Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail – Melba, Idaho - Atlas Obscura
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Melba, Idaho

Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail

Birdhouses, peacocks, animal sculptures, and a graveyard are all found along this eclectic nature trail.  

Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is a winding outdoor trail lined with preserved 1860s ferry service buildings and a remarkably eclectic collection of outsider art.

Spread throughout the property are hundreds of birdhouses, ceramic lawn decorations, signs espousing random religious philosophies, bronze statues, a graveyard, and even a flock of live peacocks. Combined, the effect of all these totally unrelated elements is dizzying and absolutely unique.

After Dr. Samuel “Pappy” Swayne and his wife Cleo Swayne purchased the old ferry area in Melba, Idaho, the couple began building a number of structures to house themselves, their medical practice, and some simply just for storage. After Pappy’s death in 1976, Cleo decided to open use the land as an art-filled nature trail.

In the ensuing years, Cleo installed hundreds of ornate birdhouses along the path, many of which were accompanied by placards with little philosophical tidbits regarding life and faith. In addition to the copious birdhouses are dozens of individually crafted art scenes, most featuring ceramic lawn art mixed in with the local flora. In the parking lot, there are several large statues of animals made entirely of old, welded-together horseshoes. One section of the trail even features massive fiberglass statues of African safari animals.

Cleo also added bronze sculptures to the trail, creating a strange dichotomy of massive bronze scenes interspersed with the much smaller and cheekier lawn art that adorns the older parts of the trail. Additionally, peacocks and chickens reside in a set of pens and can be fed by children or the young at heart. Most movingly, there is also graveyard near the middle point of the path, where Dr. Swayne is laid to rest among his and Cleo’s marvelous life’s work.

Know Before You Go

Located just off Highway 45. If heading south, take a left after Dan's Ferry Service (a convenience store) onto a gravel road that runs downhill to the Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Trail parking lot. No dogs are allowed on the trail. The site is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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