Between Idaho Falls, ID and West Yellowstone, MT one finds Highway 20 on the eastern part of Idaho (north/south). This 108-mile stretch is part of a 500-mile route also known as the “Fly Highway”. As you drive along, you pass through some farming communities, several small towns, but the main attraction is the Henry’s Fork River. South of Henry’s Lake, this amazing river snakes through beautiful canyons, Island and Harriman State Parks, down the Mesa Falls, and it continues south a bit further until it joins the Snake River just south of Thornton, ID. The Henry’s Fork is premier trout fishing river in these parts; a well deserved title.
We waited until the little angels went back to school to make our trip. Very glad we did. After the Labor Day weekend, things were nice and quiet and we were able to enjoy the area without having to “fight the crowds”.
Henry’s Fork @McCrea Bridge
Upper Mesa Falls
Fishing the Henry’s Fork is not easy. Those with patience are eventually rewarded.
Harriman State Park
A variety of accommodations are available along the route. Several inns, lodges and cabins are available along the highway for those not wanting to camp. As far as camping, many options available too; primitive camping, State Parks, RV parks, and forest service campgrounds. Some of the campgrounds have river or lake access.
Our first few days were spent on the Henry’s Lake. The State Park has full facilities, hookups, bathrooms and showers. Very clean and friendly staff. If you are looking for shade, you will need to bring it with you. Very little to no trees at the campground. The lake was wonderful to kayak and fish. We did need to be done by 11am at which time the wind picked up to tropical storm strengthen. Most days it died down in the evening after the sunset, but not always. After a few days of this, we opted for a primitive camp area with a bit more protection from the wind; Riverside was a great option for us. A quiet campground along the highway with great camp spots and access to the river. It was also centrally located along Hwy 20 for our many day trips.
Mid week, after a day of fishing, our traveling partners treated us to a fabulous lunch at Trout Hunters. Not only does the Bar & Grill have a great terrace overlooking the Henry’s Fork, but the food was fabulous. The standalone building also houses the fly-fishing store and guide services. Great friendly staff all around. Worth the stop.
Another trip comes to an end. Great times were had by all. The gentlemen will have fish stories to tell, at least for a year or so. And, no, a case of red wine was not too much for a 9-day camp trip. Cheers!
A few of the must see attractions while in the Island Park area, along with some tips:
- Island Park Dam: wonderful spot to kayak, bird watching, and if you are lucky, moose can be spotted. There is also a boat ramp just by the dam if you want to go down the Box Canyon. (2-4 hour float to Last Chance)
- Box Canyon Campground: nice hiking trail along the Box Canyon ridge. Easy trail. Campground is nice but you have to hike down to the river; less than 1 mile.
- Mesa Falls By-way: the falls is a must, especially the upper falls. ($5 entry fee@upper falls. No fee required at the lower falls)
- Groceries: not many options, but Robin’s Roost @ Island Park was a great spot with good variety of meats, vegetables and even wine/beer. Please note: no liquor sales on Sundays. (Really, Idaho?)
- For those traveling with RV’s or Travel Trailers: Island Park has two free dump stations along Hwy 20; one just north of Macks Inn and another just by Last Chance boat ramp.
- Buy a Forest Service map. Too many forest service roads with great river spots that you can only find with a good forest service map.