The Teton River begins quietly as a spring creek west of the Tetons before cutting through the farmlands of eastern Idaho, carving a rugged wilderness canyon of roaring rapids and soaring bluffs. The Teton River is one of the last remaining strongholds for Yellowstone cutthroat trout and it’s an important winter refuge for elk, moose and other wildlife—yet this unique canyon remains one of Idaho’s best-kept secrets. In the early 1970s, Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups fought a proposal to dam this wild river. But despite warnings about the huge environmental and economic costs, the dam was built—and disaster quickly followed. On June 5, 1976, only days away from filling for the first time, Teton Dam ruptured, sending an 8-story wall of water down the canyon toward communities on the Snake River plain. The ensuing flood killed 11 people and caused more than one billion dollars in damage. Three decades later, the former dam site sits as a stark reminder of this disaster. In 2009, Idaho launched a controversial study to rebuild Teton Dam and inundate Teton Canyon again. Local farmers say they need the extra water, but Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups point out that there are better ways to meet the needs of agriculture while protecting this unique natural treasure. Trout Unlimited is committed to preserving this beautiful wild river for future generations.
Better Ways to Meet Idaho's Water Needs
Idaho water officials in 2010 will begin a study to look at options for storing water in the Teton River basin, including a rebuild of Teton Dam. But there are far less costly and environmentally friendly ways to meet the water needs of agriculture, such as aquifer recharge, irrigation efficiency upgrades, and municipal conservation. With smart water planning, Idaho can keep its rivers running free while meeting the needs of agriculture and communities. Learn more.