Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 16: Building a Collaborative Process for Restoration: Henrys Fork of Idaho and Wyoming

R. W. Van Kirk and C. B. Griffin

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch16

Despite its scenic vistas, abundant recreational opportunities, and adjacency to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the Henrys Fork watershed (Figure 16.1) is best known for rainbow trout fishing and seed potatoes. A billboard on Highway 20 south of the farm town of Ashton, Idaho, welcomes visitors to “the world’s largest seed potato producing area.” Twenty-five miles to the north, fly-fishing-related businesses, a complete collection of insect-specific fly patterns, and an entire lifestyle have been built around the mystique of fishing for rainbow trout on the flat water of the Henrys Fork.

Rainbow trout and seed potatoes have much in common. Both are nonnatives brought to the Henrys Fork watershed a century ago by Euro-American settlers. The rainbow trout were originally imported for commercial fish farming operations and so, like the potatoes, were a food product. Rainbow trout displaced Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the only trout native to the watershed. The potato tuber provided food for Euro-American people, who displaced the native Shoshone, who, in turn, had eaten the tuber of the native camas plant. Rainbow trout and seed potatoes both thrive in the watershed because of its cool climate and abundant spring water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built storage reservoirs for farmers; the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) stocked rainbow trout for anglers.