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The C. J. Strike Reservoir in Southwestern Idaho offers a wealth of opportunities to enjoy nature. Formed in 1952 when a hydroelectric dam was built across the Snake and Bruneau Rivers, the impoundment grew along both rivers to a considerable distance, forming multiple pools in the canyons that the rivers flow through. Owned by Idaho Power Company, the reservoir is named for C. J. Strike, general manager of the company from 1938 to 1948. Although the reservoir at the dam isn't that extensive, several more basins with river between them provide welcoming water vistas to hikers, campers, fishermen and wildlife fans. The reservoir covers a total of about 7,500 scenic acres. Meandering across an arid landscape, both rivers cut impressive canyons over millennia, offering shelter and sustenance to early humans and a huge number of native and migratory species. The quest for electricity finally tamed the mighty Snake River. Idaho Power Company is determined to meet both the needs of their customers and serve the natural flora and fauna as generously as possible.
In a land with few lakes, the reservoirs built for hydroelectric power such as C. J. Strike offer a unique opportunity for visitors to engage in water sports such as water skiing, tubing, pontooning, wakeboarding and all of the active endeavors Lakelubbers everywhere enjoy. Kayaking, canoeing and rafting are popular along the narrower stretches of river. Few commercial businesses exist along the shores of C. J. Strike, so Idaho Power has provided four separate parks to offer easy access to those seeking the water. Three offer boat ramps, two provide swimming beaches, and one even includes a marina, boat dock and handicapped-accessible fishing dock. A variety of camping sites, walking paths and picnic areas allow everyone to access the water. For the convenience of nearby Mountain Home Air Force Base personnel, the base maintains a separate private marina that rents boats, pontoons and jet skis, along with the usual lakefront amenities. Water levels vary on a daily basis but not so far that water access is impaired.
Fishing is good at C. J. Strike Reservoir: sturgeon, yellow perch, crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, bluegill and catfish are all caught. Bass tournaments are held here regularly. Rainbow trout are stocked annually in the Snake River between Shoshone Dam and C. J. Strike Reservoir, making for exciting fly fishing in the river shallows. There is even some opportunity for ice fishing during the coldest months in a few of the shallow coves of the slower-moving Bruneau River. A local bait and convenience store in the tiny town of Bruneau at the end of the Bruneau arm will gladly divulge the fishing secrets necessary to be successful, such as best bait and hottest fishing holes.
The C. J. Strike Wildlife Management Area encompasses over 20,000 acres and extends 26 miles up the Snake River and 12 miles upstream on the Bruneau River, Adventurous visitors can enjoy a diverse area of habitat including wetlands, ponds and wildlife food plots along with grand vistas, soaring cliffs and numerous raptors soaring silently along the air currents of the heights. The varied landscapes of the Wildlife Management Area offer plenty of opportunity for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Some areas are closed seasonally to protect waterfowl and game bird nesting areas. Parts of the WMA are open to hunting in season.
Because the valley is warmer than the surrounding areas, a number of 'half-hardy' birds winter here. Two hundred forty species of birds are known to use the C.J. Strike area annually. American white pelican, double-crested cormorant, yellow-rumped warbler and loggerhead shrike are often seen wintering here, while about 100,000 wintering and migrating waterfowl including Tundra swans and trumpeter swans can be sighted in winter and early spring. The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area section of the WMA is a great place to observe the many raptors, including hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles and many types of owls. The Birds of Prey National Conservation Area is just southeast of the Bruneau Dunes State Park, a bit east of the WMA. This state park holds the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, at 470 feet tall. The dune is a favorite for climbing, and the park offers camping, picnic area, observatory with telescopes, hiking paths and two small marsh lakes with non-motorized boat access and fishing for panfish.
Other that the tiny ranching town of Bruneau, the nearest city is Mountain Home, about 20 miles to the north. Although small, Mountain Home holds several types of lodgings, including hotels, motels and at least one bed-and-breakfast. The town also boasts a winery, golf course, farmers market and historical society museum. Rodeos are regularly scheduled near Mountain Home, a reminder that the area's history and present are both tightly tied to ranching and farming. Boise is only an hour's drive away, making C. J. Strike Reservoir an ideal getaway for a day or a weekend. Real estate is often found available in the area, although not on the reservoir itself. Few private rentals are available, but campgrounds offer cabins for non-campers. A small private resort rents campsites and a few cabins. C. J. Strike Reservoir is the perfect spot to camp, fish and explore. Come for a day, a week or even longer. It would take months to see everything there is to see at C. J. Strike Reservoir.
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