Bruneau Dunes State Park is known as “Idaho’s Sahara” and when summer temperatures climb to near 100 degrees, you will really feel why. The park’s claim to fame is a 470-foot high sand dune— the tallest single-structured dune in North America. There are several shorter ones as well. Although you can enjoy the dunes right from your RV, if you want some exercise, climb to the top for a bird’s eye view of two lakes, campgrounds, an astronomical observatory, a visitor center, and more.
As you gaze out over the landscape, you might wonder how these dunes formed and what keeps them from blowing away. The visitor center is a good place to get the full explanation, and to also learn about the wildlife and fossils found here. The story of the dunes began about 14,000 years ago following the Bonneville flood, one of the biggest floods in the world. A circular basin carved by the Snake River, acts as a natural trap to catch the clays and other wind-blown material brought across the desert floor. The opposing northwest and southeast winds keep the dunes in place.
On weekends, the Bruneau Dunes Observatory is the place to see the night sky as you’ve never seen it before. Because of the park’s location away from city lighting, the rotating building gives you a chance to view planets, the moon, nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters through a 25-inch Newtonian Reflector telescope— one of the largest in the northwest that is publicly accessible. Solar viewing (through a specially adapted telescope) begins one hour before sunset.
IF YOU GO:
Bruneau Dunes State Park
7608 Sand Dunes Rd
Mountain Home, Idaho 83647
Admission is $5 per vehicle. Plenty of free parking for all sizes of RVs and the park roads are paved.
With one of the longest camping seasons in the Idaho Parks system, Bruneau Dunes State Park offers camping opportunities throughout the year. 31 standard sites are $16 per night, 82 sites with hook-ups cost $22 per night. For reservations and details, call (855) 514-2429.
The astronomical observatory is open from early April through mid-October on Friday and Saturday nights only, weather permitting. For presentation times, call 208-366-7919. The cost for the observatory is $3 per person.
Directions: Take highway 51 south from Mountain Home approximately 16 miles. After crossing the Snake River, turn left on to State Highway 78. Proceed 2 miles to park entrance on the right.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com