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Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

Overview

Location

The northern boundary of the NCA lies about 20 miles south of Boise and is most easily reached through the gateway community of Kuna (see Access Map). To reach Kuna, take the Meridian Exit (Exit 44) off Interstate Highway 84, and travel south 8 miles. Since no services exist within the NCA, surrounding towns such as Kuna are a good place to purchase gasoline and supplies. The Kuna Visitor Center can provide more information about the area and local conditions. The NCA boundary is reached by travelling about 3 miles south of Kuna on Swan Falls Road.


Access to the western, (downstream) portion of the NCA is provided at Celebration Park, an excellent Canyon County recreation facility on the Snake River. Celebration Park is 19 miles from Kuna, 7 miles from the town of Melba, and can be reached by paved county roads (see Access Map).

Road access is also good to the eastern portion of the NCA near the towns of Grand View and Bruneau. Several improved campgrounds, picnic areas, and boat launch facilities are in this general area. Detailed maps are available from BLM for visitors who want to explore these and other portions of the NCA. Viewing raptors in this area, however, may require some hiking or boating.

The NCA encompasses over 600,000 acres, including about 485,000 acres of public land. This NCA stretches along 81 miles of the Snake River, 65,000 acres of critical nesting habitat, and 420,000 acres of prey habitat.

Habitat

  • A unique combination of climate, geology, soils, and vegetation has created a complete and stable ecosystem where predators and prey occur in extraordinary numbers.
  • Canyon walls along the Snake River, ranging up to 600 feet high, provide abundant nest sites for birds of prey
  • Deep, wind blown soils cover expansive plateaus above the canyon. An unusual variety and high number of small mammals burrow in the fine textured soils, and find food and cover in the dense grasses and shrubs that grow on the plateau.
  • "It is not possible to go in any direction from this area without losing several of the important characteristics that make up this remarkable situation. The soils change, the geology changes, the climate changes; and in no other area in the Northern Hemisphere do these combinations of factors occur to such benefit to the birds of prey." - Raptor expert Morley Nelson

Prey

  • Piute ground squirrels are the most abundant burrowing species. Portions of the area support the densest ground squirrel populations ever recorded. They are the main prey of prairie falcons.
  • Blacktailed jackrabbits are an important prey species, especially for golden eagles.
  • Pocket gophers, kangaroo rats, and deer mice are also common prey species.

Birds of Prey

  • The NCA contains the densest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America, and one of the densest in the world.
  • More than 700 pairs of raptors nest here, representing 16 species.
  • The NCA's prairie falcon population represents a significant portion of the species population.
  • Eight additional raptor species use the area during migrations or as wintering areas.

Nesting Raptors

Migrating Raptors

Other Wildlife

  • The abundant prey and deep, soft soils support one of the densest badger populations in the world; up to 11 badgers per square mile.
  • In all, 259 wildlife species inhabit the area; 45 mammal, 165 bird, 8 amphibian, 16 reptile, and 25 fish species.

Cultural Values

Native Americans
  • The Snake River Canyon within the NCA contains some of the oldest and most remarkable Native American archaeological sites in Idaho. Over 200 sites are recorded, including numerous outstanding petroglyphs. Human occupation has been dated to 10,000 B.C.
  • In 1979 the Black Butte-Guffey Butte Archaeological District, located entirely within the NCA, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Settlement
  • Portions of the Oregon National Historic Trail traverse the length of the NCA. Certain trail remnants are among the best preserved in the nation.
  • The 1860's discovery of gold in the nearby Owyhee Mountains brought settlement to the area. Three sites from this period are on the National Register of Historic Places, including Swan Falls Dam (1901), the first hydroelectric dam on the Snake River.
Current Uses
  • Ranching, power generation, and Army National Guard training continue to be managed multiple uses.
  • Recreation use has increased dramatically. The NCA is a popular spot in southwest Idaho for viewing wildlife, fishing, mountain bike riding, hiking and other activities.