10 Things You Didn't Know About Idaho's State Parks 
Steptoe Butte, about eight miles from Colfax, Washington, is shown in the distance in this photo. The picture was taken from Skyline Drive in Mary Minerva McCroskey State Park in Idaho. Steptoe Butte is a Washington state park. Both parks were gifts to their respective states from Virgil T. McCroskey. 
Prior to installation of the Post Falls Dam in 1908, Hidden, Round, Benewah, and Chatcolet were individual lakes, except during high water when they merged with the larger Lake Coeur d’Alene. The dam holds the lake at its high water level, so the St. Joe River, which winds between the southern lakes has now all but disappeared, leaving just a thin strip of bank on either side through Heyburn State Park. 


Harriman State Park of Idaho was called the Railroad Ranch, before Roland and Averell Harriman donated it to the State of Idaho. Roland and Gladys Harriman frequently visited the Railroad Ranch, having pilots land their planes in the pasture. This 1938 photo shows their Grumman Goose parked in the pasture. Roland Harriman and four friends commissioned the first five of these amphibious aircraft, each powered by twin 450 HP engines mounted on the leading edge of their wings. The landing gear was hand-cranked into position for field landing. Harriman turned the Goose over to the Royal Canadian Air Force for the war effort in WWII. It was sold to Central BC Airways and in 1952 crashed and sank during bad weather north of Butedale, BC with five fatalities. 

In 1971, Idaho's version of Woodstock was the Universal Life Church Picnic at Farragut State Park. This poster advertising the picnic belongs to former Idaho Park and Recreation Board Chair Steve Klatt of Sandpoint. He attended the picnic and was lucky enough find and save one of the posters, which were done by R. Crumb of “Keep on Truckin’” fame. 


Beginning in 1880, and for the next 50 years, steamboats were a popular mode of transportation on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Weekend pleasure seekers often came to Heyburn State Park for picnics, fishing, hiking, boating, and swimming. In this photo, with three steamboats in the background and Chatcolet Landing, a little friendly log-rolling was part of the entertainment.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation managed several park sites around Lucky Peak Reservoir, including Robie Creek, Chimney Rock, Barclay Bay, Turner Gulch, and Mores Creek in the 60s, but turned many of them back to the US Army Corps of Engineers to manage in the 1970s. Sandy Point, Spring Shores, and Discovery are all units of what is now Lucky Peak State Park. Spring Shores, which is now Spring Shores Marina, was a popular site for boating, fishing, and hanging out on the beach back in the 1960s when this picture was taken. 
Boise's Des Arab riding club has been coming to Bruneau Dunes State Park to ride the dunes since it opened in 1967.


To allow steamboats to pass through Heyburn State Park lakes from Lake Coeur d'Alene to the St. Joe, the highest navigable river in the world, there was once a swinging railroad bridge. The operator in the little house atop the bridge could pivot the whole thing ninety degrees to let the boats pass. Today, the bridge is still there, but it has been raised high enough for sailboats to pass under it, and secured in place. The 72-mile-long Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes passes right through it. 

Boise State University professor Tom Trusky added much to the history of Idaho’s state parks by “rediscovering” filmmaker Nel Shipman. Shipman had a film studio at Lionhead Lodge on the north end of Priest Lake, where today’s Lionhead Unit of Priest Lake State Park is located. Trusky searched for lost copies of her films all over the world, finding prints in Canada, England, and Russia. Revival of interest in Shipman resulted in an award-winning 2015 documentary, “Girl From God’s Country,” by Boise filmmaker Karen Day. 
Governor Robert E. Smylie is considered the "father" of Idaho's state parks. He tried time after time to get Idaho's Legislature to create a professionally managed state park system, and was finally successful in 1965. This photo, from 1994, shows him at the dedication of the headquarters of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Then Governor Cecil D. Andrus is seated behind him. IDPR HQ would later be named the Robert E. Smylie Building. 


What do you know about Writers at Harriman?

Writers at Harriman is a one-week residential writing camp at Harriman State Park. Students going into the 11th or 12th grade are encouraged to apply. The camp is inexpensive, $175 including room and board, and scholarships are available.

Students will learn from gifted teaching writers. They will also have the option of learning more about art, park history, story telling, and take guided and unguided nature hikes.

Find out more at www.writersatharriman.org


Friends of Idaho State Parks • PO Box 7164 • Boise ID 83707 • Email

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