Exploring in Idaho | A Day on the Continental Divide
A perfect autumn day would be tough for many to define. For me, it was a day I spent on Little Eight Mile Ranch on the Lemhi River in Leadore, Idaho. The day started off just before the sun rose, as I was hoping to get pictures of some of the wildlife that call the ranch home. As I crept closer to what sounded like dozens of bull elk bugling in the darkness, I had no idea what this day would bring.
As soon as the dark gave way to the first rays of pre-dawn light, I was able to see just how many elk were making the noise that kept me up most of the night. I stopped counting when I got to 200 head of elk, and it wasn’t much use anyhow, as the 25+ bulls were chasing each other and the cows around, mixing in and out of the herd like autumn leaves caught up in a mini wind cyclone. I sat and watched the interactions of hundreds of elk, less than 200 yards away, doing what elk do every fall. Every now and then, my attention would wander away from the elk to check out what the dozens of white-tailed and mule deer were up to and how the antelope like the songs the bull elk were singing. It occurred to me that this must be a very normal thing, as all the other animals in the field didn’t seem to understand the lyrics to the song but yet didn’t mind that it was being sung.
Soon the sun was up, and the snow-covered peaks of the Lemhi range were front and center. It was a sight you would need to see to understand the immensity of beauty in that moment. Elk, deer, and antelope all loitering in a field, so green Ireland would be jealous. With the day off to such a brilliant start, I wasn’t sure what could make it any better… then I turned around and gazed upon the 10.5+ miles of Lemhi River that snakes through the ranch and thought, “I better see if I can scare up a fish or two.”
While headed over to the river to wet a line, I was not surprised to see the moose, white-tailed deer, and waterfowl that call the river bottom home this time of year. The state of Idaho and the power company have invested millions of dollars to restore this section of the Lemhi River for spawning Chinook salmon. This restoration process has created some of the finest fly fishing for trout found anywhere in the world. It did not take long to figure out what the fish wanted to eat that day, and I spent the next hour landing over 20 fish, ranging in size from about 10 to 19 inches. At one point, I landed 12 fish in 15 casts!
I regretted having to step out of the river and start the drive back to Montana. There was so much more I still wanted to explore on the ranch. The owner’s wife had found several Native American arrowheads and chipping stones the week before I was there, and in all my time spent outdoors over the years, I have yet to find one. I suppose that I will have to wait until my next trip to get that crossed off my list of things to do; however, it is nice to know I have a place to go and find artifacts from a time before any settlers thought of stepping foot in the Lemhi Valley or knew of its existence.
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