Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trail of the Week: Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge

Lot's of food, family, and fun times potty training my daughter has kept me away through the holidays for the regular trail of the week feature, but I think that its time to get it rolling again, especially since most of the Treasure Valley is experiencing a snow day today, including myself.  I already had two cups of coffee in the system when I got word of the day off, so posting a trail review seemed like the perfect thing to do. 

This week I'm reviewing the local blip of nature we have in the Nampa area, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and its small but scenic section of trails.  The Deer Flat Refuge (DFR) is one of the most popular places for Nampa trail runners to get their dirt fix during the week when they are unable to get to the more challenging trails in Boise or the Owyhees.  The DFR is actually part of a large plot of land that includes much of the area around Lake Lowell in Nampa and some islands in the Snake River. 

To get to the DFR, simply drive west out of Nampa on Lake Lowell Avenue from 12th Avenue and take a right turn on either Midway, Middleton, or Midland road.  Turn left on the next available road which is Roosevelt and take it to the top of the hill, you know the big one.  At the top of Roosevelt Hill, you will see a sign to your left that will take you down to the actual DFR visitor's center and nature trails.  Another great option is to park at the end of the dam and run across the dam to the trails to add a bit of length.  I often run from my house to the trail to make a nice little 10-12 mile loop out of it. 

Deer Flat's visitor center is a great place to take your kids for a short visit to check out their exhibit and use the viewing glasses facing south towards the lake.  They have made it very small children friendly by putting a coloring station, puzzles, and other activities out for kids to use.  They also have a restroom, and a room full of stuffed critters from the area.  The parking lot near the boat ramp also has an outhouse that is a bit dreary but usable.  It is a great place to make a pit stop if you're anything like me and have had to stop more than once to "fertilize" the flora out on the run. 

The trails themselves at the DFR are not anything that will likely inspire prose or move you deeply, however, you do get a pretty awesome view of the surrounding area, the lake, the Owyhees, and Nampa itself.  It is also very common to see bald eagles out there (almost every time I go) so if you are dying to see an eagle, this is the place to do it.

From the parking area, you will find a short little piece of singletrack that takes you over to the nature trail proper.  This trail takes a short jaunt along the lake near a wildlife viewing hut and an osprey nest before ending on the service road that runs through the majority of the DFR.  This is a gravel road that has some good hills to run up and loops back around to the parking area along the lake, becoming relatively flat for a mile or so.  There are a few little side trails that have been made, but due to a history of the DFR staff not looking so kindly on runners I won't direct you on to those.  If you want to find them yourself, you can't really get lost out there, so have at it.  Just stay inside marked boundaries and you'll be fine. 

The best place to look for eagles is on the backside of the service road loop.  There you will notice some nesting platforms that are used by the eagles during nesting season.  They will often be hanging out in the trees near here, watching for fish, rabbits, or whatever. 

I spend so much time there, I had trouble figuring out which pictures to share on the blog, so I just brought out some old ones from past blog posts along with a few new shots to show a bit of the variety of experiences I've had out there.

 Finally, I put a screen grab from Google Earth for you, just in case you haven't yet been convinced that you can find your way out there.  Its not the Sawtooths, or even as cool as the Boise Foothills, but it is a small taste of trails in the midst of a city that really doesn't have much else in terms of true "nature" to experience.  The best part about the DFR is that it is so close to home.  I live less than 3 miles from these trails and can visit them any time I want.  Boise or even the Owyhees can't claim that, so it is this area that I call home for most of my trail running.

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