Happy Anniversary to Idaho’s Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area!
The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) was established by Congress 21 years ago this week. Its cliffs and crevices along a deep canyon of the Snake River harbor the highest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America. Each spring, over 800 pairs of falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls come here to mate and raise their young. In 2009, the NCA officially became part of the National Conservation Lands, a collection of the most important protected public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The 485,000-acre NCA is stewarded by the Snake River Raptor Volunteers.
Located along 81 miles of the Snake River near Boise, Idaho, the NCA protects a truly unique ecosystem where birds of prey flourish as they have for thousands of years. The area is also home to an abundance of small prey species, and, not coincidentally, one of the highest concentrations of badgers in the world. (Sorry, no honey badgers.) In addition to these mammals–and 165 species of birds–the region also supports 16 different species of reptiles. The Snake River within the NCA is home to over two dozen species of fishes, including habitat for smaller versions of this monster.
On the western edge of the NCA lies Celebration Park–Idaho’s only archeological park–where visitors can see unique Indian rock art dating to 12,000 years ago, and try their hand at throwing a dart with an ancient spear-throwing weapon called an atlatl. Swan Falls Dam, constructed in 1901, is the Snake River’s oldest hydroelectric dam. The dam’s old powerhouse–listed on the National Register of Historic Places–has been converted into a visitor’s center featuring cultural and historical information. From relaxing picnics along the Snake River to more involved outings, the NCA provides a diverse array of recreational opportunities. Hikers, boaters, anglers, hunters, horseback riders, mountain bikers and wildlife watchers can all enjoy this unique area on the Snake River where raptors rule the skies, and where–thanks to its protected status as part of the National Conservation Lands–they will continue to for generations to come.