Big Springs and Johnny Sack’s Cabin – Idaho (50 miles round trip)
(This route may not be fully accessible until late May/early June, depending on snow and weather conditions.)
Leave West Yellowstone on Hwy 20 heading south to Island Park, Idaho (see wildlife spotting tips in the “Around the Block” tour above). After 12 miles, you leave Montana for Island Park, Idaho, which has the longest “main street” of any town in the U.S.—over 30 miles!
Seven miles later, in the Mack’s Inn area, you will want to turn left (east) on Big Springs Road (Forest Rd. 59). Drive east for another five miles and you will be at Big Springs.
Big Springs is the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Over 120 million gallons of water flow from this spring every day, making it one of the largest springs in the country. Big Springs is also spawning grounds for rainbow trout. You can feed the fish while you’re there, but fishing is not allowed in this protected area. Then take a short, easy walk on the interpretive trail boardwalk that leads downstream along the Big Springs National Water Trail.
As part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Johnny Sack Cabin can be reached via a short, paved walking path starting in the campground at Big Springs. The cabin’s unique location, construction, and furnishings provide for an interesting visit. The cabin was started in 1932 and completed three years later. Here you can learn about Johnny Sack, a German cabinet maker, and the uniqueness of his craftsmanship with his thorough and careful preparation of the lumber for building the cabin, wall panels, ceiling lamps, furniture, and—of course—the wonderful water wheel.
Be careful going in if you’re tall! Johnny Sack was only 4 feet 11 inches tall. While most of the house has typical ceilings, his work area in the basement reflects his small stature.
Areas to watch
- Hwy 20 – Look for antelope and elk grazing in the fields, eagles and hawks sitting on fence posts, and ospreys on specially constructed nests. You can also spot moose and elk near marshy areas and small ponds along the highway.
- Big Springs – Enormous rainbow trout can be viewed from both sides of the bridge. Be sure to bring some bread to feed the fish, mallard ducks, and the resident muskrat. Look downstream to see a moose feeding in the water, and watch for osprey, bald eagles, waterfowl, and the occasional white-tailed deer.