Idaho

Salmon RiverPole Creek

Conserving critical habitat for salmon in Idaho's Stanley Basin

In Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, WRC conserved 619 acres along Pole Creek, a key tributary to the Salmon River with extensive Critical Habitat for imperiled salmon and steelhead. WRC’s efforts have protected over a mile of the creek and bolster local conservation efforts to protect this vital spawning stream. The property lies within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is surrounded on three sides by the Sawtooth National Forest.
In Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, WRC conserved 619 acres along Pole Creek, a key tributary to the Salmon River with extensive Critical Habitat for imperiled salmon and steelhead. WRC’s efforts have protected over a mile of the creek and bolster local conservation efforts to protect this vital spawning stream. The property lies within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is surrounded on three sides by the Sawtooth National Forest.
Photography | Kirk Anderson
Salmon River steelhead and salmon make one of the greatest fish migrations on earth, swimming up to 900 miles and navigating eight dams to reach their spawning grounds in Idaho’s Stanley Basin. Pole Creek is designated Critical Habitat for Chinook salmon (pictured), sockeye salmon, steelhead and bull trout along nearly all of its length.
Salmon River steelhead and salmon make one of the greatest fish migrations on earth, swimming up to 900 miles and navigating eight dams to reach their spawning grounds in Idaho’s Stanley Basin. Pole Creek is designated Critical Habitat for Chinook salmon (pictured), sockeye salmon, steelhead and bull trout along nearly all of its length.
Photography | Tom and Pat Leeson
Pole Creek
The Sawtooth National Forest has ranked Pole Creek its highest priority for recovery due to both this richness of habitat and its potential for restoration.
Photography | Kirk Anderson
Pole Creek
Idaho's Pole Creek, a tributary to the Salmon River.
Photography | Kirk Anderson
WRC’s efforts on Pole Creek prevented future grazing and development within the crucially important riparian areas of the stream, ensuring the vital habitat that Salmon River fish and wildlife rely on remains intact.
WRC’s efforts on Pole Creek prevented future grazing and development within the crucially important riparian areas of the stream, ensuring the vital habitat that Salmon River fish and wildlife rely on remains intact.
Photography | Dieter Erdmann

Idaho’s Salmon River plays host to one of the greatest fish migrations on earth: the annual return of salmon and steelhead to their spawning grounds high in the Rocky Mountains, thousands of feet above sea level and hundreds of miles from the ocean. Today, simply to reach the Salmon River, migrating fish must navigate eight dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. After their long journey, these fish finally reach their natal streams in the headwaters of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, in Idaho’s Stanley Basin. Here, the snowcapped peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains tower over small tributary streams that provide crucial habitat for Chinook and sockeye salmon, steelhead and bull trout. In October 2016, Western Rivers Conservancy conserved 619 acres on one of these streams, a key Salmon River tributary called Pole Creek. Unlike tributaries on the western side of the Sawtooth Valley, which have granite streambeds, Pole Creek is sedimentary and volcanic in origin, which means more nutrients for insects and riparian life. This unique geology is what makes the stream especially important, and Pole Creek has extensive designated Critical Habitat for Chinook, steelhead and bull trout.

The Sawtooth National Forest has ranked Pole Creek its highest priority for recovery due both to this richness of habitat and its potential for restoration. In 2011, Pole Creek was identified as one of two Focus Watersheds within the Sawtooth National Forest for restoration. Since that time, the US Forest Service has removed three culverts that block fish passage in Pole Creek, and local and national organizations have worked to extensively restore the stream. Additionally, a $2 million project involving ten government agencies is being implemented to increase base flows in Pole Creek during irrigation season.

The property WRC purchased was one of only three private holdings on the lower reaches of Pole Creek and controls more than a mile of stream frontage. Although sheep and cattle are on the property, the grazing regime is currently not detrimental to riparian habitat, and the banks remain in good shape. WRC purchased the property to prevent future grazing or development within or near the riparian zone. With habitat quality in the creek on the upswing, protecting the stream’s sensitive riparian areas is crucial and will help prevent setbacks to the conservation investments already made. By conserving this unique property and a mile of prime salmon and steelhead habitat, we will help move the Salmon River that much closer toward recovery—becoming, once again, one of the greatest andadromous rivers in the world.

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