Birding Islands

The Name

Birding Islands

Bird­ing Islands

In the 1940s, when our tribe lived there, we called it Birdies Island. That was the name of the loca­tion that the tribe referred to as home. I was always curi­ous to visit Birdies Island because the elders sounded so attached when they spoke of this spe­cial place and the time they spent there. Occa­sion­ally, over the years, I’ve searched the inter­net in hopes of find­ing more infor­ma­tion about this place so close to the hearts of our tribe. I found no ref­er­ence to it on the inter­net. One day I asked my mother to be very spe­cific on how to get there, so I could locate it. I con­tacted the State and they helped me locate our prior home called Birdies Island.

What I found was that our Birdies Island is the same place that oth­ers now call Bird­ing Islands. They described the place to me like this. “Just north of the small com­mu­nity of New Ply­mouth, Idaho lies the unique river habi­tat area known as the Bird­ing Islands. The name depicts, to a large extent, what type of wildlife use the area. Many dif­fer­ent types of birds, both game and non-game, can be found through­out the area. For exam­ple, great blue herons and night herons, snowy egrets, mal­lards, wid­geon, Canada geese, and a vari­ety of shore birds all uti­lize the wet­lands of this area.” I can’t help but won­der if Birdies Island was our name for the place, that even­tu­ally evolved to Bird­ing Island; or was it called that already and the oral his­tory slowly altered the name.

How to Get There

Birding Islands Map

Bird­ing Islands Map

Payette River Wildlife Man­age­ment Area’s (WMA) Bird­ing Islands seg­ment is located just north­east of the town of New Ply­mouth in west cen­tral Idaho’s Payette County. Bird­ing Islands is acces­si­ble at three loca­tions; the Bird­ing Islands South access is the most pop­u­lar. To reach it, take Inter­state 84 to exit nine and travel 4.5 miles on State High­way 30 through the town of New Ply­mouth. Just past the New Ply­mouth Post Office look for the Bird­ing Island South sign. Turn east onto Idaho Street and drive 0.5 miles to Holly Avenue. Turn north and fol­low Holly Avenue 1.5 miles to NW Sec­ond Avenue. Turn east and fol­low this road 0.7 miles to Payette River WMA’s Bird­ing Islands South park­ing lot.

The BLM shared some gen­eral infor­ma­tion with me, It is near the Idaho/Oregon bor­der, scat­tered islands dot the Payette River. Large and small, wide and nar­row, these islands and nearby main­land areas pro­vide prime nest­ing habi­tat for Canada geese and other water­fowl. Rec­og­niz­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of this area to nest­ing water­fowl, the Idaho Depart­ment of Fish and Game (IDFG) pur­chased 50 acres of Payette River islands in 1960 (15 years after our tribe left the Island). Addi­tional island and main­land acreage has been acquired over the years and today, Payette River Wildlife Man­age­ment Area (WMA) totals just over 1,200 acres. Area man­age­ment focuses on water­fowl nesting/brooding habi­tat and upland game bird nesting/wintering habi­tat. These and other man­age­ment efforts ben­e­fit a host of wildlife present at Payette River WMA.

Fam­ily History

(recalled by Char­lotte Simmons)

The tribe lived where it is known today to be called Bird­ing Island. We always called it Birdies Island. Our house was right next door to the water area. This is where we had jew­elry hid­den in the walls. The fam­ily brought it from Pearl Stephenson’s fam­ily up the trail, hid­den in the hem of their skirts. They hid it in the logs of the house at Birdies Island. It was a 3 room wooden framed house with a tar paper roof. We called it “The Big House”. There was a pot belly stove in the liv­ing room and a cook stove was in the kitchen. The front door was on the north side of the house and opened into the liv­ing room. There was a win­dow in the liv­ing room, a cou­ple in the kitchen and one in the bed­room. The bed­room was just big enough for a bed and a dresser. Grandpa and Grandma (Lean­der Creech and Pearl Stephen­son Creech) lived in The Big House. Every­one else in the fam­ily lived in tents and tee pees on the west side of the house. The dri­ve­way was on the East. It had a wood pile on the south. The road to the place was on the north. What is known today as the WMA refuge, would have been on the east side of our house and the river was on the west side of the house. We had a big screened in coup that was about 16’ with wire so the birds could fly around. It was about 10 feet tall. The wire was on poles with a door into it. The birds couldn’t get out until you wanted them to go out. Some­times they clipped the wings so the birds would get used to stay­ing on the place and then when the wings grew back they would fly away but always return because that is where they started from. The more that came back, the more eggs we had. But at the time we lived there it was not a refuge. Often Grandpa (Lean­der Lewis Creech) and I (Char­lotte Creech) went down along the river and gath­ered the wild eggs and hatched them out under set­ting hens that belonged to grandma and turned the birds loose on the island. The fam­ily did that all the time. The birds came back because we raised them. One day the house was burnt down. We fig­ured some­one stole the jew­elry and then burnt the house down. Gilbert, Bruce, Grandpa (Lean­der) and Grandma (Pearl), and Ruth (mama) hunted thru the ashes for days with rakes look­ing for the jew­elry or melted gold and found noth­ing. They fig­ured it must have been stolen before the house was burnt down. After the house burned down, the tribe left the area. Twenty years later, the area was pre­served as a bird refuge. I may have been born there, I don’t know for sure. I do remem­ber being only 7 or 8 at the time and recall that these are some of the tribe that were there: Lean­der and Pearl, Art and Ruth, Joan, Tom, Dale, Nina, Char­lotte, Chuck, Ray, Elsie and Al with all their kids, Alan, Jean, Bill-Clarence, and Gary, Kate, Frank, Gilbert, Bruce, Clyde, Fred and Annie, and LeRoy Hob­son. This is where Grandpa raised the twelve wild geese that he called his boys, but that’s another story.

Whether or not, it was Lean­der Creech and the Delaware descen­dants care, nur­tur­ing, and pro­tec­tion of the birds that started this refuge that so many peo­ple enjoy today; we may never know for sure. What we do know for sure is that our ances­tors, our tribe, has always been close to the land and the ani­mals. The time we lived at Birdies Island was a spe­cial time, a time we shared with the birds. It may be called Bird­ing Island now, but to the tribe it will always be Birdies Island.

Deb­o­rah Dewey~Gravett

Filed Under: AncestorsRecollections

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  1. DGravett says:

    Does any­one know if we ever owned any land on Bird­ing Island or were we just stay­ing there.

  2. […] Creek, among units of the Payette River Wildlife Man­age­ment Area and tra­di­tional lands of the Lenni-Lenape tribe, only a few miles upriver from the City of Fruit­land water sup­ply intake and the Payette/Snake […]

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