Open dawn to dusk every day. Follow the interpretive trail through the Nature Center and see the stream and underwater viewing windows.
Habitat Improvement Program (HIP): Food for people, habitat for wildlife! Start where the path branches around a demonstration of Idaho's Habitat Improvement Program (HIP). You'll see wheat, corn, sorghum, sunflowers and other agricultural crops here. The HIP program demonstrates how ranchers, farmers and others can grow crops for people and wildlife habitat at the same time. In addition to planting some crops for wildlife, farmers and ranchers can leave a rough border of plants around their fields to provide nesting cover and shelter for wildlife. These "fuzzy edges" attract more wildlife than a field cleanly cropped on all sides. The food and shelter provided in HIP areas are especially important in winter.
Snags: Why all these dead trees in the Nature Center? Because Snags are Habitat. Snags are "animal inns" that provide homes for more than 125 Idaho wildlife species including insects woodpeckers, owls, songbirds, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, frogs, and salamanders. And many of these species depend on each other. For example, insects living under the bark attract birds, especially woodpeckers. Woodpeckers "drilling" for food create holes that become homes for cavity-nesters such as bluebirds and owls. Eagles, ospreys, and hawks use snags as hunting perches. The snag overlooking the Alpine Lake (# 10), is a favorite perch of the Great Blue Herons that visit the Nature Center. Fallen snags continue to provide habitat- only in a horizontal rather than vertical position. Eventually, rotting snag is recycled into the soil providing nutrients for another group of plants and animals (#16).
Wetlands: Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems on Earth. Wetlands, which include marshes, bogs, swamps, potholes and shallow water areas of ponds, lakes, and oceans, serve two major purposes. They provide nurseries for wildlife and clean our water. The same wetland plants that provide abundant food and cover for animals also act as sponges that absorb and filter water. Wetlands remove sediment and toxins that would otherwise wash into streams and rivers.
The shallow areas of the Nature Center pond demonstrate a wetland in action. Cattails, sedges, willows and other wetland plants provide a nursery for young fish and waterfowl. The insects and algae provide food. Look for bass and bluegill in the warmer waters here, as well as ducks, geese, snakes and even mink along the shore.
More species of wildlife are found in wetlands than in any other habitat. Wetlands are wildlife-producing water treatment plants.
Logjam: Logjams (piles of logs) form naturally in mountain streams They provide shade and hiding places, especially for fish (See the Shelter Windows). Other animals use logjams to cross the stream or for hunting perches. Logjams do not prevent fish from moving up and downstream.
Shelter Window: This fish-eye view lets you see where fish like to hang out and why. Logs, boulders, and plants give fish a place to hide from predators while waiting for tasty insects or other menu items to float into reach. Objects in the stream also create small pockets of slack water where fish can avoid the main current. (Be sure to check out the Riffle Window).
Lava Rocks: These smooth, shiny lava rocks were brought in from the Big Wood River below Magic Reservoir Dam (between Shoshone and Bellevue, Idaho). The volcanic basalt, originally sharp and abrasive, has been shaped and smoothed by flowing water and sand particles. The holes and depressions you see began as small air bubbles in the lava. Over time, these holes were enlarged by the erosive action of sand and water.
The petroglyphs (petro=stone, glyph=writing) you see here are replicas of those made by Native Americans many thousands of years ago.
Beaver Dam Exhibit: Beavers are nature's engineers. The dams beavers build create wetlands. These wetlands provide great habitat for other animals while also storing water that keeps streams flowing during low-water seasons. The abandoned beaver dam and lodge at the Nature Center were relocated from central Idaho. Though no beaver lives at the Nature Center, some do visit from their lodges along the Boise River. Late winter and early spring are the best times to look for beavers in our pond. Notice how some tree species are adapted to withstand beaver "attacks". Aspens, willows and cottonwoods grow new shoots after beaver feed on them.
Viewing Blind Being still and quiet is the best way to see wildlife. Blinds allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife. So, relax and spend a few minutes in one of our blinds to watch and listen to the wildlife around you.
Butterfly Garden: This beautiful garden demonstrates how home gardeners can attract a variety of birds and butterflies to their own habitat. Although the plants in this garden were specifically chosen to attract nectar-feeding species, hummingbirds and butterflies, many other bird and insect species are attracted as well. Also note the butterfly box at the south entrance of the garden.
Compost Bins: Compost is a rich soil created through a natural rotting process called decomposition. Insects, earthworms, bacteria, and fungi are all key players in this process. The rotting of fallen trees is an example of natural composting. Rotting trees become the soil that supports the plants that in turn support wildlife.
You can improve the soils in your own backyard by composting. Create your own compost heap with grass clippings, leaves, other yard waste, and vegetable scraps. Backyard composting reduces landfill space needed, improves the soil, and conserves water.
Composting is one small thing we can do to save money and resources, while improving our surroundings.
Formal Backyard: Create the habitat and wildlife will come, even to urban spaces. All the essential components of animal habitat are provided in a relatively small area. The pond provides the water, while a variety of carefully chosen plants provide food and shelter. Fruit and seed bearing plants offer food. Trees and shrubs, at different heights, provide optimum shelter. By adding these features to your lawn, your backyard can be an attractive place for people and wildlife.
Native Plant Garden: Native landscaping provides striking beauty, attracts wildlife and conserves water all at the same time. Once established, native plants survive just fine on what little water Mother Nature provides here in southwestern Idaho. Mule deer, hummingbirds, and a variety of insects are the most frequent visitors to this small plot of native landscaping. Schools, businesses, and homeowners in and around Boise have begun to incorporate native plants into their landscaping designs. Nature Center staff can help you get started. Contact us at 334.2225
High Desert: Sagebrush, rabbit brush and bunch grasses are typical of Idaho's mid- to high elevation ecosystems called "high desert." The unique plants of the high desert provide a home to many of Idaho's wildlife species found in no other habitat- these include, pronghorn antelope, pygmy rabbit, sagebrush vole, sage grouse, Brewer's sparrow, sage thrasher, and sagebrush lizard.
"Guzzlers" are used to catch dew, rain and snow to provide water for wildlife, especially in areas that receive as little as 10 inches of rainfall per year. Guzzlers may allow some species of wildlife to expand their range, or to survive drought conditions. This is an example of how management agencies can improve wildlife habitat on public lands.
Riffle Window: Riffles, the shallow gravel areas in streams, provide fish with fresh air and groceries. Churning, fast-moving water mixes air into the stream, providing oxygen that allows fish and aquatic insects to survive and thrive. Nooks and crannies in the gravel provide abundant habitat for aquatic insects. Insects provide most of the diet for many fish species. Facing upstream so oxygen-rich water flows over their gills, fish lie in wait for insects to drift into their feeding area.
Egg Window: At certain times of the year, we place trout eggs in the gravel here to allow people to watch them develop and hatch into fry (baby fish). You can find the eggs by looking in the small spaces in the gravel. They look like little "pink peas". Clean gravel and oxygen-rich flowing water are critical for egg development and hatching. The water must flow over the eggs to bring in oxygen and remove waste. Silt (fine soil particles) that clogs spaces between the gravel will suffocate the eggs. Over time, siltation may reduce or eliminate fish populations.
All of the small rainbow trout you see at the Nature Center were born here - some from eggs we "planted" and some from eggs adult rainbows planted themselves. Rainbow trout eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks at the Nature Center.
Alpine Lake Window: Many of Idaho's streams begin in high mountain lakes. Alpine lakes provide a cool, clean, deep-water habitat where a variety of Idaho's fish species may be found. Signs are provided to help you identify the fish you see.
The species before you represent only a few of the many species found in Idaho. Idaho's has about 70 fish species, 39 that are native. Occasional "visitors" to our stream include chinook and kokanee salmon, which we introduce in mid-summer through early fall, as availability allows. At the window to the far left, you may also see fish spawning (reproducing). Watch for female trout and salmon digging a redd (nest) in the gravel in which to deposit their eggs. Chinook and kokanee spawn in late August and early September, while rainbow spawn mainly in the early spring.
Waterfall Overlook: Walk up the steps to get a better view of the waterfall. The granite rocks were brought in from the mountains north of Boise and are representative of the granite-based geology of central Idaho. The setting is alpine (high elevation), with a pine snag standing above, and aspens and evergreens growing below. The waterfall and alpine lake are the headwaters of the Nature Center stream, much like the Stanley Basin lakes are the headwaters of the Salmon River.
Pond: Although our Nature Center pond is very small, it is home to a surprising variety of wildlife. The footbridge crossing the pond offers some of the best wildlife watching opportunities on site. The fish you might see here include bass, trout, sturgeon, and suckers. In addition to the fish, this small pond attracts muskrat, mink, beaver, great blue herons, and several species of ducks and songbirds. Nesting boxes around the pond provide secure places for wood ducks to hatch their eggs. Goose-nesting platforms are also used every year, and if your timing is right, you may also get to see newly hatched goslings jump from the platform to the water below.