Minidoka County High Point Trip Report

Bear Den Butte

Date: June 27, 2002
Author: Jerry Brekhus

I encountered a Great Basin rattlesnake on Bear Den Butte. Fortunately, it immediately retreated to the shelter of lava rocks, while warily watching me. It rattled continuously, and was still doing so when we left the area. The rattler was apparently in the same area that Dan Robbins and Zach Vickery warned about. Forewarned, we were wearing snake gaiters.

We got up at 4:30 a.m. to beat the record triple digit heat occurring on the Snake River Plain. Coming from Arco, we turned south off US 20 shortly beyond Milepost 212 onto the Carey-Kimama Desert Road. At 1.3 miles we reached the same junction that Dan and Zach reached at 1.9 miles, approaching from the direction of Carey. We used their directions from that point on. However, at South Park Well, we turned left. The stock tanks at mile 27.1 were gone, but we could see where they had been. The next cattle guard is at 27.3 miles. Point Lake is a small pond. We located the Bear Den Butte BLM sign and turned around and parked at some tanks near the jeep trail that leads up the butte.

We hiked up on the jeep trail. From the top, a vast area of southeastern Idaho is visible.

We then went over to the west side of the crater rim to the prominent cairn. It was about halfway back to the grassy high point that I encountered the rattler for the first time, despite both of us having passed nearby earlier, and Betty again having passed by several feet away.

About 9:00 a.m., we were done with our hike, having beaten the heat.

A rancher near South Park Well told us that BLM manages grazing, rotating areas that are grazed to allow grass to recover. That could explain the missing water tanks.