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With more than 56,000 acres of water sport, boating and fishing waters, surrounded by choice camping and picnic areas, American Falls Reservoir in southeastern Idaho is an ideal leisure-time destination. American Falls Reservoir provides many excellent outdoor opportunities, including recreation areas with boat ramps, fishing docks, canoeing, wildlife viewing, hiking trails, camping sites, picnic sites, and playgrounds. The reservoir is located near the city of American Falls, 23 miles south of Pocatello, Idaho, and US Highway 39 traverses the nine-story dam. A visitors center displays interesting facts and artifacts from Shoshone and Bannock Indian cultures. Trenner Park, Idaho Power's first public recreation area, was built in 1933 on the site of the old powerhouse.
American Falls Reservoir was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation by impounding the Snake River with the American Falls Dam. The reservoir was designed primarily as a water storage site for irrigation with additional benefits of flood control and power generation. Construction of American Falls Dam and Powerhouse began in 1926 and was completed in 1928. The Bureau of Reclamation owns and operates the reservoir; Idaho Power owns and operates the hydroelectric facilities. While the reservoir was filling, the Bureau of Reclamation was forced to move 85% of the city of American Falls that would be underwater (significant resistance was forthcoming from the city residents!). Due to some deterioration of the original dam, a second dam was built downstream in 1978, again with opposition of Native Americans and some scientists over loss of natural habitats and fossil records of the Fort Hall Bottoms.
Irrigation use of American Falls Reservoir water begins in June and continues into September. Water levels recede as irrigation demand exceeds inflow. Refilling of the reservoir begins in October and continues into spring. Although the long-term summer drawdown is about 51% of storage capacity, drawdowns can be more severe during extended periods of drought.
American Falls Reservoir is very popular with anglers for its populations of trout (rainbow, brown and cutthroat), crappie, yellow perch, white fish, and large catfish (bullhead and channel). Some 8,000 pounds of rainbow trout are annually stocked in the reservoir, providing excellent sport fishing. These trout are the most sought after fish, and anglers frequently take home 5-6 pounders. With no closed season and ice fishing for winters, fishing is good year round.
For adventure seekers, there are exciting raft trips, and white water kayaking/canoeing is popular. The area has an abundance of birdlife along the Canada-Mexico flyway and is a haven for birdwatchers. The American Falls Reservoir and nearby Massacre Rocks State Park have had over 200 bird species recorded. In August there is an American Falls Shorebird Festival for the diehard birders. For the geocachers among us, there are more than 20 caches nearby. Combine your birding with your geocaching for a great outing. The picturesque reservoir environs make for ideal conditions for nature enthusiasts and camera bugs.
Visitors to Idaho should make American Falls Reservoir one of the top places to stop, relax and 'smell the roses'.
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