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 successfully conserved the 369-acre Goat Falls Ranch in early 2018. The ranch possesses senior water rights on Goat Creek and Meadow Creek, two streams that historically contained some of the highest density salmon rearing habitat in the Columbia River basin. Portions of both streams have been regularly dewatered by withdrawals for years. After WRC purchased the ranch, we conveyed the land to the U.S. Forest Service and the water rights to the State of Idaho. In the process, we partnered with the Idaho Water Resource Board to keep the ranch’s water permanently in-stream for the benefit of fish and wildlife. The project was Idaho’s first water-rights acquisition to permanently 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 imperiled bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and mountain whitefish.
The land itself is now managed for conservation by the U.S. Forest Service, within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Funding for the Salmon River-Goat Falls Project was made possible through generous contributions from multiple sources, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Betlach Family Foundation, the Page Foundation, Robert Sommer and with the generous support of many additional individuals, foundations and businesses.
This project was also made possible through funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and from the Idaho Water Resources Board, utilizing funding from the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program.