Island Park Area

In Eastern Idaho you’ll find one of the state’s most beautiful winter playgrounds, Harriman State Park. The park lies within an 11,000 acre wildlife refuge and is one of Idaho’s premiere destinations for snowshoers and cross country skiers.

[Image: Trumpeter Swans standing on frozen river in Island Park area]

Trumpeter Swans standing on frozen river in Island Park area

It’s also a great place to see majestic trumpeter swans. They’re easy to spot from the snow covered banks of the Henry’s Fork River. The river runs through the park for about eight miles and the swans spend much of their time in the area because they eat the plants found in the clear frigid waters.

The open waters of the Henrys Fork attract literally hundreds of birds every winter. Our numbers can fluctuate any where between 200 up to 1,200 at any given time and so they are one of the biggest attractions of the park in the winter months. -- Keith Hobbs, Park manager

The historic ranch buildings of the park are another big attraction. For decades this was both a working cattle ranch and a getaway for the Harriman family. Later, the family donated the property to Idaho for use as a state park. Now park visitors can stay overnight in several of the old ranch buildings.

While the trails in Harriman Park are for skiers and snowshoers, this corner of Idaho also has hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails. It’s one of the most extensive trail systems in the state.

[Image: Aerial photo of Mesa Falls with snow and ice]

Aerial photo of Mesa Falls with snow and ice

It seems like no matter what the snow year is like you can always find snow in Island Park. We’ve got a wonderful groomed trail system here which gives you access to all kinds of back country riding in addition to being a good experience for a whole family. --Troy Elmore, Idaho Dept. of Parks and Recreation

Traveling along the snow packed trails, riders are rewarded with breathtaking winter scenes. One of the major crossroads of this trail system is Big Springs. Every day over a hundred million gallons of water gush from the springs into the Henry’s Fork River. During the peak of the snowmobile season scores of riders cruise to the springs to admire the bubbling flows and gaze at the large trout that spawn there in the winter.

Big Springs is often part of a snowmobile loop that takes visitors past another natural wonder of eastern Idaho…Mesa Falls. In winter, the scenic byway to the falls becomes a fluffy white corridor that beckons travelers to an inspiring display of water, snow and ice.

[Image: Jeff Snyder talking about dog sled racing]

Jeff Snyder talking about dog sled racing

I think the falls is actually more impressive in the winter time when there is not quite as much water because you can really see the rocks under the falls. And you get all that snow formation and ice dangling off the hillside. I think it’s really pretty cool. --Robin Jensen, Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Not far from Mesa Falls is Ashton, Idaho the site of possibly the oldest dog sled race in the lower forty-eight states. The first American Dog Derby was held in Ashton way back in 1917. Today, it’s a community tradition that attracts hundreds of fans and participants.

It’s really, really a neat race. There is a lot of history with the race. The event I’m entered in is a hundred mile race. We run two days, fifty miles each day and it starts right downtown Ashton. It’s not just a race; it’s a big community event. Everybody from the surrounding area comes out and just enjoys themselves and enjoys the dogs. --Jeff Snyder-Race Participant

This event is especially meaningful for Jeff. He met his wife Judy at the race in 1995 and they were married later that year.

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