Head south from Boise for a spring drive through Idaho's high desert.
Allow at least half a day for this 140-mile loop drive from Boise. For more local information, contact the Southwest Idaho Travel Association (800/635-5240).
With newly green fields unfurling across Idaho’s high-desert landscape, May is the perfect time for a day trip south of Boise. Your destination: Owyhee (oh- why-hee) County, which took its name from Hawaiian natives brought to the Northwest by fur trappers in the early 19th century. Along the way you’ll find spring scenery and wildflowers, a quirky museum, and two good places to eat.
From Interstate 84 about 45 miles southeast of Boise, take exit 90 to Mountain Home; from there, it’s 25 miles to Grand View, on the Snake River. If you’re hungry, the Grand Owyhee Restaurant ($; call for hours; 230 Main St.; 208/834-2200) serves hearty meals like a breakfast of Basque-style chorizo and eggs.
From Grand View, drive 7 miles west on State 78 to the turnoff for Lawson’s Emu-Z-Um (9-5 Sat-Sun Mar-Sep, or by appointment; $5; 22142 River Rd.; 208/834-2397). Jack and Belva Lawson, who’ve been here more than 40 years, have turned their acreage into a quirky cornucopia of local pioneer history. The attraction’s name comes from the emus the Lawsons started raising for food in 1989, “but now they’re just pets,” Belva explains. Look for the refrigerated egg-vending machine and a display on the career of Idaho native Gary Stevens, a past Kentucky Derby winner and one of the stars of the film Seabiscuit.
Drive 30 miles through the flower-dotted rangelands along State 78 to tiny Murphy, where the Owyhee County Historical Museum (10-4 Tue-Sat; $1 donation suggested; 208/495-2319) hosts its Outpost Days June 5 and 6, with demonstrations of such lost arts as blacksmithing. Museum exhibits include a walk-through mine tunnel. The lone parking meter in front of the Owyhee County Court was placed there as a joke.
Seven miles north of Murphy, near Walter’s Ferry, the Blue Canoe ($$; 4-9 Fri-Sat, 11-7 Sun; 16479 State 78; 208/495-2269) restaurant serves fresh crawdads from C.J. Strike Reservoir cooked in a kettle of secret spices. Like Owyhee County itself, they’re worth going out of your way for.