The early morning alpenglow colored the horizon just above the fall-painted cottonwoods as the South Fork of the Snake River slithered through the yellow maze. From my vantage point on the Cress Creek Nature Trail, sight was not the only sense stimulated. The smell of the junipers and the sounds of migrating birds added to the enjoyment of an early morning hike.
Clark Sutton, a cross-country runner from Madison High School on his
Located just northwest of the Heise Hot Springs, Cress Creek trail is a 1 ¼ mile loop with 18 interpretative signs for the education and enjoyment of hikers of all ages. The signs explain history, geological features and plants that you might encounter on the trail. The first half mile of the trail is paved with switchbacks for easy access by wheelchairs and physically challenged hikers.
After the first half mile the trail becomes an improved dirt path that is a little steeper … but it’s worth it with the beauty of the fall colored trees and the dark green watercress (for which the trail is named), set off by the purple and orange-leaved bushes along the stream.
Chipmunks, deer, maybe moose and a host of birds including the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Pinion Jays are there to provide beauty and entertainment.
For the more adventurous, about halfway around the loop is a trail that leads to the top of the canyon and provides a view of the Upper Snake River plain with the Western Buttes as dominating features.
Along the trail are anchored cement picnic tables for resting and snacking. There are no garbage cans, though, so there is a “carry-in; carry-out” policy.
The Bureau of Land Management maintains the trail and it is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy. It is a self-guided adventure, but schools and civic groups can request a guided trip from the BLM in Idaho Falls by calling 523-1012.
The Cress Creek Trail can be very popular on weekends as youth group leaders and parents find it an easy place to get kids out in nature for a couple of hours. With the beautiful fall weather we have experienced this year, the trail has remained busy. If you find yourself there during one of the busy times, it can be humorous to listen to the complainers and non-hikers that feel obligated to be there. Just stop in the shade with a cool bottle of water, listen and enjoy the humor of it all.
But your efforts will be well-rewarded if you get there early in the morning to experience the wildlife, plants, colors and sounds of Cress Creek Trail.
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