Deer Flat Loop

The Deer Flat Reservoir near Boise (aka Lake Lowell) was built from 1906 to 1909 to irrigate the surrounding countryside. Lacking any local water sources, it is fed by the 40-mile New York canal (so-named because New York investors financed it), which draws water from the Boise River. The trail leads to an observation hill above the lake with good views across the reservoir, and then crosses the dam to Lake Lowell Park.
  • Elsewhere
2.3 out of 5
6.7 miles
2:10 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
147 feet
High Point
2,670 feet (Observation Hill)
Low Point
2,518 feet (Lakeshore)
  • Lake
  • Structure
  • Meadow
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Lollipop
  • Trailbed
    Old farm roads
  • Drinking water at visitor center and Lake Lowell Park
  • Camping
    • Not allowed
    • Excellent
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Status
  • Wildlife Refuge
  • Maps
  • Lake Lowell
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • (Dogs must be leashed)
  • Take I-84 exit #33 (ID-55/Midland Boulevard). Continue on Midland for a couple of miles, then turn left onto N Midway Road. Continue for another mile, then turn right onto W Orchard Avenue. After 2 miles take a left onto S Indiana Avenue. After 1.5 miles you’ll get to the Refuge, just continue straight onto Upper Embankment Road. You can park right there and start the loop hike, or drive down to the visitor center or boat launch.
  • Season
      April 15, 2017

      We ventured outside our usual haunts for a couple of hikes near Boise, both along Lake Lowell. For the first one we started at the boat ramp of the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, heading towards the visitor center. There, we picked up the Observation Trail, which is an old farm road that climbs through open grassland dotted with sage brush to a small hill with an observation platform. We tried to extend the trip by taking the road towards the refuge’s border and the upper parking lot, but access to the connector trails to the lake was blocked due to nesting eagles, so we headed back to the observation deck and took the trail down to the lake. The trail then follows the lake closely, an excellent place to observe a wide variety of birds, and circles back to the visitor center.

      We returned to the boat launch (very busy!) and started across the dam, which is sprinkled with interpretive signs explaining its existence. The park at the far end is a good place to fill up on water (it has flush toilets, too!), then it’s back via the dam to the car.

      Alternate Routes

        Things to Consider

          Not so great

            Wetland near boat launch
            Interpretive sign along Nature Trail
            Osprey nest along Observation Trail
            Observation Hill
            Most of the trail is an old farm road
            Much of the lake is edged by trees
            Without water there would only be sage brush. Sure smells good though!
            View from observation deck
            Observation deck
            Mountain ranges to the north
            The water level was high, flooding the trees
            Lake Lowell
            Farmlands to the north
            Lake Lowell, taken from boat launch
            Dozens of birds calling the pump houses home
            Interpretive signs along the top of the dam
            Lower Lake Lowell dam
            Lake Lowell Park
            View across lake from Lake Lowell Park
            Woodchuck hiding in the dam
            Naughty had her own bed at the hotel!
            Lake Powell