In free-flowing length alone, Idaho’s 425-mile Salmon River surpasses nearly every other stream in the West. Between its headwaters in the Sawtooth Mountains and its confluence with the Snake River, the Salmon courses through nearly continuous canyons, including some of the deepest gorges and most rugged, isolated terrain in the Lower 48. In its uppermost reaches, the Salmon flows through the scenic Sawtooth Valley, where ice-cold tributaries flow from the Sawtooth and the White Cloud Mountains and provide crucial spawning and rearing habitat for the river’s namesake fish, along with steelhead and bull trout.
Stream by stream, Western Rivers Conservancy is preserving some of the most important habitat in the upper Salmon River basin: land along these vital tributaries in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. Conserving these high-elevation lifelines is part of WRC’s long-term commitment to the Salmon River system, and to ensuring salmon and steelhead find healthy habitat—and the water they need—after their epic 900-mile journey inland from the sea.
Building on our 2016 success at Pole Creek, WRC purchased the 369-acre Goat Falls Ranch in 2017. The ranch possesses senior water rights on Goat Creek and Meadow Creek, two streams that historically contained some of the highest density salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Columbia River basin. Currently, portions of both streams are dewatered by withdrawals many years. Now that we own the ranch, we are partnering with the Idaho Water Resource Board to keep the ranch’s water permanently in-stream for the benefit of fish and wildlife. When complete, the project will be Idaho’s first permanent water-rights acquisition to dedicate water in-stream.
At Goat Falls Ranch, this will be a tremendous benefit for imperiled salmon and steelhead, ensuring these fish find healthy habitat and plenty of water when they finally arrive their natal streams, at the end of their long migration. WRC’s acquisition will also allow for restoration of key reaches of both streams, which will improve water quality and quantity not only for Chinook and steelhead, but for imperlied sockeye, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and mountain whitefish.
Once we have successfully dedicated the water in-stream, WRC expects to convey the ranch to the U.S. Forest Service to be managed as part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The ranch also has an important recreation component and includes access to portions of the SNRA that have historically required long hikes. The Alpine Way Trail passes nearby and accesses several scenic alpine lakes as well as Goat Creek Falls, Idaho’s tallest waterfall.
Jul 7, 2017
In Idaho’s scenic Sawtooth Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully purchased the 364-acre Goat Falls Ranch, which controls crucial water rights on Goat and Meadow Creeks, two key tributary streams of the Salmon River. Historically, these streams contained some of the highest density Chinook salmon rearing habitat in the Salmon River system. Due to habitat degradation and low in-stream flows, the creeks now harbor only a fraction of the salmon and steelhead they once did. During the critical seasons of late summer and fall, when stream flows are already low and rearing juvenile Chinook are most susceptible, portions of both creeks are reduced to only a trickle, or dewatered entirely.
Jul 5, 2017
By acquiring riverland properties with associated water rights, WRC can have an even greater impact on river systems, especially when rivers are strained by summer heat, water withdrawals and low flows.