Sand Creek WMA

Before You Go

Sand Creek WMA is a collection of separate parcels adding up to 32,489 acres. The most visited sections of the WMA include the Sand Creek ponds, Chester Wetlands and St. Anthony Sand Dunes. Popular activities on the WMA include fishing, boating, camping, hiking, hunting, birding and horseback riding. There are 170 bird species, 30 species of mammals, and two species of fish in the ponds on the WMA. 

In the northern area, it’s important to be bear aware. Grizzly and black bears are known to frequent this part of the WMA. Proper food storage is required on Sand Creek WMA.

Sections of the WMA are included in the Egin-Hamer winter closure from January 1 to April 1 and to May 1 to protect wintering wildlife.  A portion of the Sand Creek ponds is closed from January 1 to July 1 to protect nesting waterfowl.

Visiting Hours:

Open year-round, seven days a week.

Contact:

Upper Snake Regional Office

4279 Commerce Circle
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
United States
Phone: 
(208) 525-7290

WMA facts

Primary Purpose:  Winter habitat for migratory big game and resident wildlife.

Habitat: Sagebrush-steppe, grassland, woodland, wetland, riparian

  • 32,489 acres
  • Freemont County
  • Established in 1947

things to know

Public roads provide access to sections of the WMA.  On the WMA, 15 miles of roads provide access to parking areas, a boat ramp, dock and camp sites. The majority of the roads are primitive and few are maintained due to the sandy soil and lava rock terrain.

Sand Creek ponds and Chester Wetlands are popular and specific rules are in place to provide a quality experience and protect wildlife.

  • ATVs, dirt bikes and side-by-side vehicles are not allowed at the Sand Creek camping area.
  • No camping is permitted at Chester Wetlands.
  • A volunteer camp host is available on summer weekends to assist visitors at the Sand Creek ponds.
  • At Sand Creek ponds, camping is allowed where fire rings are established.
  • Non-motorized watercraft on Sand Creek ponds are allowed from July 16 through April 15.

The Sand Creek WMA office is located six miles northeast of St. Anthony at the end of North River Road along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.

resources

Overview

The Sand Creek WMA was created in 1947 with the purchase of a 4,763-acre parcel to help perpetuate a small herd of elk that wintered on the property. Over time Idaho Fish and Game purchased additional properties and entered into agreements with federal and state land management agencies to manage a total of 32,489 acres. 

Today the primary purpose of the WMA is to provide winter refuge for migratory deer, elk and moose from surrounding high-elevation public lands including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Use varies from year to year, but approximately 2,500 mule deer, 3,500 elk and 500 moose winter across the greater Sand Creek desert. The WMA’s conservation target species, which help guide management, include elk, greater sage-grouse, trumpeter swans, and breeding waterfowl.

Sand Creek WMA encompasses diverse ecosystems, spanning 22 miles in length from montane lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir and aspen forests along Big Bend Ridge on the north, to semi-arid sagebrush steppe across Sand Creek desert to the south, to riparian/wetland habitat on Chester Wetlands subunit along the Henrys Fork of the Snake River to the east. 

Sand Creek WMA also plays a critical role in providing habitat to native upland species. Its high-quality sagebrush steppe has traditionally been some of the best Greater Sage-grouse habitat in the state.  Most of Sand Creek WMA lies within “Core Habitat” outlined by the State Governor’s Plan. Additionally, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse are found in the native grasslands, aspen stands, and chokecherry lava flows throughout the WMA.

The Sand Creek ponds section is very popular with recreationists. Construction of the Sand Creek ponds began in the late 1950s to provide open water and wetland habitat for waterfowl and other wetland dependent wildlife. In 1968, fish were stocked in these bodies of water to provide a fishery, and today anglers can catch rainbow and brook trout. This section of the WMA also provides fishing, boating, camping, hiking, hunting, birding, and horseback riding opportunities. 

The Chester Wetland section consists of 1,498 irrigated acres. Wetlands cover 762 of these acres and provide important nesting and migration habitat for waterfowl and other waterbirds. Chester Wetlands also supports moose, elk, white-tailed deer, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, and sandhill cranes.  

The St. Anthony Sand Dunes is one of the most unique features in the area. These active dunes are remnants of the prehistoric Mud Lake. The sand dune complex is approximately 11,000 acres. Directly abutting the sand dunes to the north are North and South Juniper Mountains, which are the heart of the winter range for migrating elk, mule deer and moose. Recreation on the Sand Creek desert is seasonally closed from January 1 – April 1 to reduce impacts to wintering wildlife. (See Egin-Hamer Winter Closure Map)

Federally Threatened and Idaho Species of Greatest Conservation Need occurring on Sand Creek WMA include: Ute-ladies’ tresses orchid, Greater-Sage grouse, Columbian Sharp-tailed grouse, sandhill crane, Trumpeter Swans, Grizzly bear, St. Antony Sand dune Tiger beetle, Myotsis Guild, Townsend’s Big-eared bat, Wilson’s Phalarope, Long-billed curlew, Brewer’s Sparrow, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Northern Leopard frog. The diversity of special status species dependent on the WMA reinforces its value in the surrounding landscape.

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Sand Creek WMA

 

 

 

Activities

Sand Creek WMA falls within Game Units 60 and 60A. Hunters pursue elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, waterfowl and upland birds on the WMA.  

Idaho Fish and Game emphasizes youth hunting opportunities on the WMA with youth waterfowl hunts.

Short-range weapons only are permitted on the Chester Wetland segment.

Be sure to check Idaho’s Seasons and Rules for up-to-date hunting information.

Fishing is a popular pastime at the Sand Creek ponds where Blue Creek Reservoir, Pond 1, and Pond 4 are stocked annually.  Pond 1 has five fishing docks and Pond 4 has one fishing dock and a boat dock. Anglers can fish for rainbow and brook trout. 

See the map of WMA to locate the different ponds.

Furbearer trapping is allowed on the WMA after registering at the Upper Snake Regional office.  Fish and Game encourages trappers to capture muskrats and beaver in areas where they are damaging water control structures.

There are 170 bird species, 30 species of mammals and three species of fish that reside on or use the WMA at various times of the year. 

There are more than 20 campsites approved on the WMA at the Sand Creek pond section. Camping areas are not necessarily designated, however current WMA rules allow for campfires only in established fire rings.

Special use permits are required for groups of 15 or larger, and is on a first come first serve basis. 

Grizzly and black bears are present in the northern part of the WMA. Idaho Fish and Game provides several food storage containers at selected campsites at the Sand Creek ponds. All visitors are required to properly store food. 

Camping is NOT permitted on the Chester Wetland segment of the Sand Creek WMA.

The WMA has 8 miles of non-motorized trails at the Sand Creek ponds and Chester Wetlands.

Horseback riding is allowed on the WMA. Corrals are available at the Sand Creek ponds. Eight miles of trails around Sand Creek ponds and Chester wetlands are closed to motorized travel, but open to biking, hiking and horseback riding.

There is a boat dock on Pond 4 at Sand Creek ponds. Watercraft on Sand Creek ponds are allowed starting July 16.

Currently, the only biking restrictions on the WMA are during the nesting closure at Ponds 3 and 4.  There are approximately five miles of roads and trails at the Sand Creek ponds and approximately three miles of roads and trails at Chester wetlands closed to motorized travel, but open to bicycling, hiking and horseback riding.

Dogs must be kept on a leash from April 1 through July 15 at Chester Wetlands and Sand Creek ponds. This rule is to keep dogs from disturbing nesting bird, calving elk and fawning deer. All other times dogs must be accompanied by their owner and under immediate control.