- 40 miles (64 km)
- One hour to drive the Byway
From urban areas to small-town rural communities, through high deserts and deep canyons, the Western Heritage Historic Byway traverses some of the most impressive terrain in the state of Idaho. With the densest population of breeding raptors in North America, dramatically sculpted landscapes, recreational activities, and historic sites, this trip lives up to the expectations of the most discerning western outdoors lover.
Most of Western Heritage Historic Byway travels through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. In the 1940s, scientists discovered over 1000 pairs of birds of prey in western Idaho. By 1993, the BLM added 485,000 acres to the SRBPCA, ensuring the survival of these noble birds. Up to sixteen species of raptors nest here, with an additional nine species visiting during their migration season. So bring along a guidebook and some binoculars and expect to see a variety of owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles while in the area.
If scenic backdrops and mountainous terrain interest you, you'll enjoy the diverse topography and open space. Black basalt cliffs tower on both sides of the Snake River's canyon in stark contrast to the pale sediment formations around them. High desert plains stretch on for miles, reminding the visitor of the intrinsic importance of untouched open space. In the distance the snow-capped Owyhee mountain range dominates the horizon. Take one of many hiking and mountain biking trails for a more in-depth look at the area, or float down the Snake River on a guided raft tour.
Historic sites beckon at every turn of the byway. Celebration Park, Idaho's only archaeological park, treats visitors with a glimpse at rock art etched 12,000 years ago. Tour guides offer in-depth information about the petroglyphs, local flora and fauna, and give atlatl lessons to those interested in early human weaponry. Early 20th Century structures also exist along Western Heritage, along with early mining and hydroelectric projects. Built in 1901, Swan Falls Dam supplied power to early mining operations and later made settlement of the area possible.
So enjoy your trip through time. Examine billions of years of geological history, thousands of years of civilization, and the last few decades of raptor protection. Take in vast expanses of open space, humbling rock formations and canyons, and an assortment of wildlife during your trip under the shadow of soaring birds of prey.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Celebration Park (ID)
As the only archaeological park in southern Idaho, this site provides a rare opportunity for visitors to view petroglyphs carved on boulders by Native Americans and early settlers. Trails lead through boulders scattered by the Bonneville Flood and provide access to Halverson Lake.
Guffey Bridge, once a railroad bridge, provides one of the few crossings over the Snake River. It gives non-motorized access to primitive trails on the south side of the river.
West on Victory Road, follow signs to Victory Lane entrance to Celebration Park. Celebration Park is part of the Melba Loop, a side trip complementary to the Western Heritage Historic Byway. It takes approximately 1 1/2 hours to get to the park.
Dedication Point (ID)
This site provides an outstanding view of the Snake River Canyon and snow-capped Owyhee Mountains, and is another good place to spot raptors in flight. Interpretive signs describe area plants, wildlife, and geology, as well as aid in identifying the different bird of prey species--prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, and golden eagles to name a few.
Initial Point (ID)
Initial Point looms out to the desert and presents panoramic views of the Owyhee Mountains and Boise Front. A one-mile gravel road connects to the base of the butte. A short walk up the rocky steep access trail brings visitors to an observation deck.
Established in 1867, a US Geological Survey brass marker on the top of this prominent lava butte is the starting survey point in the State of Idaho.
Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (ID)
The Snake River Birds of Prey NCA is a major feature of the Western Heritage HistoricByway. The byway offers opportunities to see a variety of raptors in an area supporting thedensest population of breeding birds of prey in North America
Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Pullout and Byway Views (ID)
Over 80 percent of the byway transects the SRBPNCA, offering opportunities to see many of the raptor species. Visitors may glimpse these birds soaring through the canyon; nesting in its cracks, crevices, and ledges; or looking for prey above the canyon.
The surrounding desert is covered with a mantle of deep silt loam that supports a variety of vegetation and furnishes a superb habitat for a concomitant rodent population that is essential to the welfare of the raptors.
Swan Falls Dam (ID)
This area provides an access point for guided boat tours every Saturday in May and June. The Snake River cuts an incredible visual canyon, exposing black basalt towering bluffs against pale-colored sediments.
For other recreation a footbridge across the dam leads to hiking and mountain biking trails. Sinker Butte, elevation 3,421 feet, offers stunning views of the Snake River Plain and Owyhee Mountains. Trails also follow the Snake River south to Celebration Park.
Three Pole Overlook (ID)
Because of its close proximity to both the road and the canyon rim, this currently unimproved site could be easily modified to accommodate people with impaired mobility. It overlooks Swan Falls Dam, which was built in 1901 as the first hydroelectric dam on the Snake River. Further, it provides a panoramic view of the Snake River Canyon and is another excellent location to see birds of prey, both nesting and in flight.