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Bruneau Dunes State Park, ID
Tuesday, July 17, 2001 - 2:00pm by Lolo
270 miles and 5.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
After Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, our next destination was Mt. Rainier, which is over a 13 hour drive away. 13 hours is too much to drive without something fun in between, so I started looking for something interesting to do along the way that wouldn't take us too far away from I-84.
In one of the reference books I've come to rely on, National Geographic Guide to the State Parks of the United States; 2nd Edition (National Geographic Guide to the State Parks of the U.S.), I found Bruneau Dunes State Park in the southwestern corner of Idaho. It was perfect. We've come to love what state parks have to offer and the National Geographic book has never steered us wrong. Since the Park was only 17 miles off of I84, it didn't even bring us out of our way at all. Also, we feel less guilty adding a new state to our map if we truly experience something in that state. We were hopeful that this stop would help us truly earn Idaho.
We knew that with the long driving time between destinations, we all needed to get out and get some physical activity, especially the boys. Hiking up and then rolling down a dune sounded like the perfect way to burn off some pent up energy. We weren't let down.
We arrived at the Park in late afternoon and found a campsite with great views of the dune. The campground was spacious enough to allow room for the boys to throw a baseball around while we relaxed and made dinner. We watched the sun go down over the dune and made it an early night, anxious to rise early and hike the dune while the morning lighting was good.
The next morning we parked at the picnic area at the eastern end of the dune and began our hike. Hiking a dune is always deceptive and turns out to feel much further than it originally appears. However, the effort was well worth it. The top of the dune came to a knife edge where we stood with our legs straddled over each side. The dune was so steep that we stood that way for fear of tumbling down the sides. We took advantage of the good morning light to take some pictures.
Then came the fun part--running and tumbling down the steep sandy slope. What seemed like a long trek up went like a flash on the way down. We shook the sand out of our hair and clothing and proceeded on our drive to Mt. Rainier, much refreshed and ready for a day of driving.
A quick stop at the Visitor Center on the way out gave our sons the opportunity to add a Bruneau Dune State Park pin to their ever growing pin collections. This pin is still our son Tommy's favorite--it's an Idaho potato with Bruneau Dunes written on it.
Bruneau Dunes is largest single-structured sand dune in North America, with a peak 470 feet. The two most prominent dunes cover an area of about 600 acres. Lots of sand, constant wind, and the basin serving as a natural trap for blowing sand set the perfect conditions for the formation of dunes over 15,000 years ago. These dunes have remained relatively stationary because the countervailing winds blow about equally from the southeast and northwest. Lakes began appearing around the base of the dunes in the 1950s as a result of flood irrigation in the nearby Snake River Plain. As the water table rose, the lakes appeared among the dunes.
Activities in the park include hiking the dunes and fishing for bass and bluegill in the lake. Only non-motorized boats are allowed. Swimming is discouraged because of the possibility of swimmer's itch. A 98-site campground with shade trees and shelters has a lovely view of the dunes
Bruneau Dunes State Park is located in the southwest corner of Idaho about 20 minutes off of Route 84 near the town of Mountain Home. It is about 1 hour from Boise and 1 ½ hours from Twin Falls.
Bruneau Dunes State Park location map in "high definition"