Bruneau Sand Dunes

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Established in 1970

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When wind looses its velocity and its ability to transport the sand it has carried from the surface, it deposits it on the ground. Sand deposits tend to assume recognizable shapes. Wind forms sand grains into mounds and ridges called dunes, ranging from a few feet to hundreds of feet in height. Some dunes migrate slowly in the direction of the wind. A sand dune acts as a barrier to the wind by creating a wind shadow. This disruption of the flow of air may cause the continued deposition of sand. A cross section or profile of a dune in the direction of blowing wind shows a gentle slope facing the wind and a steep slope to the leeward. A wind shadow exists in front of the leeward slope which causes the wind velocity to decrease. The wind blows the sand grains up the gentle slope and deposits them on the steep leeward slope.


The Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, established in 1970, is located about 8 miles east-northeast of Bruneau and about 18 miles south of Mountain Home. The dunes at Bruneau Dunes State Park are unique in the Western Hemisphere. Other dunes in the Americas form at the edges of natural basins; these form near the center.

The combination of 1) a source of sand; 2) a relatively constant wind activity; and 3) a natural trap have caused sand to collect in this semicircular basin for over 20,000 years. Geologists believe the dunes seen today may have started with sands from the Bonneville Flood about 15,000 years ago.

Unlike most dunes, these do not drift far. The prevailing winds blow from the southeast 28 percent of the time and from the northwest 32 percent of the time, keeping the dunes fairly stable.

Although there are many small dunes in the area, two prominent dunes cover approximately 600 acres. These two imposing dunes are striking, particularly because they dwarf most of the nearby land features. The westernmost dune is reported to be the largest single-structured sand dune in North America with a peak 470 feet above the level of the lakes.

Desert Habitat

The park contains lake, marsh, desert, prairie and dune habitats. Since most desert wildlife is nocturnal, early morning and late evening are the best times for spotting the park's inhabitants. However, a sharp eye often is rewarded with a daytime glimpse of lizards and rabbits, or raptors such as owls, hawks, and eagles. There is no hunting in the park except with cameras and binoculars.

The colors of a desert sunset are found again in the early-morning blossoms of the sunflower and desert lily. A coyote may howl at the same moon you watch reflected in the still lakes. A cool shore breeze refreshes after a climb on the warm sands, and the lakes teem with waterfowl.

The Lakes

The small lakes at the foot of the dunes provide an excellent bass and bluegill fishery, Sport fishing from non motorized boats, canoes, rubber rafts, and float tubes is a popular activity.


Bruneau Dunes has one of the longest camping seasons in Idaho's system. Campers often start coming in March and continue to enjoy the park's warm weather late into the fall. Shade trees and shelters are abundant in the campground.

Environmental Education

The environmental-education center features displays of area wildlife and natural history.

The Eagle Cove Interpretive Program Area can be reserved for schools or other groups of 30-40 persons. Contact the park for details.

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