Silver Creek Preserve's Spring-Fed Beauty

A rich natural landscape east of Boise draws anglers, bird-watchers, and solace seekers.

Birds gather at Silver Creek Preserve near Ketchum, Idaho, photo
Birds at Silver Creek Preserve, one of Idaho’s natural jewels.
Sunny Healey

An impossibly clear, cold creek winds through an arid expanse in the Silver Creek Preserve, one of Idaho's natural jewels, roughly 850 acres some 30 miles south of Ketchum. Its mix of high desert and riparian ecosystems creates a lush habitat for diverse species that has remained largely unchanged since the Nature Conservancy first purchased land in the area some 40 years ago.

Silver Creek's pure groundwater remains at a nearly constant temperature year-round, so the springs rarely freeze over, even in winter. In summer, the creek area is home to more than 150 species of birds. Plentiful insect life supports an abundant trout population renowned among fly-fishing buffs.

When Jack Hemingway visited the creek in the 1940s with his famous father, Ernest, he became a passionate fan, savoring the challenge posed by the elusive trout. Later, as a commissioner for Idaho Fish and Game, Jack introduced members of the Nature Conservancy to the creek.

Sunny Healey, the preserve manager, says a late-autumn visit offers a serene experience, with opportunities to see elk, moose, and magnificent trumpeter swans. If the roads are clear of snow, you can drive a four-mile loop that offers gorgeous marshy vistas. Or park at the visitor center, perched above the preserve, and walk the six miles of trails along the creek. But first, pause on the center's deck, savor the view and the silence, and watch Silver Creek gleam below.


This article was first published in November 2016 and last updated in February 2019.