We will be traveling northwest from Boise,
Idaho along the Black Canyon Dam, through the small rural towns of Sweet and Ola, then
to the Third Fork Cabin and the Sage Hen Reservoir area.
From Boise, we will travel along State Highway 44 west to Eagle and then we will take Highway
16 north to Emmett. From Emmett, we will take Highway 52 east toward Sweet and pass the
Black Canyon Dam and Reservoir and two picnic areas.
The Black Canyon Dam was constructed in 1905 to divert water from the Payette River into
the Emmett Valley, the 183-foot Black Canyon Dam was completed in 1924 at a cost of $1.5
million. The dam is situated on natural basalt formations and still provides water to Emmett’s
agricultural community. Continuing along Highway 52 for another 9
miles, we arrive at the junction with the Sweet/Ola Highway. We will then travel through
Sweet and Ola along Forest Service road 618 approximately 12 miles to the Third Fork Cabin.
The tiny town of Sweet is situated at the bottom of Squaw Creek Valley and traces its
origins back to the 1870’s. Ola, a quiet ranching community platted alongside
the banks of Squaw Creek, has a small store, an old church, cemetery and plenty of character.
Just north of Ola on Forest Service road 618 we arrive at the Third Fork Cabin. The cabin
lies at an elevation of 4700 feet in a beautiful ponderosa pine setting. Available by reservation,
this rustic cabin was originally built in 1908 and then rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation
Corps in 1933. The cabin is typically available between mid-April and late October.
Guests should bring their own supply of water, bedding, light cookware and utensils. The
cabin sleeps four people with one double bed and two single beds. Other amenities include
a propane cook range, refrigerator, table and chairs, indoor flush toilet, shower and
propane heater. After visiting the cabin, we travel south
on Forest Service 618 and to the junction with Forest Service road 626. We follow the
signs east on Forest Service road 626 another 18 miles to Sage Hen Reservoir.
The Sage Hen Reservoir is tucked in mountain shadows and densely wooded forests, at an
elevation of 4800 feet. The 700-acre Sage Hen Reservoir is surrounded by 5 developed
campgrounds. There are two boat ramps for reservoir access, and many miles of trails.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game keeps the reservoir well stocked with trout and
fishing is excellent most of the year. There is also good hunting for big game such as
mule deer. The Sage Hen trail systems can be accessed
near the reservoir, offering more than 35 miles of trails for off-road vehicles and
motorcycles. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders also enjoy the many miles of non-motorized
trails. All 5 campgrounds at Sage Hen Reservoir lie
within a beautiful forested canopy with plenty of shade and are supplied with tables, grills,
fire pits, potable water and vault toilets. Out first campground stop is Hollywood Campground.
It has 6 sites and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground has units
with paved parking that can accommodate an RV up to 22 feet long.
Continuing north and east around the lake, the next stop is East Side Campground. This
campground is made up of one large group site that will accommodate up to 50 people and
10 vehicles. Most of the campsites have partial lake views and many amenities. The site is
available by reservation only. “It’s just a nice alpine setting you get a
nice little reservoir up here. It’s a great little fishery. Lot of people like to come
up and float tube it. Just hang out in the campground and get fresh air and cool weather.”
Sage Hen Creek Campground is our next stop with 9 sites available by reservation. Many
of the single-family sites are accessible to persons with disabilities. The Sage Hen
Reservoir trail near the campground is a fun hiking experience offering a 4-mile loop trail
around the lake and with great opportunities to watch wildlife and admire the beautiful
wildflowers. “We can just enjoy Idaho and its easy access
to get to most all the lakes and I can haul my 27 foot camper, and my four wheelers and
my boats and have access to boat, most all the lakes in Idaho.”
Arriving at the Antelope Campground we see it is the largest of the Sage Hen Campgrounds
with 16 sites available with a reservation. There is a boat ramp for access to the reservoir.
There is also a large tent-only group site that can accommodate up to 30 people.
Our last campground stop is the Cartwright Ridge Campground. It has 6 sites in a forested
basin next to Sage Hen Reservoir available on a first come, first serve basis. The sites
can accommodate small to medium sized RVs. Lastly, the Sage Hen Dam and Picnic Area offers
6 units for picnicking in a day-use fee area. All the units have tables, grills and fire
pits. There are also plenty of opportunities to catch a trout while casting from the dam.
Reservations for the cabin and campgrounds, except for Cartwright and Hollywood, which
are first come, first serve, are available through the www.recreation.gov website or
by calling 1-877-444-6777. Further information is available by calling Boise National Forest
at area code 208-373-4007.