Idaho Falls
clear sky
humidity: 81%
wind: 8mph N
H 48 • L 48

I had never been to Redfish Lake and my first trip there did not disappoint

Living the Wild Life

As I was wandering along the Redfish Lake Outlet looking for some birds, I became high-centered on a downfall with a small stub of a limb hooked into my pant-leg, wounding my thigh. In that uncomfortable position, I heard a rush of wings and looked up in time to duck the agnostic attack of a Pileated woodpecker. It appeared to be protecting its two fledglings as it took them across the creek into some thick willows. My short legs had just cost me some pictures of a lifetime.

It did not take long before a Steller’s jay showed up to harass me and to make fun of my predicament. I think it was actually begging for a free handout because earlier I had witnessed a couple feeding chipmunks, Gray and Stellers jays, nuts and Cheetos at their campsite.

This was my first trip to Redfish Lake when my wife and I, along with a daughter decided to join our youngest daughter and her family for a couple of days last week. Redfish Lake was named after the sockeye salmon that used to migrate during the summers, to spawn in the fall by the thousands. We were told by a young female naturalist that only four had made it back to the lake this year.

To relax after the four-hour drive to the lake nestled between Mount Heyburn and the Grand Mogul, two of the Sawtooth mountains, we decided to head for the beach near their campsite at the Glacier View Campground. I decided to hike along the Redfish Creek which turned into a log navigating activity when the woodpecker and jay decided to give me a bad time.

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An osprey flies away with a kokanee that it captured in a creek along the Fish Hook Trail near the visitors center at Red Lake Lodge.

We had a great time on the beach, relaxing, visiting, and watching the boats come and go. The ospreys were very active collecting the introduced kokanee that have now replaced the sockeyes in coloring the lake and the inlet streams red.

After returning to the camp, we built a fire in the fire ring and each kid had a packet of “Magical Flames” that they added to the fire. The packets were purchased at the Redfish Lodge store and created the fire to turn red, green, blue and orange instead of the “boring yellow.” While that was happening, plans were made for the next day before my wife and I “camped out” at a motel in Stanley just five miles from the campground.

Since my late get-up time is 5 a.m. and my companion’s early morning is 8:00, I was given permission to steal the car for some early morning activities. I decided to hit “Idaho Birding Trail #EC25” near Little Redfish Lake for an early morning stroll. The air temperature at 36 degrees appeared too cold for most birds, but I caught a deer grazing; a Golden-mantled ground squirrel doing early morning stretches and a Yellow-pine chipmunk eating breakfast. It was a stroll (It was too slow to be a hike) not to be forgotten.

Short hikes came later in the day as we rented a boat to go explore the base of Grand Mogul where years before a large portion of the mountain slid into Redfish Lake during an earthquake. One day is not long enough to explore the 350 miles of trails including 40 trails and 23 trailheads in the Sawtooth Wilderness area.

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A male kokanee protects a female as she builds a redd to lay eggs in.

One of the most memorable experiences that we had was taking a short hike along the Fish Hook Trail near the visitor center. The small stream is full of spawning kokanee and watching about a dozen ospreys collect their dinner while the male kokanee fight with each other for the right to a female as she digs a redd to lay eggs in, have all the ingredients for a good movie. It is nature at its finest. Watching a doe Mule deer cross the creek with two spotted fawns was an added bonus.

If you have never gone to Redfish Lake, put it on your bucket list. It is well worth the trip. You may have to get reservations a year in advance to get a spot, but it is an amazing place with all the beauty surrounding you. I may sneak off for another trip just to watch the kokanee and osprey for a few hours because they will still be spawning for another month.

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