Island Park, located south of West Yellowstone near the border of Yellowstone National Park, is an Island of lakes, woods, rivers, meadows and mountains lightly sprinkled with ranches, summer homes and fishing lodges. Legendary fishing at the Henry’s Fork of the Snake is but one of the superb angling locales. Other fishing jewels include Henry’s Lake and the Island Park Reservoir.
In the winters, locals and the increasing number of visitors, trade their fishing tackle for snowmobiles to explore the hundreds of miles of forest and mountain trails. Cascading over groomed trails and waist deep powder on a powerful snowmobile cannot be beat!
Aside from the fishing and snowmobiling, bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, hunting and touring, Island Park’s scenic and historical sites are some of the other popular activities. Outfitters for nearly every activity abound, and there are also plenty of maps and guide books for the visitor who wants to experience Island Park on their own. Nearby Yellowstone Park and its trails and streams are also popular day trips from the area. Yellowstone’s proximity is part of the allure of Island Park. Since the late 1800’s, tourists commonly passed through Island Park on their way to Yellowstone.
Henry’s Lake State Park, is a beautiful lake on the northern end of Island Park and is world famous for its fishing. It is not uncommon to catch 7 pound trout out of this lake. It also boasts its own fish hatchery on the north end of the lake that help produce and replenish the fish habitat.
Harriman State Park, also known as the Railroad Ranch, is a tribute to several East Coast notables who brought the iron horse to Idaho. The Harriman and Guggenheim families, operated the Railroad Ranch, finding a balance between conservation, ranching and the needs of small number of summer guests. A great concern for preserving the magnificent wildlife habitat prompted the Harriman family to donate the 15,000 acre ranch to the State of Idaho.
Island Park Reservoir, construction was completed in 1939 and was the first source of electricity for Island Park’s resort businesses. It was developed with farmers and spring flood control in mind. Today it is a source of fun and enjoyment for people looking to fish, boat, jet ski, swim and water ski.
Upper and Lower Mesa Falls offer views of the Island Park caldera’s edge, dropping 105′ and 65′ respectively. These dramatic drops were created between 600,000 and two million years ago when an immense?shield volcano exploded repeatedly finally collapsing, leaving behind the world’s largest caldera. Accessed by turning off of Highway 20 onto State Highway 47 and following the signs, the setting of the falls is the perfect location for a picnic or short hike.
Big Springs & Johnny Sack Cabin – the source of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, is also well worth a visit. Because of Big Springs constant 52 degree temperature and crystal clear flow, the Henry’ Fork is a favorite early in the fishing season when other nearby rivers?are cold and muddy from the sediment picked up by the melting snow.Big Springs is also near the beginning of a beautiful 5 mile canoe or boat trip along a stretch of a National Scenic Water Trail. Other activities in?Island Park include a bicycle ride or hike on the Old Union Pacific railroad bed, a game of golf at the Island Park Resort, a horseback trail ride or a visit to Johnny Sack’s cabin.
The longer you stop and linger in Island Park, the more difficult you may find it to leave, and the more that you will want to come back. Click and?visit our Chamber Business Directory, to find exactly what you will need?to make your first or your one-hundredth stay . . . . . exactly the way you want it.
The first known white man to visit Island Park was Andrew Henry. In the summer of 1810 an expedition of trappers under the leadership of Andrew Henry was the first recorded white men to set foot on Island Park soil. But as the fur bearing animals disappeared the trappers turned their attention to hunting elk, deer and antelope for the meat markets in Montana. The westward expansion during the 30 year period of 1840 to 1870 and the gold strikes in Montana were attracting people to all of the intermountain region, including Island Park – Yellowstone Park areas. Island Park was then becoming famous as a hunters paradise and Yellowstone as a wonderland of natural phenomena. Trappers and other early timers from both Montana and Idaho, who know the Yellowstone and Island Park regions, were being engaged as guides.
The first settlers to the Island Park area in the 1870’s were Gilman Sawtell, Richard “Dick” Rock and George Rea. They all experienced the hardships of living, trapping and farming in the harsh Island Park winters. In 1895 George Rea started the first known private fish farm. From his very first introduction to Island Park he was aware of the lucrative fish markets in Utah and Montana.
Also in the 1890’s A.S. Trude a famous Chicago lawyer, purchased land to create Trudes Ranch on the banks of the snake river now known as Island Park Reservoir. Before the reservoir was completed in 1935 there were guest ranches and hotels skirting the banks of the river and host to many famous people such as President H. Hoover. There were several ranches that were in operation during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s such as Bishop Ranch, Elk Creek Ranch, 7-Ranch, Wild Rose Ranch and Sheridan Ranch to name a few.
By the early 1900’s Island Park was getting a reputation as being the outdoorsman’s dream! With the abundance of visitors, there were several inn’s and lodges that were being built. Mack’s Inn (which later burned down in 1989), Ponds Lodge, Island Park Lodge, Phillips Lodge, Big Springs Inn, and Sunset Lodge.
Today Island Park is well known for its fishing, hunting, water sports and snowmobiling. The average snowfall is about 9 feet per year, which makes Island Park a winter wonderland. The current residents of Island Park consider themselves lucky to be a part of an area that is God’s country.