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We Are East Idaho: Swan Valley

We Are East Idaho

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EastIdahoNews.com is spending the year introducing you to places and people that make east Idaho special. In our We Are East Idaho series, we're going on a road trip and sharing things you may not know about this beautiful place we call home.

SWAN VALLEY — A lot of locals are familiar with Swan Valley’s recreation and breathtaking, picturesque views. But for Annette Lundquist, it marks the early days of her love story.

“I met a young man there named Kenneth Lundquist who had just come home from Sweden on a Mormon mission. I met him the first week of school in 1949,” Annette says.

Annette, who was born in Rexburg and grew up in Idaho Falls and Ammon, began dating Kenneth. He would often bring her home to his house in Swan Valley and she admits she often got carsick on the drive.

She never imagined Swan Valley would become her permanent home but they fell in love, got married and moved there in 1950. A few years later, major reconstruction began on the Highway 26 bridge.

Annette Lundquist, her husband Kenneth Lundquist and their seven children. | Courtesy Annette Lundquist

“We saw this bridge being built. The bridge that was there before I have pictures of it,” Annette says. “There were fewer people and the traffic wasn’t bad at all like it is today. When our children were going to school in Irwin, sometimes we let them ride their bikes. Now if we did we’d probably be put in jail because there’s so much traffic.”

The Swan Valley Bridge on Highway 26 being demolished in the mid 1950s. This photo was taken by one of Annette’s sons. | Courtesy Annette Lundquist

Annette says a local commissary was the prime shopping spot for everyone in the area.

“There was the Swan Valley Commissary, the only one and across the road, (and) there was what they called the Changdon’s Lodge which is now a restaurant. That was the only place there was a telephone,” Annette says. “It was a real community store. It was amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

But change in Swan Valley is expected. Although there are only some 200 people who live in Swan Valley and the surrounding areas, change continues to happen.

DeLloyd (Jake) Jacobson owns Sleepy J Cabins and says development is moving forward in Swan Valley. He says construction has begun on 17 duplexes and five, four-unit condominiums.

Construction has begun in the area for new housing and lodging in the valley. | Natlaia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

“There will be a total of 54 lodging establishments over there – individual lodging residences. So the valley is going to grow,” Jake says. “I think that it was inevitable that it was going to grow.”

Jake welcomes change as his business has grown since opening in 2002. Originally built as a family retreat, Sleepy J Cabins has attracted a lot of fisherman and tourists from all over the world.

DeLloyd (Jake) Jacobson is the owner of Sleepy J Cabins. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

“The last two years we have been 100 percent occupied for the months of June, July, and August. There’s 10 cabins and every night somebody was in one of them,” Jake says.

He says what used to be a predominantly ranching community has morphed to a recreational destination.

“It’s arguably one of the best dry fly fishing rivers in the North American continent, so there’s lots of people here fishing,” Jake says. “There’s a great hike up Palisades Creek – there are two mountain lakes up there. One is three and a half miles from the trailhead. The other is six miles from the trailhead. It’s a beautiful hike along the creek all the way up.”

“When they completed that dam in 1957 it was the world’s largest earth-filled dam. There’s been many built bigger now,” DeLloyd Jacobson says. | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

If visitors want to appreciate the outdoors while keeping their hair and make up intact, the Valley Village Tiny Homes and RV Park glamping site may be one you’ll never want to leave. Rachel Werner and Shane Fisher are the owners.

“Each tent is an experience,” Rachel says. “They can come back and get a whole different experience because everything is so different. I think we bring a little bit of excitement, some flare, something that’s different to the valley, an experience.”

A themed glamping tent at Valley Village Tiny Homes and RV Park | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

Like Jake, Rachel and Shane are happy to see Swan Valley increasing in popularity.

“I think a lot of times in small towns the mentality forms that there’s only so much to go around and I really believe that there’s always in abundance,” Shane says.

A square ice cream cone from Rainey Creek | Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com

If you’re visiting Swan Valley for the first time, tourist favorites include Rainey Creek for its famous square ice cream and the Dam Store for fun antiques.

And whether you make a stop in town or the surrounding areas, you’ll likely find it’s worth the trip.

“Honestly it’s beautiful and there’s a lot of recreational activities to do here that people aren’t aware of,” Rachel says.

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