When you think of sand dunes, you probably picture the sandy deserts of Egypt or the sand dunes you see along beaches.
But did you know that there are sand dunes within the state of Idaho? In fact, this week’s state park is full of them: Bruneau Dunes State Park, likely one of the most unexpected state parks in the state.
To get to Bruneau Dunes State Park by car, the best route is to travel for 511.9 miles down Interstate 84 East, taking you out of Idaho, through Washington and Oregon and finally into southern Idaho, only 64 miles south of Boise.
There are many things that set Bruneau Dunes State Park apart from the other state parks we’ll be looking at this summer, and one of them is its ecology: this region consists mostly of desert, but also prairies, marshes and lakes.
The most prominent feature of Bruneau Dunes State Park is undoubtedly the sand dunes themselves. The tallest single-structured sand dune in North America can be found here, rising 470 feet above surrounding small lakes.
Come traverse through this park and you’ll notice a distinct lack of trails and signage that requires you to keep to a certain path. This is because the sand dunes are forever changing, and even the footprints you leave behind will soon be vanquished by the wind. (Trash and other forms of litter however will not be vanquished with the passage of time, so be careful not to litter!)
The dunes provide great opportunities for recreation. A sport many visiting the park love to try is sand-sledding! Aside from a lack of snow, the principle is the same as snow-sledding and sand boards can even be rented at the park’s visitor center.
Other activities include hiking, camping, swimming, star-gazing at the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, birdwatching and horseback riding. However, no motorized vehicles are allowed on the dunes.
The lakes at the base of the sand dunes of Bruneau Dunes State Park are the lifeblood of the region, providing precious water to a land largely lacking it. Largemouth bass and bluegills are particularly common in these lakes, and wild geese, herons and wild ducks frequent them as well.
The terrestrial fauna of Bruneau Dunes State Park consists of creatures that like to live in deserts and scrublands. Rabbits, lizards and an assortment of insects provide food for hawks, owls, kestrels and scorpions. Another predator that thrives in Bruneau Dunes State Park is the coyote. It’s easy to confuse coyotes with their close cousin, the wolf, but unlike the wolf they’re much smaller and don’t use large packs to hunt prey much larger than themselves. Rather, coyotes prefer to hunt like rabbits, birds, rodents and other small animals. If you’re hiking through the park at dusk, you may be fortunate to see a coyote in the wild.
Bruneau Dunes State Park is an exciting place with sand dunes and amazing desert wildlife.
If you choose to visit this park, be sure to spend time hiking around at dusk or dawn, when many of the native animals are most active. And be sure to bring shoes that you don’t mind getting sand in, because there’s a lot of sand to be had at this park!
BRUNEAU DUNES STATE PARK SCAVENGER HUNT
As you explore Bruneau Dunes State Park, see if you can find all of the items on this list. You may want to ask a ranger or park employee if you need help identifying one or more of the items on this list. Be sure to check them off as you go!
[ ] a park sign
[ ] a sand dune
[ ] a small rock
[ ] a flower
[ ] an animal or plant especially well-adapted to life in a desert or scrub land
[ ] a lake
[ ] a bird floating on the water
[ ] something with a rough texture
[ ] a patch of grass
[ ] an animal or plant you didn’t expect to see