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Ponderosa State Park

For water skiing buddies Rick Fereday and Mike Pederson, there’s no place better than Payette Lake and Ponderosa State Park.  “I’ve been waterskiing all my life, since I was five,” said Rick Fereday. “In fact, I learned to ski on Payette Lake. It’s something I’ve done all my life. The best day skiing is no other boats on the water, with just a slight bit of a ripple, and a nice warm sun at your back, just ripping and ripping.”

Skiing at Sunset [Courtesy IDPR]
Skiing at Sunset [Courtesy IDPR]

More than half a million visitors enjoy Ponderosa State Park each year. As early as the turn of the 1900’s, tourists came to the shores of Payette Lake, to camp and enjoy the scenery. And by 1905, the locals asked the state legislature to protect the stands of timber and the area around the lake.

In 1906 the Idaho Legislature passed a resolution to make the land around Payette Lake a state park; that means that Ponderosa State Park has an even longer park history than Heyburn, Idaho’s first state park. And by 1918 another resolution forbade timber harvesting along Payette Lake.

Riding bikes from Oprey Point [Courtesy IDPR]
Riding bikes from Oprey Point [Courtesy IDPR]

“That’s why you still see these 250 to 350 year old ponderosa pines in the park,” said Ponderosa Park manager Richard Taupin. “It’s amazing that people long ago had a vision that this could be valuable to the state of Idaho.”

Taupin says Ponderosa State Park is to McCall what Central Park is to New York City. “We’re their playground.” He has spent his career watching the park grow and protecting that vision. One of the dangers, of course, is fire.

“Fire itself is always a threat to a forested park, especially since this is a fire dependent forest. These are forests that typically had fire frequencies of 25 years or less.”

Winter overlook [Courtesy IDPR]
Winter overlook [Courtesy IDPR]

Part of Ponderosa State Park lies within the McCall city limits, which Taupin sees as an advantage.  It gives folks easy access to the park, even when it snows. That makes Ponderosa a park for all seasons. From the remoteness of the cliffs overlooking the lake, to the ease of upscale cabins, there is something for everyone.

“The park in the winter is so different than in the summer. We get an average of 175 inches of snowfall in the winter. And we’ve seen it go all the way up to 300 inches of snowfall. We get a lot of snow.”

The park offers 12 miles of groomed cross country ski trails for all skill levels, and almost three and a half miles of designated snowshoe trails.

Says Taupin, “My best time is a full moon night, when I’m out grooming, and it’s fresh snowfall. It just glistens.”

More Ponderosa photos from our Facebook friends