Big Wood flood recovery

(Hailey, Idaho) – Recent flooding has left its mark in the Big Wood River valley, but local river restoration experts are promoting the notion that a messy stream is a healthy stream. Trout Unlimited is recommending residents use natural options such as root wads and vegetation to stabilize stream banks and assist with flood recovery.

While flooding can be a very stressful event and have serious impacts on public and private property, “high stream flows are extremely beneficial to fish and aquatic habitat,” according to Dan Dauwalter, fisheries scientist for Trout Unlimited.

“Floods scour out pools, redistribute spawning gravels, and recruit large wood in a natural way that creates fish habitat,” added Dauwalter. “We recommend refraining from completely removing large wood from the river due to its benefit to habitat. Instead, we suggest doing what is necessary for recovery, as well as protection against future flooding damage to infrastructure and homes, while working with large wood that has been left in the flood’s wake.”

Floodwater has receded in most places along the Big Wood River, but there are many Blaine County residents who are considering their options for recovering lost property and streambank. As a mainstem river for this vibrant community, and county residents are encouraged to consider what is important to the health of the ecosystem along with property reclamation. In addition to traditional rip-rap to aid in bank stabilization, natural materials such as root wads and stabilizing vegetation can be equally effective for bank stabilization, and have the added benefit of habitat creation for the river and the fishery.

As the community moves forward, keeping a healthy river as the centerpiece of planning and restoration efforts is of benefit to all local residents. Blaine County, the City of Hailey, the Wood River Land Trust are hosting informational meetings and seeking public input regarding post-flood river work. Agencies are proceeding with restoration permit applications to state and federal agencies. We encourage residents of Hailey and Blaine County to be engaged in local planning processes that will affect the river and its long-term health.

How we choose to restore our streambanks and protect private property will affect the health of the Big Wood River and the future of our community.

Contact Keri York, Trout Unlimited Big Wood River Project Manager, at 928-7656 or

More information:

Messy Rivers are Healthy Rivers

Map of the Big Wood River

Big Wood River: Then and now

Blaine County: Flood information and post-flood alteration permit applications

2016 Big Wood River Assessment

By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…