It was a wildlife enthusiast’s delight spending time at Barney Hot Springs
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A stop at Barney Hot Springs to soak my tired feet from hunting rocks and hiking most of the day was a needed break from driving as I enjoyed the 85-degree water lapping on my dirty feet. While relaxing, I noticed flashes of orange in the deeper water, so I took some of the bread from my dinner sandwich and tossed it out in the water. The water exploded with 20 to 30 goldfish, hundreds of minnows and four tilapias up to 14 inches fighting over the bread.
Located near Summit Creek on the Lost River Road running from Howe on the southern end to Ellis on the Salmon River, Barney Hot Springs is a popular campground during the summer. When I stopped by it last week, there was not a single camper there, not even any hunters. Summit Creek is the headwaters of the Little Lost River that flows toward Howe, while the Pahsimeroi River flows to the north into the Salmon River at Ellis.
During the early morning I intercepted deer, Pronghorns, elk and even a skunk moving from the water back into the brush covered flats. A few miles past Howe, I stopped at Big Springs Creek and watched a Virginia rail as it found a few breakfast treats in the watercress.
About 28 miles north of Howe, I took the Pass Creek Road and drove a few miles toward the Lemhi Range Mountains to Red Hills to gather some pieces of agate and jasper. Having hunted rocks there for the past six years, I went a little higher on the hills, but found that most of the material was closer to the bottom.
Back down to the Lost River Road, I traveled up to the Summit Creek summit. I noted many of the cattle were in the process of working their way out of the hills and the timbered mountain forests. The temperature had warmed from 26 degrees to a comfortable 42 degrees by mid-morning. As I got near the small community of Patterson, I passed several trucks trailing horse trailers with cowboys fixing to check out their cattle.
Every time I passed some sagebrush flats bordering the hayfields near Patterson, antelope could be seen filling their tummies with luscious green alfalfa. Even though some of the hunts had opened, bucks could be spotted chasing the females around. Their rut had started.
Between Patterson and the little village of May, mule deer became numerous along the hayfields running up against the Pahsimeroi River. It was interesting to me as I got closer to Ellis where the river dumps into the Salmon River, the deer species changed from muleys to whitetail deer. Both species are a few weeks away from their rut, which generally begins in November.
After visiting with friends at a campground on the Salmon River and hiking a few miles looking for agates, I headed back down the Pahsimeroi Valley and stopped at Barney Hot Springs to feed the tropical fish. Years ago, I actually fished the pond and caught and released several tilapia. I did not fish it, but found a lot of enjoyment feeding and watching them fight over the crumbs.
It was then that I noticed seven ferruginous hawks working a meadow near the creek. They are one of the most beautiful hawks that I have ever seen. With their contrasting white bodies and wings laced with tan, they are quick to identify as they gather to head south for the winter.
As the sun was setting over the Lemhi Range, Bell Mountain stood like a guard high above the Lost River Mountain Range. I drove about 60 miles without passing a singe vehicle, but dodging several bunches of deer, antelope and elk, made me stay alert. It had been a very enjoyable day seeing all the wildlife, including exotic fish, and visiting with friends.