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Idaho Fish and Game’s Silver Creek and Big Wood Camping

Idaho Fish and Game’s Silver Creek and Big Wood Camping make world-class fishing and free camping famous around the world. Silver Creek near Picabo, Idaho, makes it one of my favorite places in Idaho! Two reasons for that, the world-class fishing and the free camping.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game provides 4 dry camping sites in the area that put you up close and personal to some of the best trout fishing in America. Silver Creek and the Silver Creek Preserve, operated by The Nature Conservancy, are some of the most written-about areas in popular fishing magazines and websites.

Free Camping at Heyspur Fish Hatchery

Fishing and camping at Silver Creek in Idaho are made easy when you stay where I am at the Heyspur Fish Hatchery. It’s just off US 20, about 5 minutes west of Picabo, Idaho.

Hayspur State Fish Hatchery is located on Loving Creek in Blaine County. Hayspur Hatchery was the first Idaho hatchery and was built in 1907. Egg collection from broodstock dates back to 1910. It distributes catchable rainbow to area waters during the summer, and during the fall, winter, and spring, it collects fish eggs from about 4,500 female rainbow trout.

Hayspur Fish Hatchery is a license-funded resident salmonid broodstock and a production facility. Three captive broodstocks, rainbow trout, designated Hayspur strain, Colorado River Rainbow, and a Kamloop population derived from Skanes/Gloyd Springs stock are maintained on the station. Since the start of facility renovation in 1989, eyed egg production for 11 resident programs has been a priority. An on-site, free, public campground, a consumptive pond fishery, and a trophy stream fishery are maintained by hatchery personnel.

The hatchery is located in Blaine County, approximately 40 miles south of Sun Valley, on Loving Creek. To reach the Hayspur Hatchery travel North on Highway 95 from Twin Falls, approximately 50 miles to the intersection of Highway 95 and U.S. 20. Turn east on Highway 20 and travel approximately 6 miles to the entrance of the hatchery.

Fish culture facilities include an incubation building housing Heath stacks, isolation incubators, moist egg chiller, early rearing troughs, a hatchery building with 20 early rearing tanks, 12 covered 24-foot circular ponds, 6 small fingerling tanks, and 6 large raceways.

A reach of Loving Creek downstream of the hatchery was rehabilitated in 1992. This reach, which was not stocked, has developed a strong population of wild and feral fish.

Fertilized eggs are held until the egg develops an eyespot “eyed-egg” and then counted and sent to other Idaho state facilities for rearing and producing fingerlings and catchable-sized fish. Hayspur produces and ships about 8 million eyed eggs annually.

The Free Campground at Heyspur

Heyspur Hatchery and Campground

The Heyspur campground is large and mostly flat, and there is potable water available at the entrance closest to Gravers Lagoon. There are sites tucked into the Olive trees with fire rings and picnic tables, but that is about it. You need to bring everything else. The large grassy lawns will accommodate any size rig, and there is usually plenty of space. I parked my 40′ class A in the perfect spot. I had shade on both sides but a clear space above for maximum solar gain! I stayed 12 days. There is a 16-day stay limit in 30 days at the campground.

Graver’s Lagoon is a great family fishing area at the north end of the campground. It is also handicap accessible, and there are bathroom facilities adjacent to the parking area. Always check the local fishing regulations, but on the pond, the rules are simple and designed for family fun! Head over to the official rules page for IDF&G here

Silver Creek West

Moving on downstream, we get to Silver Creek West. Another hidden gem of a dry camping site. There is also plenty of space here for any sized rig. The large grassy area would accommodate quite a few campers, and there are handicap-accessible pit toilets at the campground. I fished here for several days and caught some really nice fish, mostly rainbow and browns on Pale Morning Duns and Blue Wing Olive’s. Later in the day, I was able to entice a few to take an Elk Hair Caddis. There is a10 day-in 30-stay limit. That’s not more than 10 days in the last 30 days.

Silver Creek East

Just a bit further downstream at Point of Rocks is Silver Creek East. Not as big but still easily accessible by any rig, Silver Creek East gives you about 1000 feet of creek frontage and several miles of great fishing! It also has handicap-accessible pit toilets and the same 10-in-30 stay limits.

Stanton Crossing

Finally, we make our way west on US 20 to its intersection with Idaho 75, keep going west about a mile, and you reach Stanton Crossing. I’ve stopped here for 40+ years, and fishing the Big Wood rarely fails to produce nice trout. IDF&G expanded the campground a few years back because of its popularity, and it usually gets pretty full on weekends.

The campground is tucked into 70-foot-tall cottonwoods, and spots are carved out right under the trees. Expect full shade in most of the spots, and that is a good thing. 85-90 degree temps are not that uncommon in the middle of summer, so all the shade you can get is a good thing. Unless, like me, you live on solar power and need full sun to charge.

The weekends and 4-day holidays can get busy, as can the Dun hatch around the first week of June. For you, non-fishing readers, that is when a specific fly called a Brown Dun Mayfly is hatching, and the fishing is ‘epic’ and generally pretty crowded. Otherwise, there is usually plenty of space to camp and fish in without too many close neighbors. The areas are also popular with groups wanting to camp together. There are large areas where you can park multiple campers/RV’s/tents together for a group outing.

All 4 campgrounds are pack it in, pack it out. There is no trash service or dump stations. Heyspur has potable water available. There are free dump stations in Hailey and Carey. Both are about 20 minutes away. There is paid dumping at the Silver Creek RV park in Picabo, 5 minutes from Heyspur.

Area Fishing Information

An excellent resource is provided by Idaho Fish and Game called the fishing planner. It is a really comprehensive online tool that details fishing in Idaho. Check it out: IDFG Fishing Planner

Another excellent resource is the hatch charts that Silver Creek Outfitters have on their website.

So get out and enjoy some beautiful country and do some fishing and camping at Silver Creek in Idaho at these very nice free campsites. Donation boxes are located in the campgrounds, and that is always a good idea. They use the donated money towards the maintenance of the camps.

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