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River Education

The Wood River Land Trust strives to educate the general public about how they can keep fish healthy while enjoying the unparalleled beauty of fishing the Big Wood and its tributaries. From being mindful while fishing in a drought, to learning how to recognize a Redd (or spawning bed), we know that education is the first step in working as a community to keep our fishery healthy.


Have you wondered why we need restoration on the Big Wood River?  Have you wondered what the different techniques are for restoring the river, and reconnecting tributaries?  This YouTube Video gives a comprehensive look at historic practices on the Big Wood River, what effects they've had, and how we can bring back as much natural fluvial processes to the river as possible today.

Watch It Here: 

Understanding Why We Need Restoration at the Howard Preserve

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One of the biggest issues through the Howard Preserve is that the Big Wood River functions best when the main flow can split into multiple channels.  But, right now, the river is all in one main channel through the Preserve.  Having all of the water in the river in one channel makes it hard for fish to find refuge and habitat when the water is moving fast or when the water starts to warm up in the summer.  This project is going to open up a side channel - bringing a portion of the river flow through this other area.  This new, smaller channel will provide lots and lots of different kinds of habitats, and will provide a critical place for baby fishes to grow into the large fish that can compete in the main river.  

In order to open up this channel, we need to lower this section of the bank, which brings us to the second problem with this section: the banks are too high!  These steep, tall banks are a result of the high river velocities as it has been chanelized through the diversion dam.  When you constrict the river, it goes faster, and when that faster water hits the banks of the river, it creates these deep and steep banks.  Eventually, the erosion of these banks makes the river so much lower than the floodplain disconnected from that floodplain.  This is called incision.  That means that the river is completely disconnected from the habitats that fish and wildlife depend on.


So, we’re going to remove about 4,000 cubic yards of fill to lower this side channel and connect it to the main river channel.


After we implement some of these restoration changes, we’re going to put woody piles into the side channel to start to build that habitat that young fish need.  These woody structures are full of nooks, crannies, and slow shady pools that will be a perfect home for young fish!

Understanding River Restoration Elements: What is a Boulder Cluster Formation?

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Here we are at the installation of the boulder cluster formations.  These bolder cluster formations are replacing rock drop structures that were traditionally placed on the big wood river in the ninties.  The purpose of the rock drop structures historically was to help slow down the river and reduce erosion.  


The problem with rock drop structures is that they hold sediment behind them, and that sediment will pile up behind the structure creating a high point.  The river then becomes laterally unstable and wants to move left and right, creating more erosion.  Downstream the rock drop structures do provide small pool habitat, but the steep drop also encourages erosion to occur.  


So these bolder cluster formations place the boulders strategically across the channel at a longer length.  This  provides more diverse habitats and also allows for sediment transport to occur naturally. 


The excavator used has a GPS in the bucket.  It’s placing the boulders and rocks at a very precise depth.  The depth that it’s placing these rocks is at the hundred-year scour depth which is estimated to be about five feet.  Some rocks are placed about five and a half feet under the riverbed as anchor rocks and then the  bolder cluster formations are built on top.

Understanding River Restoration Elements: What is an Apex Jam Structure?

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Today we’re watching the installation of the apex jam structure.  This structure, made of rock on the bottom and large woody debris on the top will ensure that the channel configuration that we are designing will remain stable.


While we would like to restore as much natural river function as possible to the river, we also acknowledge that there are lots of reasons that the river can’t actually do whatever it wants. We have towns, homes, roads, and businesses that are in the historic floodplain, and we need to balance restoring natural river function with keeping the communities of the Wood River Valley safe and above water.

This apex jam structure will ensure that the majority of the flow of the river stays in the main channel, and that only a portion of the flows use the newly opened side channel.  Because it is built out of large woody debris, it will provide diverse habitats for fish and wildlife, and the structure itself will continue to grow and strengthen as it catches additional logs floating down the river during high water.



Fishing is suspended from April 1 through Memorial Day weekend to allow for spawning fish. Walking the banks of the river to see if you can catch the fish spawning is a favorite past time here at the Wood River Land Trust! This video can help you identify a Redd and understand the fish dynamics in and around the Redd.

Setting Up For Opening Weekend With Susanne Connor

Opening weekend is an exciting time here in the Wood River Valley, so we sat down to chat with Susanne Connor of Lost River Outfitter to answer all of your questions! She talks about everything from where to access the river, how to know when and where you can keep the fish you catch, and (of course) how to rig your rod for success. Have a great opening weekend on the Big Wood!



During the summer of 2020, we saw low water levels and high valley temperatures - a hard combination for fish to thrive through. In this video, we give you tips and tricks to keeping fish healthy while fishing during a drought and heat wave.

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