Magic Reservoir, Idaho, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Idaho - Central -

There is magic to be found in central Idaho: Magic Reservoir! This expanse of water was created in 1909 when the Big Wood River was dammed to provide irrigation water for local farming. With 3,700 acres of water (some claim it to be as large as 14,00 acres, but official statistics say 3,700 acres), Magic Dam has in the past few years been retrofitted for hydroelectric power generation. For 100 years, Magic Reservoir has offered recreation to both residents and visitors to its watery expanse and surrounding valley. Two small settlements have grown up on the shores of Magic Reservoir: Magic City on the eastern shoreline and West Magic Village on the west side. West Magic even has its own airport, serving the several resorts and travelers from the Magic Valley area. Although long a favorite of fishermen, the reservoir is pretty low-key, attracting far less attention than it deserves.

Magic Reservoir appears to have no designated swimming beaches, but residents talk of swimming at Magic Reservoir. The many boat ramps are used to access the water for power boating, sailing and water skiing during the warmer months. Water levels vary considerably depending on rainfall and on how much water is drawn down for irrigation purposes. Visiting boaters should always call ahead to make sure water levels are sufficient, as extreme low water sometimes makes the boat ramps unusable. Much of the land around Magic Reservoir is under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM provides nine semi-developed sites along the shoreline for primitive camping and boat launch sites. Most boat launch sites also provide picnic facilities, but no drinking water is available. Other private camping and RV sites are available with all services nearby.

Some of the more shallow portions of the reservoir are most suitable for canoe or kayak during low water periods, particularly when bird watching around the three islands near the dam. A favorite birding site, the islands serve as nesting grounds for 2000 breeding pairs of California and ring-billed gulls and 25 pairs of Caspian Terns. Long-billed curlew can be seen nesting here in spring, while western and Clark’s grebes, common loon, trumpeter and tundra swans and some waterfowl spend parts or all of the ice-free season here. A number of other species also stop by Magic Reservoir during migration. Roads along the shore are passable during the dry seasons but tend to become very muddy during rains. Many bird watching visitors end their day of birding on the deck of the restaurant in West Magic Village – watching water birds, of course.

Fishing is the favored sport at Magic Reservoir: brown trout, rainbow trout (stocked regularly), perch and a few smallmouth bass are the favored species for catching. Although there are many boat launch ramps along the 25-mile shoreline, only the ramps at the East and West Magic resort areas are accessible during low-water periods. But many people have their favorite spots for bank fishing, while others prefer float-tubes to access some of their secret hotspots. Trolling the narrow inlets often garners some of the best fishing. Ice fishing is also a preferred winter activity, with much of the reservoir freezing over early due to the altitude of the high desert valley. Both perch and trout are often caught through the ice near the dam and in the lower canyon reaches.

Because the reservoir traps all of the Big Wood River’s water at certain times of the year, the dry riverbed below the dam receives visitors interested in the geology of the area. A kiosk downstream interprets the water-worn lava boulders deposited there in amazing profusion – a photographer’s dreamscape. This unusual deposit of rock only exists because the BLM and local groups fought a long legal battle to prevent the boulders from being harvested for landscaping architectural features. Experts warn, however, that the boulder-strewn ‘black magic canyon’ can be extremely dangerous for several reasons. First, water releases from the dam can be unexpected, making the narrow gorge a death trap. Those wishing to hike here are strongly advised to check with dam operators before venturing into the canyon. Second, the most common wildlife in the area are rattlesnakes. And third, the rough terrain takes physical stamina and an ability to keep one’s footing; the boulders can be dislodged easily and it is very hard to access this remote area in case of emergency. Unique geological features are hardly limited to the area near Magic Reservoir, however. A few miles away, Craters of the Moon National Monument offers adventures among massive lava flows, caves created by collapsing lava tubes, and the unique plants and animals that thrive here.

Other local attractions can be found near Fairfield, where rodeos are performed regularly. A large number of small local roads and paths are suitable for hiking and mountain biking, while off-road vehicles can access many remote locations to view wildlife and enjoy the scenery. Local lodgings can be found at several resorts around Magic Reservoir where everything from individual cabins to lodge-style rooms can be located. Hotels and motels are found in Shoshone, less than 30 miles to the south, and in Twin Falls, an hour’s drive away. Some private lodgings are found for rent along Magic Reservoir in the two small towns. And real estate can often be located in the Magic Valley, often with large acreages. The Magic Reservoir area is the ideal spot for the person who wants to experience a quiet, unhurried high-desert vacation. Those don’t usually come with trout or ice fishing. Magic Reservoir does – come find the magic!

Things to do at Magic Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Magic Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Brown Trout
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Magic Reservoir Photo Gallery

Magic Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Magic Reservoir Hydroelectric, Inc.

Surface Area: 3,700 acres

Shoreline Length: 25 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,806 feet

Maximum Depth: 120 feet

Water Volume: 191,500 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 1,600 sq. miles

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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