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, safari animals, and a graveyard are all part of this Idaho nature trail. 

Part outsider art museum, part nature trail, part iconoclastic pet project Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is a kitsch-filled “Faith Adventure” that .

Spread throughout the winding nature trail and its preserved 1860’s ferry service buildings are thousands of bird houses, ceramic lawn decorations, signs espousing random religious philosophies, bronze statues, a graveyard, and even a flock of live peacocks. Combined, the effect of all the totally non-related elements is dizzying and absolutely unique.

After Dr. Samuel “Pappy” Swayne and his wife Cleo 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 use the land they had as a nature trail.

In the ensuing years, the Lady Swayne installed thousands of ornate bird houses, many of which accompanied by placards with little tidbits philosophy 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 and in the parking lot 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 sculpture 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.

While the net effect of the chaotic kitsch collection is a sense somewhere between serenity and the cramped memories of life remembered in keepsakes. Although most affectingly there is a graveyard near the middle point of the nature path, the final resting place of Dr. Swayne located right within he and his wife’s strange life work.


Know Before You Go

A gravel road runs downhill from Dan's Ferry Services to the parking lot of Cleo's Ferry.No Dogs Allowed. There are tame peacocks on the property.