Featuring an almost perfectly circular cone with a 100-foot deep crater, China Cup Butte Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a geologically significant area for day visits and excursions, as well as overnight primitive camping. Your visit to this Bureau of Land Management wilderness, located nine miles SW of Big Southern Butte in the south-central Snake River Plain, Idaho, promises to be memorable, as plenty of outdoor recreational activities are on hand. So, rest assured and come with your gear.
Kickstart your adventure at China Cup Butte WSA park by taking in the beautiful scenery offered by the resplendent flora in the park. You’ll find you may wish to take pictures too. Wildlife and birds that roam the area also provide good sightseeing opportunities. Don’t forget that the wilderness is open to exploration on foot for day hikers and backpackers, as well as on horseback by equestrians. For additional recreation, visit Snake River, so you can enjoy a host of water-based activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.
Even though only dry camping sites are provided in China Cup Butte WSA, modern campgrounds are available at Lake Walcott State Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
China Cup Butte Wilderness Study Area lies about nine miles southwest of Big Southern Butte, west of Blackfoot, Idaho. To the north of this Bureau of Land Management park is US Highway 26, while all the way south is Interstate 86. Access roads to the wilderness from the east branch off Interstate 15, US Highway 91 and Idaho 39.
Because the access routes that surround China Cup Butte WSA are not maintained and no snow removal is done in winter, the routes may be washed out, rutted, or covered with vegetation. As a result, all guests driving to the park are advised to use high clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Visitors should note that the use of motorized vehicles and other mechanical equipment is prohibited within the boundaries of China Cup Butte WSA, just like other wilderness areas. The parking spaces outside the wilderness area are available for use by guests. The use of wheelchairs is allowed in the wilderness.
There are no direct public transportation services to this BLM park.
A developed campground is available at Lake Walcott State Park where guests can enjoy year-round camping within serviced campsites. Primitive, tent and vehicle camping opportunities are available here.
Within the campground, there are 22 serviced campsites, 18 standard sites, and one group site. Two cabins are available too. Amenities include showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. Facilities provided here include boat ramps and docks for day use.
Recreational activities open to all here include hiking, picnicking, disc golfing, boating, and fishing. Feel free to sail, swim and watch birds in the park too while you’re at it.
Reservations are accepted.
Diverse vegetation zones surround the region around China Cup Butte WSA, offering good flora viewing opportunities for all who may be interested in the activity. In the Snake River Plain, wetlands and marshes are commonly seen along the banks of Snake River and its tributaries. The higher elevation areas in the region, however, feature conifer forests and ponderosa pines.
The plant communities in the area are supported by the semi-desert to alpine climates that provide habitat for diverse flora species.
Mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are a common sight within and around China Cup Butte WSA. The headwaters of the Snake River and other mountainous areas around the watershed are home to grizzly bear, gray wolves, mountain lion, Canada lynx, and many other wildlife species.
More than 270 birds, including endangered and threatened ones, roam the skies above the WSA. Look out for bald eagles, barrow’s goldeneye, peregrine falcons, whooping crane, greater sage grouse, and many others you may find with your binoculars.
Day hikers and backpackers can enjoy strolls through China Cup Butte WSA and get glimpses of interesting spots that catch the eyes. More primitive hiking opportunities are provided within surrounding wilderness areas.
If you want to take your adventure a step further, visit Lake Walcott State Park where about five miles of paved trails are provided, in addition to roads where you can hike and view birds and wildlife at the same time. Interpretive signs along the trails provide information about the local area and wildlife.
Amazing fishing experiences await anglers at Snake River. You just can’t run out of fish species to catch in this river, so ensure you are properly equipped with your fishing gear and tackle as you explore the shore for a place to set camp and fish from. Both shore fishing and boat fishing opportunities are available. Some ADA accessible fishing sites are provided too.
Game fish in the river include bluegill, bullhead catfish, largemouth bass, white sturgeon, and yellow perch. Other commonly caught fish are brown trout, cutthroat trout, and steelhead.
If you have your own vessel and abide by State laws and regulations, feel free to explore Snake River and Lake Walcott and enjoy pleasure boating activities.
Lake Walcott is open to boating activities between April and October and all enthusiasts must keep within the area designated by buoys on the lake for safety reasons. Smith Springs and Gifford Springs boating lanes within Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge offer additional sailing opportunities, so feel free to visit the site.
Nature and wildlife photography is an increasingly popular vocation within China Cup Butte WSA and the nearby attractions to the wilderness. An interesting statistic is that more than 12 million people visit outdoor areas annually to take pictures of landscapes, wildlife, flora, and other fascinating natural elements.
A good portion of these visitors take their pursuits to Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding BLM wilderness areas, including China Cup Butte WSA. Don’t be left out.