Eagle Island State Park: Prison to Park
Near the Boise River, in the southwest corner of Idaho, is a rural park full of character and recreational opportunities. It covers over 500 acres, and its borders are defined by the Boise River and agricultural land on either side. Nearby, urban development has grown, bringing beautiful neighborhoods and a golf course close to this gem of a park. From horses to a waterslide, the Eagle Island State Park is a dream for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. It didn’t start out that way. Its history, while still rooted in the rural and agricultural, wasn’t quite so public.
Time as a Prison Farm
Originally, the Eagle Island State Park played host to a more exclusive group of people. The property was originally bought by the State Board of Prisons. The land was developed and used as a farm for prisoners. Put simply, an honor farm was a place for prisoners to work. It tends to be minimal security, and is a place where the prisoners live and work, to provide agricultural products to the surrounding area.
Over the course of many years, the farm grew. It originally opened in 1930, with several dairy barns, a milking parlor, bunkhouse, and a dining hall and kitchen. Almost twenty years later, a dormitory was completed using prison labor. Another fifteen years passed, and a slaughter house was built.
Finally, in 1977, the Eagle Island State Farm was closed. The Idaho Department of Corrections turned the land and property over to the Idaho Department of Lands. They decided to develop the Eagle Island land as a state park. A few years later, in 1983, the Eagle Island State Park is opened and dedicated. At the time, it was only 26 acres, and included a waterslide, swimming area, picnic areas, concessions, and restrooms.
Now, the Eagle Island State Park has grown to 545 acres. It has held onto its original rural charm and character. There is a master plan, which accounts for the growth of the park through new development and construction. While the trail system changes throughout each phase of growth, the park remains open and usable to the public.
A Day Use Park
Today, Eagle Island State Park is a full-featured day use park. It remains open from dawn until dusk. There are a lot of activities to enjoy, as well as many events. The park is a great place to head outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoors of Idaho. You can explore the miles of trails on horseback, or go hiking with your dog.
You can enjoy the water in a variety of ways at Eagle Island State Park. The river is open to boating, as long as the boats are non-motorized. There’s also a large swimming beach, where you can spread out a towel or blanket on the sand and enjoy a nice day of swimming and relaxing. Rent a paddle board, and paddle around the water. For something a little more exciting, be sure to check out the waterslide. The waterslide is open from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day.
Disc golf has grown in popularity, and the Eagle Island State Park is a great place to enjoy a game. The park is a beautiful setting for the 18-hole disc golf course. The course is open for use, but there aren’t any maps yet. Keep checking the Eagle Island State Park website, or check out the Gem State Disc Golf website for more information.
Eagle Island State Park is also a great place to enjoy gathering with friends and family. They have three different shelters that are available for reservations. Each shelter includes tables, grills, and electrical outlets. They provide a comfortable place to enjoy the outdoors, while providing shade and seating. Eagle Island State Park is the perfect place for any gathering.
Enjoying the Park
Living in Idaho isn’t just a choice; it’s a lifestyle. The outdoors mean everything to you, and having easy access to nature is a must have. Fortunately for you, Idaho is full of nature. There are plenty of parks and other outdoor recreational opportunities close at hand, no matter where you live. For the perfect blend of the outdoors and the city, though, you’ll find no better place than Boise. Eagle Island State Park is a prime example of the kind of access and recreation that you’ll have just a short distance away. So take advantage, and enjoy the water and trails of Eagle Island State Park.