As I started my trek north with a plan on crossing the Canadian border around mid May it was time to visit a few State Parks along the route. Not surprising that the further north I travel the colder and wetter the weather gets (go figure!). I try not to travel much more than 300 miles in a day as it is frequently slow going driving the RV especially when there is wind or other bad weather. If trying to get somewhere one night layovers are okay but too many (like more than one!) in a row can get very tiring. Bruneau Dunes, an Idaho State Park, was a natural stop along the route and a good place to spend a few days.
The Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, established in 1970, is located about 8 miles east-northeast of Bruneau and about 18 miles south of Mountain Home.
Although there are many small dunes in the area, two prominent dunes cover approximately 600 acres. These two imposing dunes are striking, particularly because they dwarf most of the nearby land features. The westernmost dune is reported to be the largest single-structured sand dune in North America with a peak 470 feet above the level of the lakes.
The dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park are unique in the Western Hemisphere. Other dunes in the Americas form at the edge of a natural basin while the Bruneau dunes form near the center. The circular basin, carved by the meandering snake river formed a natural trap to catch the windborne sand. The dunes may have started with sands from the Bonneville Flood which occurred about 15,000 years ago. The prevailing winds blow from the southeast 28 percent of the time and from the northwest 32 percent of the time, keeping the dunes fairly stable. What makes the area unique is that, although the dunes are constantly moving, they tend to move in two directions that are 180 degrees apart, when wind looses its velocity and its ability to transport the sand it has carried from the surface, it deposits it on the ground (or in this case on the existing dune). I guess the proof is that the dunes have been around in the same place in some form for over 11,000 years.
“Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.” – Jorge Luis Borges
Visiting during the week meant very few other visitors in the park. Most of the nights that I was there I was the only RV in the loop and basically had the place to myself. Overcast, one day rainy and always windy the weather didn’t cooperate for many outdoor activities. The Ranger said the majority of their visitation this time of year was on weekends when the campground filled with folks enjoying the park and the onsite observatory in the park. The observatory houses a 25” telescope open on weekends for public viewing events and activities. Unfortunately this will have to wait until next time as I was there Monday – Friday.
Picking the best weather day, Cory and I struck out for the 6 mile loop hike around the park. Not such a great plan as the “trail” went up and over the tops of the largest dunes in the park. The wind was blowing with numerous gusts over 30 mph which means lots of blowing sand where anything in it’s path is quickly sandblasted. After plowing our way through the blowing sand over a smaller dune and partway up the largest we gave up the trek and moved cross-country to join another more manageable trail. Our footprints were obvious on the dune we left behind but because the sand dunes are constantly shifting shape due to the wind, any footprints we left behind were quickly erased. Still we managed to get in a 6-mile hike much of it through sand, a great workout for the day.
“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” – Robert W. Service
Although the weather may have been challenging for outdoor activities there was lots of time for neglected housekeeping and getting some needed computer work done both on the blog and for 2018 Baja whale trips. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to “slow down” and while this is not easy for me, when I do it can be quite enjoyable!
As I hit the road early on my last day to beat some of the wind it was great to enjoy a beautiful sunrise and say good bye to Bruneau Dunes.