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U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Area


Thumnbail map and directions to the Viewing Area.

Camas Lily. Camas Lily (Camassia quamash). Photo by: Jeff Motychak.

Camas Lily. Camas Lily (Camassia quamash). Photo by: Kim Pierson.

Camas Lilies. Camas Lilies (Camassia quamash). Photo by: Kim Pierson.

Camas Prairie

Forest: Sawtooth National Forest

District: Fairfield Ranger District

Description: The area surrounding the small town of Fairfield, Idaho offers a unique opportunity to view Camas Lilies (Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene) in abundant quantities. Native Americans used Camas Lily extensively for medicinal purposes and as a staple food source. Great quantities of camas roots were collected by Native American women and were used to make a bread.

In their historic exploration of the Western United States, Lewis and Clark were introduced to this important plant species. After diminishing much of their food supply, the Corps of Discovery were introduced to this important native food source by both the Shoshone and the Nez Perce tribes. Given the importance of this plant species to the Nez Perce, Meriwether Lewis prepared a fifteen hundred- word description of the plant and its uses. In another description of this species written in June of 1806, Lewis mistook from a distance a valley of blooming camas as a lake stating that “from the colour of its bloom at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete is this deseption that on first site I could have swoarn it was water.”

The Camas Prairie is found along both sides of Highway 20 and is about 15 miles long. The annual “Big Bloom” occurs throughout the month of May. The best viewing opportunities are usually during the last ten days of the month. The Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area, located at the west end of the prairie (marked in green on the map), is comprised of over 3,100 acres and provides an outstanding area for viewing opportunities for more than just the Camas Lily. The WMA is home to migrating waterfowl and shorebirds and early spring provides the best variety; deer and antelope can also be frequent visitors.

Directions: From Boise, take I-84 E to junction with US-20 (exit 95) in Mountain Home. Turn right onto US-20 and continue 57 miles to the small town of Fairfield, Idaho.

From Salt Lake City, Utah, take I-15 past Ogden toward Boise, ID. The road name changes to 1-84. Stay on 1-84 into Idaho. Take exit 222 to stay on 1-84 (US-30) towards Twin Falls, Idaho. Take exit 173 right to US- (US-26) towards Sun Valley. Stay on US-93 (SR-75) approximately 49 miles. Turn left onto US-20 and stay on US-20 for 25.9 miles where you will reach the small town of Fairfield.

Ownership and Management: Private, State, and USDA Forest Service.

Fairfield, Idaho provides a staging point to explore the Fairfield Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest. During the summer months, opportunities for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, wildflower viewing, and camping abound. Couch and Wells Summits provide fabulous skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months. The Soldier Mountains rise dramatically for almost 5000 feet above the prairie valley with few foothills to ease the transition.

Recreation maps may be purchased from the Fairfield Ranger Station in Fairfield during normal business hours and from the Caboose Visitor Center on the weekends. Telephone: (208) 764-3202.

Closest Town: Fairfield, Idaho.