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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Idaho Vacation: Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail

Just 16 miles south of Nampa, along the banks of the Snake River lies one of the more interesting and intriguing museums and nature trails you will ever visit.  Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is a wonderful stop for  a short Idaho vacation. This is a “must visit” for anyone living in Idaho or just passing through the area.

This eclectic outdoor collection is totally unique and a pleasure to visit. The museum and nature trail make an ideal Idaho thing to do and will be a delight for any age.  There is a covered picnic table with a  super view of the Snake River that makes a great spot for lunch.

The museum is the work of the late Dr Samuel (Pappy) Swayne, a physician, and his wife Cleo. The Swayne’s built a number of stone buildings to house the medical practice, their home, and other buildings to house their collections of oddities. After Pappy passed away in 1976, Cleo managed the collections and added many additional outdoor exhibits and the Nature Trail. The purpose of the exhibits is exemplified in the message of one of the numerous signs that line the nature trail “This Place Was Built as a Vibrant Faith Adventure.”

This museum has such a diversity of things to see it is hard to classify just what it
is.  Here area few highlights that I especially enjoyed – full size bronze statues of children playing in the “playground” area. Full size pioneer wagon with team, buildings built with watermelon shaped rock left from the great Bonneville flood of some 14,000 years ago.  Pretty peacocks, some completely white that strut around the main building site.  The paved 3/4 mile nature trail loop along the Snake River and the base of the canyon wall. 

 Along the nature trail look for larger than life African animals, bronzed figures playing softball, bronze statues of Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin and others.  The Enchanted Forest is near the far end of the trail.  As one returns along the base of the canyon wall, look for the Prayer Garden, the Chapel on the Hill, and as you get closer to the starting point the hundreds of bird houses, each with its own saying reflecting Cleo’s philosophy of life. 

There are many places to sit, rest, and meditate along the nature trail.  Many pieces of statuary are located along the trail.  Be sure to look for the shy animals that inhabit the bushes, trees and marshy areas.  Many different birds and small animals are found here.  Occasionally deer are seen along the trail.  There are many other scenes depicted that will just have to be experienced as they are too numerous to try to list everything. 

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is located just off of ID-45, about 16 miles south of Nampa and just prior to crossing the Snake River. Turn off ID-45 at Dan’s Ferry Service gas station and follow a short private road down the hill to enter the museum.

The approach is marked by old metal equipment, numerous statues, tricycles, and other memorabilia. A hand painted sign designates the museum entrance and there is a well done mural, depicting Historic Walters Ferry, on the left of the drive. Bear left to the parking lot and sign in at the guest book kiosk. Admission is free but a donation box at the kiosk reminds us that donations are welcomed. The stone buildings are currently closed but the nature trail is open daily from 8:00am to 8:pm. 

Steve and Naomi Washburn are caretakers of the area.  If you are lucky enough to find them, you will enjoy a good visit and gain much historical insight of this facinating electic display of love and dedication from Pappy and Cleo Swayne.  The spiritual, unique, and tranquil Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail should be on your list of things to do while on an Idaho Vacation. 

Click here for a link to Steve’s blog about the museum and nature trail.


  1. thanks for this blog entry - we have been at cleo's ferry museum today and our daughter just loved it (and so did we)! :)
    we moved to boise (from germany) a year ago and are always looking for daytrips getaways. we will visiting your blog regularly in the future! :)

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