Idaho’s newest scenic byway will provide more than a panoramic view of the Owyhee Mountains. It will incorporate something absent from all other byways in Idaho – the scent of ripening grapes, blossoming fruit trees, hops and other agricultural crops.
Approved by the Idaho Transportation Board in October, the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway becomes the 28th route on the state system and the first that focuses on the contribution of agriculture to Idaho’s economy. It traverses the vineyards and orchards of southwest Idaho, beginning at Idaho 45, follows Map Rock Road and continues to the Snake River that separates Oregon and Idaho.
A group that sought to preserve the natural qualities of the Lake Lowell National Wildlife Refuge south of Nampa proposed creation of the scenic byway early this year. A broad range of partners came together to recommend creation of the byway, including city and county leaders, community organizations, highway districts, chambers of commerce, business operators and the chief proponent, the Canyon County Economic Development Council.
The proposal to establish the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway went to ITD’s Scenic Byways Coordinator Garry Young in September and gained transportation board approval in October. The next step is to fund a corridor management plan for which ITD will cover 80 percent of the costs using SPR (planning and research) money. The 20 percent balance will be funded by local efforts.
The corridor management plan must be completed and the byway must meet at least one of several intrinsic values to qualify for national scenic designation, Young explains. National status requires that a byway incorporate scenic, historic, cultural, recreational or geological intrinsic values, among others.
Qualification as an All-American Road requires a route to incorporate at least two of those values.
Sponsors of the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway are working with a graphic designer to develop a logo for printed material. The logo also will be used on trailblazer signs and information boards that eventually will be installed at both ends of the byway and at appropriate locations along the 53-mile route.