Alaska Basin journey in Montana and Idaho

Continental Divide - Red Rock Pass straddling Idaho and MontanaContinental Divide – Red Rock Pass straddling Idaho and Montana

Earlier this week I was enthralled to see the Alaska Basin that straddles Idaho and Montana and winds through Beaverhead National Forest and Targhee National Forest. I have traveled a lot in my life and I have never lost the wonder and joy of seeing a new area, new mountains or new views. I “ohh” and “ahh” and feel giddy.

White-crowned Sparrow at the Continental DivideWhite-crowned Sparrow at the Continental Divide

Before going up the road I spotted this White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) resting on a post at the Continental Divide at Red Rock pass. This is an adult Interior West subspecies.

Montana's Alaska Basin viewMontana’s Alaska Basin view

Stopping along the way to take images of the scenic views was wonderful. In this image I can see the Centennial Valley, the Upper Lake of Red Rock Lakes NWR and part of the Centennial Mountains.

Panoramic view facing westPanoramic view facing west

This is a panoramic view which is a composite of three images stitched together to show more of what I was so delighted to see. The Sagebrush smelled awesome and the view simply speaks for itself.

Vesper Sparrow on the Alaska Basin trailVesper Sparrow on the Alaska Basin trail

I spotted this Vesper Sparrow on the way up as it perched on rusty barbed wire with out of focus sagebrush and wildflowers in the background.

Sugarbowl - LeatherflowerSugarbowl – Leatherflower

I had to photograph some of the wildflowers that were blooming, I simply could not resist. This Sugarbowl (Clematis hirsutissima) stood out with its royal purple color. A common name for it is Leatherflower.

Prairie SmokePrairie Smoke

Blooming in close proximity was this unusual looking wildflower, it wasn’t until I came home and researched it that I found out it is Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) and is also called Old man’s Whiskers. After the flowers finish blooming the seeds begin to form and the seeds have long fuzzy tails which in a mass do look like smoke near the ground.

Flowers along the roadFlowers along the road

Those are Dandelions along the road, I had to take the image despite how common they are, they looked lovely along the edge as far as my eyes could see.

Uinta Ground SquirrelUinta Ground Squirrel

And how could I not take this Uinta Ground Squirrel’s image when it posed so nicely on the weathered part of a Sagebrush? Ground squirrels are a pretty common sight this time of the year but it won’t be long before they will disappear for the winter, perhaps as early as late next month.

View from near the top of Alaska Basin trailView from near the top of Alaska Basin trail

I couldn’t tell when I was in Montana or when I’d crossed over to Idaho because the road zig-zags through both states. It really didn’t matter much to me because I was totally immersed in the beauty of the scenery.

A rocky slopeA rocky slope

There are alpine meadows dotted with rocky slopes. I do wish that a Yellow-bellied Marmot had popped up about the time I created this image, but alas, I was not that lucky.

Flowers in an Alaska Basin trail alpine meadowFlowers in an Alaska Basin trail alpine meadow

The white wildflowers in this alpine meadow are White-rayed Mule’s Ears, I took some close up images of them about two weeks earlier in another part of Idaho I will post later.

Big sky, wildflowers and firsBig sky, wildflowers and firs

More White-rayed Mule’s Ears, firs and plenty of big sky. I’m glad a few clouds showed up for this image.

Alaska Basin trail facing north eastAlaska Basin trail facing north east

In this image I can see the road that skirts the Madison Mountain Range in Madison County, Montana and if you head south on that road it takes you to Henry’s Lake in Idaho.

The road we traveledThe road we traveled

In this frame the dirt road is visible that we traveled on as I looked back behind me.

It was an incredible morning exploring an area new to me and I am extremely grateful for the views, the wildlife, the fresh air and the great companionship. Life is good, living it to the fullest is even better!


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. What an incredibly beautiful place! Gorgeous images, Mia…just stunning! I can only imagine how delightful it must be to explore!

  2. Humming Bird lover

    Hi! What beautiful everything on this tour today! Thank you! It lift my spirits to see the wonderful pictures

  3. Oh my. I am so glad that I was sitting down to view this post. The scenery is sublime, and I would have been even giddier with excitement if I had been there. Thank you.

    • EC, the views made me giddy too. Combine that with the warmth of the sun, the smells, the sounds and it is a rush for all the senses! Thank you for commenting.

  4. As usual you have beautiful images; I love those landscapes and flower images. The squirrel and sparrow are lovely also. This is what I love about the U.S.; its biodiversity is vast, unlike that of an island’s. We have no squirrels, nor deer, elk or bears. Much less cougars, coyotes or wolves. Yet we have nice Flora and birds too.

    • Maria, I love your islands in the Caribbean because they are so different than the US mainland for the most part. Even the Caribbean Islands themselves vary greatly with their topography, climate, forests and the birds and animals. I get what you are saying, each state on the mainland is different and very diverse.

  5. it s a really huge and peacefully place like i like =)))
    very nice reportage, thanks a lot mia
    have a nice day

  6. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    These are memories of a lifetime… Thanks for sharing them with us. I love your sparrow photos. The alert eye of the vesper sparrow … so full of life.

    • You are right Merrill, these are memories of a lifetime. No matter how many times I go to a location the scenery changes with the seasons, light and weather and each memory is a treasure!

  7. I just love this type of scenery. Thanks for the travelogue, Mia!

  8. Wow, Mia! These photos are beautiful. I am passionate about birds, but also about flowers so I was really glad to see photos of some that are not familiar to me. I understand completely about the scenery and how captivating it can be. We drive from El Paso to San Antonio and back multiple times every year, and while most people think the drive on I-10 is boring, it never is for me. When there aren’t wildflowers, there are mountain profiles to study, which seem to be ever-changing, or there is the biome change to study. There is something beautiful to be seen any time we are out in the country, if we will only look for it. We’ve only been in the southwest corner of Montana, coming out of Yellowstone, but it’s obvious from your photos that Montana is a place well worth exploring. Thank you for posting these beautiful photos.

    • Thank you Susan, I love wildflowers and take images of them “if” there isn’t birds or other wildlife around.

      I love long road trips and have driven across the US many times now alone and I enjoy the changing scenery so very much! I never thought I-10 was boring going to San Antonio! I hope one day you will spend time exploring Montana, it is mind-bendingly beautiful!

      I get giddy with all the beauty there. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Thanks for this wonderful series Mia. It has been too long since I was in these areas — nice to be reminded for this old timer and appreciate the identification of the plants too.

  10. The Lakota would probably call that feeling “Wakan”…a combination of sacred, uplifting, incredible unexpected joy…like suddenly coming upon a fawn or a sun beam in a mossy glen, or seeing the Pacific, the Rockies or New Mexico skies, such an intense,nsweet blue it almost hurts, for the first time. I know the feeling.. Your whole being tingles with it.

  11. You did a great job journaling your tour! I have the same feelings when I drive around and see new spaces. You found a beautiful space! The sage is crazy good smelling this year with all the rain!

  12. Wow that looks like a lot of fun Mia, excellent shots. You can’t be Alaska!


  13. Oh yes, you have been a long way, and it is beautiful scenery. Thanks Mia for giving us the wonderful nature.

  14. Gorgeous scenery and photographs! Wow, would have loved to be along on that trip! :)

  15. Whow … FABulous scenery interspersed with glorious flora and fauna. Mia, you have definitely brightened up a grey day over here (UK).

  16. Just got out of hosp. (kidney stones) and first thing I did was check to see what Santa brought…your and Ron’s photos. Wonderful! Love having the landscape and wildflower photo bonuses….have always loved “down the road/trail ahead scenes’…the one lined with gold (dandelions) is lovely and pulls me right along…love dandelions, common or no. My favorite is the Montana’s Alaska Basin view. Is that water in the distance?

    • Patty,

      Sorry to hear about the kidney stones, I have heard the pain from them can be excruciating. Thanks much for your kind comment on this post and the images, it is a stunning location filled with natural wonders. The Dandelions, well I have always associated myself with them because I take root wherever I land, just like they do.

      That is water in the distance in the image you mentioned, it is the Upper Lake of Red Rock Lakes NWR.

  17. Wow, gorgeous scenic photos! Lovely post, Mia! Have a happy weekend!

  18. Mia:
    The photos are consistent with the sentiments expressed in your last sentence – “Life is good, living it to the fullest is even better!”
    And I bet the humidity is low too!
    I hope the remainder of your trip is equally exciting.

    • Dave,

      You are correct, the humidity was low!

      The Alaska Basin area of Idaho & Montana is breath taking, I kept imbedding every thing I saw into my mind because these images probably do not do the majesty of the area justice.

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