Lake Overlook, Milepost 126 (3 miles west of Idaho 21 at stunning Stanley Lake).

Biologists will talk about habitat, ecology, wildflowers and wildlife.

For more information on the guide and day's events, call the Boise National Forest at 373-4105, or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 287-2750.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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