The Henry’s Lake Wilderness Study Area is a Bureau of Land Management property occupying 350 acres, just north of Henry’s Lake, in the State of Idaho. The study area is designated to preserve natural vegetation and wildlife in the region, and provide an area for primitive recreation and study of the natural resources available here.
Vegetation in the wilderness study area is supported by riparian areas along watercourses that descend from the mountains to the lake below. Species of aspen, willow, and berry bushes thrive along the creek, and vegetation typical of the area, such as brush and native grasses cover the open areas. Slopes and drainages carve the landscape and feature forested stands of Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, and aspen. In the spring, wildflowers color the landscape.
A variety of wildlife makes its home here. Keep an eye out for black and grizzly bear, moose, elk, deer, foxes, and numerous bird species, including bald eagles that soar in the skies above the region. Bears and large herbivores like moose and elk can be especially dangerous if startled, or if they feel threatened. Take precautions and keep a wide berth from large mammals in the area.
The Henry’s Lake Wilderness Study Area is restricted for some recreational uses. However, horseback riding, hiking, photography, and hiking are permitted in the area. Scenic backdrops are created in the area by Henrys Lake and the nearby mountain ranges on the north side of the lake. The nearby Henrys Lake has a campground, and the lake is ripe with recreational opportunities for boating and fishing.
While in the Henrys Lake Wilderness Study Area, check out the sights and sounds and numerous recreational activities at Henrys Lake State Park, immediately to the south of the study area, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to the northwest, Yellowstone National Park to the east, and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest to the south.
The BLM Henrys Lake Wilderness Study Area is located on the northside of Henry’s Lake, just off of Highway 87. From the Henrys Lake State Park campground, head north on Highway 20 for just over a mile, then turn left onto Highway 87. The Henrys Lake Airport is situated to the southwest of this junction. Proceed up Highway 87 for four miles. The wilderness area is on the north side of the highway. There are no facilities, parking areas, or access roads into the study area. Parking along the highway is not ideal, and there is no room for RVs or tow vehicles. RVs and travel trailers can be left at the nearby Henrys Lake Campground and you can proceed with a passenger vehicle to the area and hike up into the wilderness study area.
Travelers in the region will find plenty of activities amenities and services at the larger cities of Bozeman, Montana, a two- hour drive north on Highway 287, or Idaho Falls, Idaho, 90 minutes south on Highway 20. There are numerous small towns along the highways with fuel and grocery stores where travelers can access basic amenities.
The nearby national parks and forests may take longer to get to than their distance would indicate, as highways need to follow the mountainous terrain in the area, and take circuitous routes.
Highways are well paved, well maintained, and easy to traverse for RVers and travel trailers. During the winter, sub-freezing temperatures accompanied by snow, freezing rain, and sleet can make area highways icy. When inclement weather and hazardous winter road conditions occur in the area, slow down to execute turns and leave plenty of room for stopping. Winter tires are an asset on icy roads.
There are 86 reservable sites in total at the Henrys Lake Campground, which is only a 10-minute drive from the Henrys Lake Wilderness Study Area, on the south side of Henrys Lake in the state park. The sites are both pull-through and back-in, and there are ADA accessible sites as well as three camper cabins.
You can choose from 17 electric serviced sites, 58 sites with water and electric hookups, and 8ight sites with water, electric, and sewer hookups for RVs. There is a site that can accommodate a rig up to 95 feet in length, but most sites accommodate RVs and tow-trailers up to 50 feet in length. The campground is situated by the lake in an open grassy area with views of the mountains in the distance. Amenities include showers, restrooms with flush toilets, pit toilets, an amphitheater, firewood sales, a snack store, drinking water supplies, boat launch, fish cleaning station, and an RV dump station. A horseshoe pit, and hiking and biking trails provide recreation in addition to the excellent fishing, swimming, and watersports on the lake.
The Henrys Lake Wilderness Study Area is ideal for wildlife photography. Wildflowers that bloom in the spring and fall paint the slopes of the study area with a riot of color. Majestic stands of fir and pine dot the landscape, and the creek flowing through the study area hosts a variety of vegetation on its banks.
Large mammals like moose, antelope, and deer graze in the area. Big carnivores like grizzly and black bear shelter in the trees, and numerous bird species including raptors and waterfowl grace the skies and the lake. The view of the lake and the mountains from the study area, also creates a spectacular backdrop for photographers looking to “capture” the scenery and local flora and fauna here.
The most popular activities at nearby Henrys Lake, just south of the study area, are fishing and angling. Species include titus, cutthroat, and brook trout, which are present in the lake and available for harvest. Fish from the water's surface by boat or from the shore. There are also local streams that provide ample fishing spots for those without boats or for kids and seniors that have difficulty accessing the lakeshore.
Fishing competitions are held at the lake on Memorial Day and on various dates during the peak season. There is a fish cleaning station situated near the boat ramp at the state park. Fishing is not permitted in the off-season to ensure the health of the lake's fish population You will require a valid State of Idaho fishing license to fish at Henry's Lake.
A boat ramp and dock are located on Henry's Lake at the state park providing access to the water. Motorboating, watersports, kayaking, and canoeing are all frequent sights on the lake. Didn't bring your own watercraft? Good news! There are canoe and kayak rentals available at the lake, as well as boat tours provided by rangers who can point out the natural features in and around the lake.
Boaters should be aware of weather conditions as thunderstorms can come up suddenly in the region, making the lake surface choppy, and high winds pose a threat to boaters, as does electrical activity accompanying these weather systems. When storms approach, boats should head back to shore immediately to avoid hazardous conditions.
The transition seasons are ideal for hiking, with spring wildflowers and colorful fall foliage on aspen trees colouring the landscape. Temperatures are also cooler, and biting insects less populous in the cooler months.
Henrys Lake State Park has scenic nature trails. Keep an eye out for area wildlife and enjoy the views of the mountains and lake. Trails in the area include the 52 mile Howard Slough Trail, and the shorter, 3.1 mile, Aspen Loop Trail. Looking for more of a challenge. The 3000 mile Continental Divide Trail runs through Henrys Lake Park and can be used to access other national parks, including Yellowstone National Park to the east.
The areas around Henry Lake have a long and rich history. The lake was named after explorer Andrew Henry, but Native Americans were there long before, and the remnants of their activities and art can still be found in the area, in and around the lake, and in the wilderness study area.
The Nez Perce tribe passed through the area on their way to Yellowstone after the Battle of Camas Creek, and the U.S. Army in pursuit camped on the lake banks for several days. Ranger-led tours in the area can provide details on this interesting history.
Historical buffs will also enjoy the Johnny Sack cabin, which is located just north on Highway 20. The cabin is known as a prime example of log bungalow architecture representative of its time in the 1930s and features excellent craftsmanship. The cabin has been preserved by the local historical society and is available for visitors to view.
Cross Country skiing is a great way to enjoy the Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana wilderness areas during the cooler months. Although the Henrys Lake State Park and Henrys Lake Wilderness area are not accessible in winter, surrounding national parks, including Yellowstone National Park, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and Custer-Gallatin National Forest are accessible, and hiking trails in these parks become excellent cross country ski trails when snow-covered.
Some of the backcountry trails are ungroomed but many main trails in these parks are maintained, and tracks set for classic and skate skiing. Bring your own water as park water supplies may not be available in winter. Dress for the conditions, and ensure you have adequate equipment for backcountry ski trails which can be challenging with elevations changes, tight turns, and occasional rough spots.