Sand and Stars at Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho has the ‘highest single structured sand dune and a public observatory with a 25 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope. The park has two RV sections – almost empty during the heat of July. They also have an equestrian area and several day use sections. Christine decided to walk up one of the big dunes almost to the top before the heat set in and warmed up the sand. Several people were sand-boarding down the side of the smaller dune.
The park offers electricity and water but no sewer. But there are gray water dump locations scattered around the park.
Bruneau Dunes Video
Bruneau Canyon Overlook
A short drive from Bruneau Dunes State Park is the Bruneau Canyon Overlook. It is managed by the BLM with input from the local Shoshone Indian tribes, ranchers and environmental groups to protect the area that has been used by the Native Americans for centuries. It is a remote and spectacular canyon well worth the drive. As a side note, you drive through a U. S. Airforce bombing range where… you guessed it… “objects may fall from aircraft”!
There are two Castle Rocks in Idaho – both have crazy rock formations. We visited the Castle Rocks on Castle Rocks Creek east of Mountain Home on Idaho highway 20. The other Castle Rocks is near the Utah border! Regardless – the Castle Rocks near Mountain Home is a fun drive and the early afternoon light on the rocks brought out some amazing natural erosion relief. Other than a couple of forest service guys, some cows and a few ranchers we are alone on this trip. The dogs enjoyed walking on the dusty road while Christine and Jeff take pictures.
Mountain Home is the largest city around. With Mountain Home Air Force base close by it is a busy town with most conveniences available. Jeff utilized the library and Walmart for picture and video uploads and we visited the grocery store too. Also went to the local farmers market which had some great fresh fruits and vegetables, but the best were the fresh farm eggs.
There is a winery (Cold Springs Winery) close by near Hammett, Idaho, which we visited. Even though the sign indicated it was closed, we had called and their message said they were open, so we drove up to the house / winery on the hill. The wine master was there wrapping up some things and opened the doors for us to do some wine tasting. Excellent wine, spent a few dollars on quite a few different varieties and you just couldn’t beat the views from the top of the hill. Spectacular! This winery is also a member of Harvest Hosts, which allows you to stay one to two days for free with no services, but you get to experience the place first hand.
Stars, Stargazing and an Observatory
Bruneau Dunes State Park is set up for the amateur astronomer in mind. It is considered a Dark Site. There is a limited amount of lighting around the campsites, and the two campgrounds are situated well away from the highway. The lights around the restrooms are red-lights. Mountain Home – the closest town is far enough away and blocked by hills that there is a limited amount of horizon light. Unfortunately there is a big fire north of Boise and some nights the sky was blocked by smoke and clouds. Fortunately, since we are staying here for 8 nights a number of nights were clear.
I am not using a very sophisticated astrophotography setup. A Canon 60D is great but I’m using lenses that I picked up for real estate and hobby photography. I have an f4.0 medium zoom (17mm wide open) for Milky Way pictures. And I used 1600 ISO which is probably too high. 800 or 1000 would have less noise. But I am learning and with practice hope to get better.
Here are some AstroPhotos! If you look closely at the center of the picture marked Cassiopeia you can even see a smudge for the Andromeda Galaxy.
Milky Way Pictures from Bruneau Dunes State Park
Bruneau Dunes Observatory
For $5 anyone can view the stars using the big Newtonian Reflector telescope at Bruneau Dunes. It is one of the largest observatories that is set up for public use only. We also got a blue light flashlight so we could chase tiny scorpions busy during the night on the dunes.
Designs in the Sand
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