The South Fork of the Snake River is one of America's most fabled trout fisheries. But recently anglers, scientists, land managers, and others have expressed growing concern about the future vitality of the fishery. The concerns are based on the cumulative impacts of various factors, including:
Loss of the South Fork native cutthroat trout fishery would have broad implications. Not only would one of the country's finest wild trout fisheries be irrevocably changed, but it also would constitute a major setback in the effort to conserve native cutthroat trout populations in the Intermountain West. While scientists estimate that Yellowstone cutthroat trout currently occupy approximately 40 percent of their historic range, many of the populations are no longer pure. Further, two of the areas generally considered strongholds for these magnificent western natives - Yellowstone Lake and the South Fork Snake - are currently struggling with serious threats from non-native fish.
Initiated in early 2002, the South Fork Snake River Watershed Project is a TU Home Rivers Initiative. Like other Home Rivers Initiatives the South Fork effort is a collaborative multi-year approach that combines scientific and economic research; community outreach; on-the-ground restoration; and the development of long-term conservation and management strategies and tools on a watershed scale. Trout Unlimited partners for the South Fork Project include Mark Rockefeller, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Fish&Game, Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Snake River Cutthroats and Idaho Panhandle TU chapters.
Wolverine Fish Passage Project: A small stream on the lower South Fork Snake with a bad culvert will be repaired this fall. This will enable fish to get up to their historic spawning grounds, benefiting the native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout population in the South Fork.
Table Rock Creek Fish Passage Project: Another fish passage project on the lower South Fork. This project involves removal of a barrier culvert and rebuilding a channel below the culvert to eliminate sediment transport and bed load movement.
New project on Palisades Creek starting this fall: Palisades Creek is one of the four big spawning tributaries to the South Fork Snake River. This will be a bank stabilization project along with instream work to help stabilize bed load movement. In the process we will be looking to create better holding water for fish. This area was severely overgrazed for a number of years, producing some very bad eroding banks. We will have a consultant on site developing a plan the first week of August. Funding for the project comes from a NFWF grant for $40,000 along with a matching contribution coming from the new landowner, bringing the total to $80,000. This project will treat approximately three quarters of a mile in stream length. Mechanical bank beveling, revegetation of the bank areas, and instream structures to stabilize bed load are a just a few of things planned for this project.
New Project on Crow Creek: Crow Creek is a major tributary to the Salt River which runs into into Palisades Reservoir. We have already had a detailed on the ground stream survey done of the project area. Many years ago a section of Crow Creek was straightened and the original stream channel was abandoned. We intend to work closely with our partners at the Caribou-Targhee National Forest to restore Crow Creek to its original channel. This is a highly productive Yellowstone Cutthroat fishery. Improved spawning habitat along with better channel dynamics, increased channel sinuosity and improved bank conditions are the expected outcomes.
South Fork Snake River Projects and Information: