Don't overlook Lake Walcott for camping

There's something about freeway driving that makes you overlook some cool spots, especially in southern Idaho. But I made a trip to Lake Walcott State Park over the weekend to check out the camping and fishing. 

I was hoping to find some big bass, and I did, but it took a lot of work to get them. But what surprised me was how nice the camping was at Lake Walcott State Park. It's an oasis of tall trees and shoreside camping nestled among farm country and sagebrush country. 

The park is on the northwest shoreline and about 15 miles from the freeway. It's about two-and-half hours drive from the Treasure Valley, and nearly all of that on Interstate 84. 

One thing that surprised me was how nice the tent camping was. At many state parks, tent camping seems to be an afterthought, and tent sites are often wedged among RVs where it seems like you're camping in a parking lot. Not here. The tent sites are located away from the RVs and close to the shoreline and accessed by a paved walking/biking path. It's a nice separation, and there are also picnic shelters for gathering spots. 

There are two cabins available for rent for a very reasonable $53 per night, and they may be the best deal going considering tent sites are $15 and RV sites $24. Both have lake views. If you're interested, better make a reservation now. 

The campground is only a portion of the park. You will find large, grassy and shady areas with a disc golf course, a playground for kids and some very nice decks over the water for relaxing and watching the birds and boaters. 

The park is part of the Minidoka Wildlife Refuge, so there's lots of opportunities to see wildlife. 

The lake is large, and best for motor boats. There's a boat ramp and dock at the park. I was paddling a small inflatable kayak and found several semi-protected coves where I could paddle and fish. 

It's hard to judge the quality of the fishing from a one-time visit, especially a first-time visit, but in about 5 hours of fishing I landed three smallmouth bass, all in the mid teens with the largest being 17-inches. Nice fish. Maybe next time I can figure out how to catch more of them. 

I was told trollers are catching trout up to 5 and 6-pounds, which are not only big, but surprising considering the mid Snake Reservoirs aren't typically known for their trout fishing. 

For more information about the park including reservations go here: http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/lake-walcott