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A Visit to Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail.

August 11, 2018

Not much of a museum, but rather a roadside attraction and historical site, Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is located in the pleasant high desert and agricultural region of Southwest Idaho, about an hour’s drive from Boise, along the Snake River. It is located aways outside the small town of Melba, on highway 45, just north of where 45 joins highway 78, right before the bridge over the river.

In the past, ferry boats traveled along the winding Snake River, which flows through Idaho, and other states as well.

The ferry depot is called Walter’s Ferry. According to a small sign, a woman named Cleo R. Swayne is the name of the owner of this rather interesting, peculiar place.

Here is the review of Cleo’s Ferry Museum that I posted on Google Reviews. I am a google local guide – unpaid, of course – I write reviews of lots of places.

I’ll include photos of the place at the bottom of this post.

Here’s my review..

This is a VERY strange place, and quite heavily Christian.

You won’t find it unless you stop at Dan’s Ferry Service. Dan’s is a gas station and pleasant convenience store. If you pull into the parking lot at Dan’s (I hope you go in and buy something. The people there are friendly – great beer selection too), look to your right and you will see a narrow, paved road with a small sign directing you to Cleo’s. Turn down that little road.

You’ll see some interesting old buildings that were part of the ferry station (there was a time when ferry boats traveled the Snake River, and the ferry station at Cleo’s is called Walter’s Ferry), a home where the owners and caretakers live, and a dirt lot for parking. There are also two donkeys back there, in a little area that looks too small for them. I don’t know if the donkeys are friendly, and therefore, I don’t advise trying to pet them. I didn’t.

No fee to visit, but there is a locked donation box. Please put money in it. The caretakers do a good job keeping up the place, and don’t charge anything, so please be nice to them by leaving a donation.

The walking path is mostly paved, but not entirely. You will see massive collections of lawn ornaments, a large area featuring many life-size statues of people in a parade (this was impressive), some odd little buildings, and a few graves.

Not a cemetery though, like another reviewer wrote. I like walking through old cemeteries. I”m not the ghost-hunter type – I like the artistry of the headstones and the history of such places. (Want to see a very interesting old cemetery? Go to the one just outside Idaho City).

But there’s no cemetery at Cleo’s to walk through, and if you are not looking, you might miss the graves.

I liked the themed collections of lawn ornaments, the statues, the old buildings. And, even though I’m not a religious person, I did like the little garden of prayer – I think that is what it was called.

There’s a little chain link fence gate (close the gate behind you). You’ll see a shaded area, with some statues and a small pond. Good place to sit and rest, especially if you visit Cleo’s on a warm day, like I did. I didn’t mind that little area being Christian. Nice, actually.

I did NOT like how every few feet I walked, I saw a little sign with a positive affirmation or Christian message.

I did not visit Cleo’s Ferry Museum to read a self-help book, nor the Bible.

The little signs distract the eye, and I kept finding myself reading the signs instead of looking closely at the exhibits.

One cool thing to do is follow a trail up the hillside. After you walk through the dirt trail forested area, you’ll come back to black top. Instead of turning, walk the dirt trail up the hill. There are some benches up there. Sit awhile, and enjoy the view.

I’d suggest retracing your steps down the hill. It seemed there was a trail going off toward the entrance, but the trail I was on just faded away, and I ended up walking through the brush downhill. Good thing I was wearing jeans.

This is the first roadside attraction I’ve ever visited. I went to this place alone, and there were no other people on the entire trail with me. I felt a bit creeped out at times.

If you go with family or friends, you will probably feel just fine.

This place is definitely family friendly, except if you have small, unruly children. If your youngsters are very well-behaved, they’ll do fine, but if they are little monsters, they will probably want to run around and play with the lawn ornaments and statues.

One last thing – I was disappointed there was no guide, and that the old buildings were locked. I would have liked to have seen inside. On the Cleo’s facebook page, I noticed that occasionally the people who run the place do open the buildings and are around. But not usually.

This place is worth visiting, but it would be a more enjoyable experience if all the little signs were taken down, if it were a mostly non-sectarian place, and if we could see inside the buildings and learn more about them and the ferry depot.


Cleo's Ferry Museum

Cleo's Ferry Museum, Tom Meninga

Cleo's Ferry Museum



cleo's ferry museum

hillside, cleo's ferry museum

All photos ©Tom Meninga, 2018. 




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