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Cleos Ferry Museum and Nature Trail

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail: Idaho.

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail
1984 Highway 45, Melba, Idaho 83641

An intriguing nature trail and defining moment of the term “kitsch” emerges upon the Snake River landscape. This odd stop is featured by atlas Obscura, and is how I discovered it. It sits at a unique “ferry crossing” of Idaho’s and the Snake River’s historic period. Today it stands as a mile-long nature trail and outdoor museum with statues, uplifting signs, religion, ceramic lawn decorations, birdhouses, fairy houses, a fairy forest, depictions of religion, live peacocks, and a graveyard.

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail: Idaho.
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The site was a crossing spot in the 1800s as a means of getting over the wide Snake River. A ferry service was used here to transport people, livestock, and goods across the river from both sides from 1863 until 1921. It housed the original “Walter’s Ferry Landing” where the ferry service ran, housed an office, hotel, and eatery. Some claim it was originally used during the early pioneer days and potentially along the Oregon Trail timely migrations.

The land was purchased by Dr. Samuel Pappy and Cleo Swayne, turning it into their homestead where they lived, set up their medical practice, and stored their collections. When Samuel “Pappy” Swayne passed away in 1976, Cleo turned it into a nature museum and trail displaying her odd collection of art, lawn decorations, and statues. From there it just multiplied. She collected hundreds of ornate birdhouses and placed them along the path. She placed inspirational messages under them to uplift those visiting her park. She then crafted and created skits, dioramas, and scenes with her lawn art. She invested in hundreds of statues scattered along the trail. She included a jungle themed area with massive life-sized fiberglass statues of African wildlife.

Bronze statues were added to the park in massive arrays, mostly created by artisan Gary Price. Half of the trail winds along the scenic Snake River.

She also created a little zoo of farmland critters – primarily chickens and peacocks to brighten the day for children visiting (not that kids anything more to be excited about this place). The site and trail are open from 9 am until 5 pm, and is donation-based admission – honor system.

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail: Idaho.

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