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Op-Ed

Campground Review: Southern Idaho

April 1, 2022

In his latest campground review, Courthouse News' western bureau chief talks breweries, tourist sites and camping in southern Idaho.

Chris Marshall

By Chris Marshall

Western Bureau Chief for Courthouse News Service since 2014. San Francisco Federal Reporter and Northern California Bureau Chief from 2006 to 2014. Passionate about photography, camping and history.

(CN) — The spigots are a bit rusted, the sites uneven and overgrown and the picnic table and other fixtures faded, but I’ve stayed in worse, I told my friend after arriving at Anderson Camp in southern Idaho.

“That’s just what the reviews said!” she shouted over the phone.

At under $40 per night for a full hook-up spot in a shaded, tree-lined park with more than 100 sites total for RVs, tents and cabins, a weary traveler looking for a place to stop along the I-84 Interstate between Pocatello and Boise could do worse. The campground includes a miniature golf course and playground, both closed for the season just before our September arrival.

Weary though we were, the campground outside the town of Eden was no stopover but rather chosen as the midway point, more or less, for a gathering of friends from Salt Lake City, Utah, Portland, Oregon, and Northern California.

And speaking of Pocatello and Boise, one could also do worse than the KOA campgrounds in both locations. A colleague once compared the venerable chain to Hampton Inns. Modest and solid, a visitor knows what to expect.

Technically in Meridian a little more than 10 miles down the road, the well-maintained Boise KOA is close to restaurants, shopping and an excellent large dog park, though it was sweltering for Klaus during an August visit a few years back. Though the Pocatello location shows its age, the animals from a neighboring farm added a rustic charm.

During our visit to Anderson Camp in the midst of the pandemic, the laundry room attached to the main building bustled, and this writer couldn’t help but detect a stare and scowl from an unmasked older woman planted in the room waiting for her clothes to dry.

Around the corner the restrooms were a bit moldy and generally not in the best of shape. At least the ones in the campground near the cabins didn’t contain any mold.

Although confused by a new credit card system, the staff and management were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. Thankfully the other guests were the same, save for the man who questioned why yours truly was taking pictures. An explanation dissolved the tension, and the man — a racecar driver — sped off to that day’s event at the Magic Valley Speedway approximately 30 minutes away in Twin Falls.

The location of daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed 1974 attempt to clear the Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket, the city that a little more than 44,000 people call home is the most populous in a 100-mile radius.

Visitors can hike to within 100 yards of the site on private property or view it from the visitor center two miles away. We chose the latter. It was a speck in the distance of a landscape dominated by a 500-feet deep gorge carved by lava flows, a massive flood and a landslide.

Over at Shoshone Falls we were greeted not with rushing water but a trickle. The amount of water can vary depending on snow melt and hydroelectric and irrigation demands, the latter turning miles of high desert into prime agricultural land.

But that day a worker at a small kiosk blamed construction work.

We didn’t visit the Perinne Coulee — the other falls from which the city gets its name — instead heading downtown for lunch and beer at Milner’s Gate Brewing.

The food we had on the expansive patio was great, but let’s be honest, dear readers, I was there for the beer.

From Pangle Wangle Belgian Wit to Fall Down Brown, each came with a unique name but the brews hewed close to tradition. That’s a compliment.

We left with a growler each of the wit and brown. Also compliments.

Unfortunately I don’t have any for the beer at Magic Valley Brewing in Buhl, where we had stopped a few days earlier on our way to Balanced Rock State Park.

A friend enjoyed the greasy, gooey Scotch eggs, but the brews shared a similar, slightly sour aftertaste. And they weren’t supposed to be sour beers. After telling us the owner planned on opening a new tasting room in the future, the server shared her favorite concoction: part Jalapeno IPA and Bloody Mary mix helped along with plenty of spices. We agreed it was the best we’d tasted.

We left with our growlers empty and picked up a six-pack of Modelo Especial from the gas station across the street.

The balanced rock didn’t amaze either, though we didn’t drive into the campground or lower park area, and the 40-foot tall, wind-carved piece of dried rhyolite perched on a three-foot pedestal is worth a quick stop and a picture — if you ever find yourself cruising the countryside outside Buhl, Idaho.

If so, consider a soak at Banbury or Miracle Hot Springs. We opted for the former, the lesser known of the two, because the private baths opened to the clean and cool late evening sky with views of nearby hills and the bubbling river that feeds the springs.

Relaxed after a long weekend with friends, most of the crew headed home. Three of us continued north to what promised to be a much wilder camping adventure in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

But that’s a story for another time.

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