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Ride Destination: Deadwood Reservoir

By Thane Eddington
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, April 2011

There are so many beautiful and remote destinations in our great state that it can sometimes be hard to pick just one favorite.

When asked to write an article for the newsletter (a second time by a very patient Craig Olsen) it did not take long for me to pick a location, once I had committed myself to the project. To say that I am a better rider than a writer would be an understatement, or perhaps I just enjoy riding more than writing. Since I don’t own a snowmobile, writing about it will have to be my joy for now, because I sure can’t ride to it this time of year. So with out further whining or procrastination, I will “write on”!

Area map of Deadwood Reservoir.
Water drainages into and out of Deadwood Reservoir.

Here are some of the reasons why this place ranks so high for me: (1) Comfortable distance away from the Treasure Valley. (2) Can be a day trip, a rest stop to other locations, an overnighter, and I have even used it as a base camp a couple of times. (3) More than one way to get in and out, which also means different ability levels. (4) Can be a comfortable level 2 ride with V-Strom friendly paved and dirt roads. (5) Can also be a level 3 or 4 on more aggressive dirt roads with rocks, ruts, inclines, and several hundred feet of exposure. (6) It can also be a full on level 5 single track, approx 25 miles worth, for the lighter more nimble dual sports.

Aerial view of Deadwood Reservoir Dam on Deadwood River.

Deadwood Reservoir was the first place that I rode my new dualsport and camped out for a weekend. That is probably why it ranks so high for me; you never forget your first…. It is a very large man made body of water formed by the Deadwood River with a tall and skinny dam holding it all together. Wildlife is abundant and there is a variety of fish that include Kokanee and Atlantic salmon along with other trout species.

Fishing on Deadwood Reservoir.

An eagle has even screeched me at on more than one occasion, I have watched a moose wade into the water, and deer and elk sightings are common. There are some old mines and buildings in the area that are fun to explore.

Old building (miner’s barracks) at one of the mine sites north of Deadwood Reservoir that can be seen from the road (Landmark Stanley Road FS Road #579).

Since it is all about location, location, location here it is: N44 ̊ 17′ 36” W115 ̊ 38′ 45″ (N44 17.600 W115 38.750 for those with GPS). IdonotuseGPSsomapsarehowIgettowhereIwantto go. If you have an Idaho Road & Recreation Atlas by Benchmark it is on page 52 F-4. Or if you use the Idaho Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme you will find it on page 43 C-6. It is at
5,300 feet elevation and the roads are generally not open until June.

Drive north from Boise on Idaho 55 to Banks. Turn right at Banks, go through Garden Valley and turn left on Scott Mountain Rd (Forest Service Road #555). Forest Service Rd #555 is before you cross the Deadwood River or get to Lowman. It will be about 25 miles on this dirt road to get to Deadwood. The very first part is probably the most intimidating with a lot of exposure on one side, steep, windy, and can be rutted with loose gravel and rocks – a level 3 for most riders.

Another way in is to go as above but drive all the way to Lowman, and then turn left on Bear Valley Road / Clear Creek Road, (Forest Service Road #582). This dirt road will take you along Clear Creek to Clear Creek Summit, and then turn left on Forest Service Road #510 to Deadwood Reservoir. This road will be a smoother ride and probably a level 2. Newer riders that are comfortable on dirt roads should enjoy this route.

You can also drive past Lowman towards Stanley. After you go past Banner Summit and the turn for Bull Trout Lake, take your next left on Bear Valley Road (Forest Service Road #198 which will turn into #579). If you wind-up in Stanley you’ve gone too far. This dirt road will take you Over Cape Horn Summit, through Bruce meadows, and Bear Valley. Stay on Forest Service Road #579 and follow the signs to Deadwood Reservoir. This would be about the same level as the route above.

One of the easier ways in is to drive north on Hwy 55, go past Banks and just after you go through Cascade, take the turn for Warm Lake. Continue on this road past Warm Lake, this road will stay paved as you climb over a summit with awesome views. This road turns into Forest Service Road #579 and will become dirt about 25 miles from Deadwood. You will be dropping into the Reservoir from the north. This is probably considered the smoothest route by most.

Another challenging and fun way to get there is a 25-mile level 5 single-track that is open to motorcycles a few months out of the year.

Single-track trail into Deadwood Reservoir.

This is a single-track trail with lots of exposure, rocks, inclines, declines, a swampy sticky marsh, etc. There are some spots that if you go off trail, you may not be able to get your bike back. You would have to be a real knucklehead to attempt this by yourself with a fully loaded 650, (not going to do that again….).

Exposed along single-track Trail #019 into Deadwood Reservoir.

Drive north from Boise on Idaho 55 to Banks. Turn right at Banks, go through Garden Valley, go past the Scott Mountain Road turn-off and cross the Deadwood River. Just after you cross the river there is a campground on the left. This is the Trail Head for the Deadwood Reservoir Trail (Trail #019). Where it ends at the Deadwood Reservoir Dam is Trail #021. There are several turns and other trails that take off of this main one so you should be careful. This trail is really meant for dirt bikes and mountain bikes, but can be done on smaller dual-sport bike. Travel at your own risk. It is a good idea to make sure that the trail is open and clear before attempting.

Bridge on beginning of Trail #021 at Deadwood Reservoir.

Once you are at the reservoir you can enjoy exploring the area. There are more single-track trails to the north of the reservoir that
are open to dirt bikes and can take you over to the Silver Creek plunge area or Stolle Meadows. You can ride your motorcycle north to Yellow Pine and then go onto Big Creek, Elk Summit, Warren, McCall all by dirt roads. Make sure you have plenty of gas, double check the condition of the roads and
plan your routes! Most of all ride your own ride, stay in your comfort level and enjoy 🙂 !!!

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