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National Landscape Conservation System

Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

Crags and crevices, the deep canyon of the Snake River, thermal updrafts, and a broad plateau rich in small wildlife sustain the greatest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America.

Congress established the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in 1993 to protect a unique environment that supports one of the world's most dense concentrations of nesting birds of prey.  Falcons, eagles, hawks and owls are found here in unique profusion and variety.  It is part of the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 officially added the name of conservationist Morley Nelson to the NCA, in honor of Nelson's work on behalf of birds of prey and their habitats.

The BLM manages the area to preserve its remarkable wildlife habitat while providing for other compatible uses of the land, so that birds of prey flourish here as they have for thousands of years.

The area's 485,000 acres host some 800 pairs of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons that come each spring to mate and raise young.  The birds are not on display, and for the most part are wary of humans, usually keeping their distance.  The best times to look for raptors are mornings or early evenings in mid-March through June. 

Numerous recreation activities besides bird-watching are also possible in the NCA.  The NCA is "nature in the rough," with few public facilities, but the birds and their environment offer rich rewards to those willing to experience the area on its own terms and who have the patience to fit into the natural rhythms of life here.

Fast Facts

Total area | 600,000 acres
485,000 acres public; 65,000 acres private; 39,000 acres State; 1,000 acres military; 10,000 acres surface waters (rivers, lakes, reservoirs)

Raptor species | 24
16 nesting, 8 migrating/wintering

view of the Snake River from an overlook in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

NCA Access Map thumbnail - click to download printable map

| About 20 miles south of Boise, Idaho
From Interstate 84, take exit-44/Idaho Hwy 69.  Continue south for eight miles and turn south on Swan Falls Road and travel 3 miles to the NCA boundary.

Volunteer Snake River Raptors Volunteers | Idaho Falconers Association

Video | Haven for Hawks in Idaho

Raptor Quest Junior Explorer book
Download the Raptor Quest Junior Explorer book to learn more about raptors of Southwest Idaho.

Visitor Guide Available

Guide contains general maps of the NCA, raptor viewing information and recreational opportunities. Safe shooting information and regulations are also included in the guide. Purchase price is $2.00. Available for purchase at BLM offices in Southwest Idaho (two locations in Boise (1387 South Vinnell Way and 3948 Development Avenue and in 20 First Avenue West in Marsing).

Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA 

Go Take A Hike in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. The Bureau of Land Management will lead a variety of activities in the Conservation Area from April 18th to June 13th. Explore the Area’s wildlife and history with local no charge! Advanced registration is required. Call 384-3485 or email
to sign up. 

Here's the 2015 Activity Schedule

Sat. May 2 Wees Bar – full day hike
This full day hike led by BLM staff is approximately 10 miles round trip. Wees Bar has a rich cultural and natural history. We will explore the desert ecosystem, and investigate remnants of the Priest Ranch as we hike from Swan Falls Dam downstream to Wees Bar. At the Bar, we will view prehistoric petrogylphs and examine the Wees lava stone house. It is possible we will see various raptors flying overhead.

Sat. May 2 Botany/Geology Walk – 3 hours
This activity led by BLM staff will last approximately 3 hours. Distance covered will approximately be 1-2 miles. During this activity, we will explore the different shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants that make up the desert ecosystem, along with the geology that formed the Snake River canyon and surrounding plateau.

Fri May 8 Raptor Identif. Lecture – 2 hours, evening
This evening lecture given by BLM staff will last approximately 1.5 hours. Come learn how to identify the 24 species of raptors which inhabit the Birds of Prey Area and southwest Idaho. This will include eagles, falcons, hawks, osprey, northern harrier, turkey vulture and owls.

Sat. May 9 Raptor Identification Field Trip – full day
This field trip will travel out into the Birds of Prey area and look for various raptors, to give individuals experience at identifying raptors in the field.

Sat. May 16 Halverson Bar – full day hike
This day hike led by BLM staff is approximately 6 to 7 miles round trip. Halverson Bar has a rich cultural and natural history. We will hike up along the Snake River and investigate remnants of old mining sites and homesteads. We will aim to have lunch at a still standing cabin. On our return we will swing toward the cliffs and pass by the Halverson Lakes. As this is the height of the nesting season for raptors we may see various raptors flying overhead.