Conserved: Pole Creek, a Salmon River Lifeline
Oct 4th, 2016 | Written by Western Rivers Conservancy
Photo by Kirk Anderson
Beneath the snowcapped peaks of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully conserved a mile of Pole Creek, one of the most important salmon spawning streams in the upper Salmon River basin.
Originating from sedimentary geology in the White Cloud range, Pole Creek carries a relatively high nutrient load that sustains diverse insect life and excellent riparian habitat. The result is outstanding spawning and rearing habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the headwaters of one of the greatest rivers in the West.
Knowing the importance of the stream, WRC set out to conserve this prime reach and bolster conservation efforts that have been underway for years. Pole Creek has been the focus of extensive restoration work by local and national nonprofits, local landowners and state and federal agencies. Millions of dollars have been invested in the stream to remove culverts, improve fish passage and increase flows during peak irrigation season, all with the intention of returning this exceptional stream to optimum health.
WRC contributed a critical piece of the puzzle by purchasing a 619-acre property along a mile of the creek and conveying it to the Sawtooth National Forest. The Forest Service has committed to restoring this stretch of the creek and will manage it for the sake of the Salmon River’s fish and wildlife, especially the recovery of imperiled salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Our efforts will eliminate future grazing in the stream’s sensitive riparian areas and prevent development along this key reach of the creek. The project also protects a short reach of the mainstem Salmon River itself.
WRC has long been drawn to the “River of No Return,” which flows through the largest wilderness areas in the Lower 48. The Salmon plays host to one of the greatest fish migrations on earth, a journey of more than 900 miles from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains. It is also one of the great river destinations of the West, with unparalleled boating, fishing, hiking, hunting and wildlife watching.
When viewed on the scale of the Salmon and Snake River basins as a whole, Pole Creek is but a tiny stream winding through the Sawtooth Valley, high in the system. But given its immense importance to the Salmon and Snake’s runs of anadromous fish, the impact of our efforts—and the support you provided to help us get the job done—will be far-reaching and permanent.