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Originally comprised of several individual state parks and state forests, these Idaho parks were combined to form Targhee National Forest in 1891. The name, Targhee, comes from a prominent Native American chief, Tyhee, who was killed in a battle between the Nez Perce and U.S. Army in 1877. For several years, the main use of Targhee National Forest was grazing sheep. Targhee National Forest was later combined with Caribou National Forest, in part to minimize administrative oversight, ultimately forming over 2.6 million acres.
The closest large town is Rexburg, which is about 60 miles to the south. Rexburg is nicknamed the “reddest place on the earth” thanks to its residents’ strong conservative belief. Indeed, politicians consider the town the “antithesis of San Francisco,” which tends to lean very liberally. Rexburg, among its many dining and shopping options, also is the closest town with a hospital that has an emergency room.
Targhee National Forest covers a little over 1.6 million acres of wilderness while its counterpart, Caribou National Forest, is about 950,000 acres. Targhee National Forest sprawls across much of northeastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming, bordering Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Yellowstone National Park. Lodgepole pine, spruce, and fir trees tower overhead, providing shade over a majority of 1,600 miles of trails. The dense forest supports a wide variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, moose, deer, mountain lions, and elk. In the open spaces, adventurers might spot bison, pronghorns, and other critters that prefer dining on the prairie grasses.
One of the more unique geological features in Targhee National Forest is Big Springs, which is a massive freshwater spring. It produces an astounding 120 million gallons of water per day and is the primary source of water for the Snake River. Rainbow trout are especially prosperous, often growing past trophy-sizes. Unfortunately, fishing in Big Springs is prohibited. However, anglers can try their luck downriver at Henry’s Lake. Bald eagles, ospreys, and various raptor birds often frequent the skies over Big Springs, no doubt hoping to beat fishermen to the delicious rainbow trout.
Fishing in the creeks in and around Targhee National Forest is especially good, and anglers often claim that this region has one of the best fishing in the world. Cutthroat trout and rainbow trout are robust.
To beat the crowds to a prime fishing hole or popular trailhead, adventurers might have to get up several hours before dawn. A practical way to circumvent this is by renting a camper at Targhee National Forest. One needs to only step out of the front door of the temporary home to be surrounded by nature and wilderness in an instant. Targhee National Forest has several campgrounds, many of which are developed for RVs.
RV camp at Upper Coffeepot Campground, which is a smaller campground with only 13 sites. All have views of the river, and a handful of sites are waterfront. One could be fishing within seconds of waking up. There are electric hookups, which is a rarity in Targhee National Forest. The restroom has vault toilets, and there is potable water available.
RV camp near Yellowstone National Park’s entrance. The Cave Falls Campground has 23 RV sites, all of which are accompanied by fire rings and picnic tables. There are faucets with drinking water. All campers can (and should) make use of the bear-proof storage boxes to store food and other fragrant goods.
In addition to over 1,600 miles of hiking trails, there are a few hundred miles of roads that lead to various historic sites and quaint towns that dot Idaho’s landscape. Hop into a motorhome rental and hit the road. In between Island Park and Saint Anthony, ID, are three historical markers, Caldera Lookout Historical Marker, Three Tetons Historical Marker, and Volcanic Caldera Historical Marker, which informs the readers that these ancient mountains are in fact long-dormant volcanoes that may one day become active again.
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, MT, is an excellent opportunity to see the native animals of Yellowstone National Park up close and personal. In addition to grizzlies and wolves, the center houses a small family of river otters and raptor birds that are being rehabilitated.
At the end of a long day of exploring, kick up your heels outside an Airstream rental and watch the stars appear in the night sky. Far from the light pollution of cities, the night sky in this region is extremely clear and dark, making it easy to spot faint stars and other celestial objects that are not normally visible elsewhere.