In The Loop-Monthly Musings from Henrys Lake Foundation

April 2023

We’re Rolling Again with Fish Habitat Restoration

Targhee Creek

It elicits memories of grandeur. From its sources. Rather it be the wildness of the West Fork. Maybe the trickle of the East Fork. The magical falls of the main stem. The aptly named Dry Fork. Or even the surprising flow of the locally named Little Targhee. Together the arterial flow forms the largest tributary to Henrys Lake. Without the aorta, the fishery doesn’t exist.

I’ve been ever so fortunate to witness almost every mile of these sources. These upper reaches are home to elk, wolverines, deer, grizzlies, mountain goats, an occasional bighorn sheep. Someone once found an ancient Bison skull at high elevation.  Countless other species of birds and wildlife. Attempts were onetime made to establish Peregrine falcon breeding sites. Tales of grizzly charges are common. Sometimes they’re even accurate.

Domestic sheep grazed for decades within this watershed. Old signage still exists. Attempt to quell erosion was made. With large bulldozers, water grading was accomplished to slow snowmelt runoff. The remnants still exist. From miles you can see them.   Still today pieces of machinery adorn barely apparent access trails.

The Henrys Lake Foundation for over 4 decades has appreciated the reality of Targhee Creek. As projects were funded, Targhee often reached highest priority. The largest restoration project to date, the Targhee Bridge Project, was completed almost 2 decades ago. Conservation easements were agreed to by unselfish landowners. Others donated graze to protect riparian corridors. Improved headgates complimented with fish screens were permanently affixed on all irrigation diversions.

Yet substantial rehabilitation efforts remain. The lower reach of Targhee has been protected from additional degradation for years. Yet that reach holds Yellowstone cutthroat spawning and rearing habitat that will benefit from rehabilitation. A heavily incised channel mobilizes sediment and provides for unsuitable fish habitat.  A preliminary restoration plan has been drafted. Pre-project data collection under the guidance of the IDFG is in place. A new owner Robert Keith, who like Tom Cole, sees Targhee Creek as a special place. His dedication to preservation, restoration and wild places is complete and refreshing. The Henrys Lake watershed will benefit. The resource will prosper.

In the coming months and years, the Henrys Lake Foundation will embark on one of our most ambitious projects; Restoration of lower Targhee Creek. Under the leadership of Robert Keith and the IDFG, this work will employ cooperative efforts that have been paramount to all habitat work within the Henrys Lake ecosystem. Together progress will be made.

Everyone has their own version of favorite memories. To me witnessing 20” adfluvial Yellowstone cutthroat spawning near the unpassable waterfall miles up Targhee Creek is one of the most treasured. Targhee Creek deserves everything we can give it. Join us for our annual event on June 30, 2023 at Meadow Vue Ranch. The topics of discussion will certainly include Targhee Creek.  

Damon Keen

Vice president

Henrys Lake Foundation   

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