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One of the true gems of the Idaho reservoir system is Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Completed along the South Fork of the Boise River in 1950, this project provides irrigation water for local Southwest Idaho farms, with hydroelectric power generation a secondary purpose. Long needed as a way to store water from the spring run-off of the Smoky Mountains in the Sawtooth National Forest, the Anderson Ranch Dam was begun in 1941 by the Bureau of Reclamation. One of three dams on the Boise River system, the work was delayed by a shortage of manpower and materials caused by World War II. Much of the work on the dam was eventually completed by Japanese-American laborers interned at Minidoka Relocation Center. These imprisoned citizens and immigrants were interned about 65 miles away at Hunt, ID in a camp created on Bureau of Reclamation land. In memory of their sacrifices during this dark period in United States history, the Minidoka camp is maintained as a national historic site. Certainly the many visitors to Anderson Ranch Reservoir appreciate all of their hard work, for without their labor the reservoir might never have been completed.
The 4,730-acre reservoir offers a variety of activities to visitors. Several campgrounds are provided under Boise National Forest management, ranging from modern to primitive. A number of boat launch ramps are placed along the 50 miles of shoreline, and visitors often come here to swim, water ski, jet ski, wakeboard and enjoy their power boats. In keeping with Idaho boating laws, all boats other than small inflatable rafts must show an Idaho Invasive Species sticker along with any appropriate licenses. There are few services directly on the reservoir, but several nearby private businesses sell bait, provide outfitter and guide service, and cater to the daily needs of lakelubbers.
Several hiking trails in the area provide space for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. Anderson Ranch Recreation Area is open for some activities year-round, with snowmobiling a popular winter sport. From here, snowmobilers can access a network of groomed trails stretching over 380 miles across varied terrain and amidst spectacular scenery. These same trails serve those who enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Adventurous visitors make Anderson Ranch Reservoir their home base for hiking the surrounding mountains or exploring up-river through the scenic canyons between towering forested slopes.
Fishing is a major drawing card at Anderson Ranch Reservoir: kokanee, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, bream, bluegill and whitefish are all caught. Bull trout are also present but must be immediately released as they are protected. Trout fishing is especially good below the dam. Some of the quieter coves offer ice fishing in winter. With a surface this large, and with such varied fish habitat, it is common to engage the experienced advice of a fishing guide who knows where the best hotspots are and what bait and techniques will be successful; several are located nearby. The more remote stretches of shoreline are favorite places to explore via canoe or kayak; a large number of birds and wildlife can be seen in the Recreation Area and the surrounding Boise National Forest. Bear, deer, elk, pheasant, turkey, grouse, ducks and geese can commonly be seen, while some can be hunted in season with appropriate permits.
Non-campers can find a variety of lodgings in the small town of Pine, a short distance from the Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Several seasonal rentals are available, along with bed-and-breakfasts and lodges. The City of Mountain Home is only half an hour away and holds conventional motels and motels. Boise is just 75 miles away, making Anderson Ranch Reservoir an easy trip for a weekend of fun. For a small city, Boise has a surprising number of unusual sites that visitors will enjoy, from the Basque Museum and Culture Center to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site, World Center for Birds of Prey, Boise Zoo, and a number of historical and scientific-themed sites. A first-time visitor to Idaho can camp near Anderson Ranch Reservoir and take day-trips to local sites or stay in the larger cities and visit the reservoir for the day. Many visitors soon find that they want to experience more of the breathtaking solitude and majestic views offered by the Boise National Forest and attempt to find private lodgings near the reservoir itself. A few can be located with excellent views of both the reservoir and the surrounding mountains. Real estate is sometimes available in these locations and quite popular for summer or vacation homes.
If you haven't considered southwestern Idaho as a vacation destination in the past, one visit will surely change your mind. For fishing, hiking, boating, photography and wildlife viewing, few places fill the bill quite as well as Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Won't you come and try your luck with the trout?
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