New restroom murals draw visitors to Henry’s Lake


Bureau of Land Management

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“I've been in many campground bathrooms. This one is the best by far!”

Last fall, the installation began for a new double vault toilet on an increasingly well-used BLM site at Henry’s Lake. Located near the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Henry’s Lake is one of Idaho's great high mountain lakes. In fact, Henry’s Fork of the Snake River originates at the outlet of this famous lake, just under the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana. Henry’s Lake is the kind of place that anglers dream about–it is considered one of the finest trout fisheries in the West. And now, they might just come for the restrooms.

“Wish more camp restrooms looked like this!”

Surrounded by private, state and BLM-managed public lands, this scenic destination is gaining attention and usage. The BLM portion of the south shore includes boat access and camping spots, and to facilitate the need, portable toilets have historically been present. Thanks to deferred maintenance funds, last year saw improvements on the road, fence work and a new restroom. BLM’s Monica Zimmerman, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Upper Snake Field Office, saw the pristine, white interior walls as an empty canvas for something special.

“Art is needed everywhere.”

Before this project could progress beyond the idea stage, partners stepped up with ideas and funding. Key participants were the Henry’s Fork Wildlife Alliance (HFWA) and Henry’s Lake Foundation (HLF). “I reached out to Jean Bjerke (HFWA) last fall to see if she knew of a local artist who would be willing to paint the vaults,” said Zimmerman. “She also put me in contact with Mary Van Fleet (HLF and HFWA).” The mural idea for restrooms had already been circulating nearby, and three others had already been completed.

“I swear those bathrooms are going to end up on Trip Advisor as one of the “must see’s” in Teton Valley!”

Things were definitely rolling in the right direction. “They didn't know of a local artist, but suggested one of the artists who did the vaults in Teton Valley,” added Zimmerman. This turned out to be a Georgia-turned-Idaho artist named Helen Seay, now living in the small town of Driggs. Last summer, Seay completed three other restroom makeovers with unique scenes that represent local beauty and spark the imagination. Once the toilets were installed along the Teton River by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, partners then helped fund their decor.

“Saw you work in Driggs! Best bathroom EVER!!”

The talented artist was contacted by the BLM last winter, and she agreed to the project. Because of this unlikely venue in which to showcase her work, she jokingly refers to herself as the “Latrine Queen.” She has many other outlets for her talents and holds degrees in graphic design and scientific/medical illustration.

“So cool. That’s worth going to, I mean going to see. Thanks.”

Helen Seay was able to start the work in June and completed both murals in early July. She heard nothing but encouraging remarks as onlookers took peeks at her efforts. Now the restrooms are in full use and ready to inspire even more unsuspecting art show patrons.

“Your art in the John surprised me and made my day! Thank you!!”

More improvements are coming, all aimed at making the facilities at the Henry’s Lake south shore even better. The Upper Snake Field Office completed an Environmental Assessment last spring and eventually will develop a campground and do some bank stabilization work. But people are going to talk about those murals for a long time to come. 

“We are going boating just for the bathroom.”

Seay hopes visitors’ surprise encounters with the aquatic scenes of fish and birdlife will inspire all who “see them to make a difference in their own bit of conservation.”

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.