Palisades Reservoir

Yesterday, September the 17th, Mama Nomad and I decided to do some exploratory driving. This is essentially where we have a general direction that we want to go and we let the road take us where it may. If we see something interesting or see a road, path or donkey trail that looks like we should explore it, we are on our way down it. This commonly gets us into places where most people never travel regularly. And this time was no exception.

We headed out towards some hills that had a wind farm on the top with wind turbines that never spun, which was odd. But, we have seen odder things. We ended up driving through hills, valleys, gravel roads and even some dirt roads. We did get to one point where we looked around and thought, “where in the hell on this planet are we right now?!?!” So, I pulled out my phone and looked at the map. That is when I saw a body of water that I was unaware of that did not look like it was too awfully far. It was the Palisades Reservoir. With darkness covering us, we decided to go explore the next day.

So, bright and early today, at the crack of noon or so, Mama Nomad and I loaded up Ebony in search of the Palisades Reservoir. When we have specific plans, the boys commonly join us. When we are doing exploratory driving and recon, they commonly stay at home base and hold down the fort.

In order to get there, the route seemed pretty straight forward, meaning…no turns. So, the drive was supposed to be easy, until we hit an honest to goodness dust storm. I am not talking about a little wind and a little dirt. No. This was like a 200 foot tall wall of dust and dirt.

As many of you know, Idaho is famous for its potatoes. Those fields have nothing to really hold the dirt down. And with so many of them next to each other with no wind break, when you have wind like today, it creates walls of dust. Thick walls. There were wind turbines, commonly between 200 and 300 feet tall, on the ridge. And you could barely see them.

We made it through the dust storm and into the Swan Valley. The Swan Valley splits the Teton National Forest and the Caribou National Forest with the Snake River. Just on the other side of Palisades, Idaho, is where the Palisades Dam is and the beginning of the Palisades Reservoir; which spans from Palisades, Idaho to Alpine, Wyoming.

You re not supposed to go on the dam, at least not with a car. You can wiggle around some poles and walk out onto it. We chose not to…today. The area was overcast with clouds. But the mountains, the valley and the reservoir still looked beautiful. I saw breaks in the clouds where the sun hit the water and it turned a brilliant blue. So, I began my hunt for a big enough break in the clouds to see a big enough area lit up by the sun’s rays.

One thing we were really happy about was the amount of turn offs. It seemed like every few miles there was a place to turn off and park alongside the road safely so you could enjoy the view and take pictures without worrying about your safety.

Another surprise to us was the leaves. Along the drive the trees were turning vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. As many of you know, we went on a drive to see the leaves in Vermont. This was different as the leaves are not as wide. But the vibrancy and the view was still very beautiful. We did not expect it.

We pulled into dozens and dozens of turn offs looking for that elusive sun casting its rays on the water. It seemed like every time we got to a place where the sun was shining, the clouds shifted and the sun was hiding again. Then, at a valley in the road, we saw an entrance to what looked like a park area. We pulled off and began to drive down the gravel road.

After a while, we looked at our GPS and realized that if this area was full, we would be underwater. We drove until the gravel turned to dirt and…finally…around a bend of rock and dirt, I found a cove where the sun was shining on the reservoir. I parked Ebony and tried to grab a pic of it. I was too low. So, I ran, jumped and hiked up the hill to our left until I traversed about 100 vertical feet and…from there…I finally got my view and the picture opp I was looking for.



Once I grabbed these pix, we were back in Ebony and heading towards Alpine, Wyoming, which was the end of the reservoir. As we arrived in the town, we realized that the reservoir must be very low and have been that way for some time as small trees and grass was growing where the reservoir water was supposed to be. Nonetheless, Alpine is a cute little town. It has its own airport with private plane garages. I would suspicion that this is or was a place that those of means came to get away.

Mama Nomad and I went into the local market to get some healthy cheese and meat along with some fresh veggies and we decided to have a little picnic by the mountainside. After we finished eating, wouldn’t you know it, the sun decided to come out and shine its rays on the mountainside. It lit up the leaves like they were on fire.

Once we finished, we decided to head back to home base. Along the way, I saw a couple of less traveled roads and wanted to explore. One was super bumpy and another became so vertical that we were leaning forward in our seats (like our weight would make Ebony’s front stay down). Then finally, I came to one that was not too bumpy and not too vertical…it was just right. The road was called Big Elk Creek Rd.

Now,  I have a problem with roads or waterways that are named after things and you never see those things; like bear lake or sheep road. I expect bear or sheep. I told Mama Nomad, “I expect Big Elk by the creek.” It was not 2 minutes later and lo and behold, down the hill by the creek was a big, male elk just standing there. I was grateful and told Mama Nomad that whoever named this road did things correctly. It was a site to behold.

We continued to drive to the end of the road where there was a turn around and a small foot bridge. Along the way we saw a half-dozen or so trucks parked with livestock trailers. We wondered where they were. Well, at the turnaround, we saw a map. It showed all of the miles and miles of horse and foot trails that we did not know existed. We saw horseshoe tracks. So, we put two and two together to determine that a dozen or so people on horseback were meandering through the mountains.

The footbridge went across to a YMCA camp. No one was there and it looked like no one had been there for a while. However, the view of the creek on the footbridge made us stop just to appreciate the beauty of nature. Even saw a little bird playing in the creek.

As we headed out, we had to stop. You will see why. The sun, as it sat over the mountains, cast its rays upon the clouds and made the clouds look like they were on fire. It was a wonderful view and a great bookend to our day of exploration.

This area around the Palisades Reservoir is great to drive. But it is even more wonderful to turn off and explore the nooks and crannies of the little roads and paths that spur off of it. Safe Travels.

About Chase

The patriarch of the family and Daddy Nomad. Chase loves spending time with his family, traveling, outdoor activities, good movies and TV shows, business and creative projects. He is an entrepreneurial businessman and investor who specializes in international business strategy and tactics.

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  1. Sherri Elizabeth Arnone-Wheat

    Nice review of the area. Happy exploring.

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