Why it is a Conservation Priority
The Big Wood River is one of the most central features of the Wood River Valley. The river and its floodplain contain habitat for fish and wildlife species, provide recreational opportunities, and support agricultural and residential uses.Unfortunately, the river has been unnaturally straightened and has lost approximately1.7 miles in length since 1943*. In2006, Wood River Land Trust began working with the City of Ketchum, the Bureau of Land Management,and the community on a restoration and recreation plan for an altered section of the Big Wood River north of Ketchum on public lands. The river was most recently altered during a highway realignment project in the early 1990s, and several sediment traps were created to capture migrating sediment and bed load. One sediment trap has become a multi-use recreational amenity for the community and is commonly referred to as “Hulen Meadows Pond.”
Sediment has accumulated in the inflow channel to Hulen Meadows Pond. This prevents the delivery of fresh, oxygenated water into the pond and forces migrating sediment and bed load downstream, intensifying flooding events in developed areas. Flooding often necessitates emergency stream bank hardening, which can lead to river straightening and shortening. Several drop structures were originally created to help control water velocity and allow the river to more naturally meander. These have not been maintained and are failing.
What To Do And See:
This project is in development. However, the Hulen Meadows site is a popular location for dog walking, birding, and fishing.
Visiting Hulen Meadows Floodplain Management Project:
The Hulen Meadows site can be accessed from Sage Rd. north of Ketchum.
Restoration & Education Goals:
In 2008, the Land Trust and the City began an application with the BLM for a patent that would allow the City, in partnership with the Land Trust, to manage and maintain approximately 315 acres of land, including Hulen Meadows Pond. The City and the Land Trust plan to restore Hulen Meadows Pond in a way that accommodates recreational users and the community. A task force that includes multiple stakeholders and community members has been assembled to guide restoration efforts.
A Master Plan has been conceptually designed by engineers and whitewater park designers,and it continues to develop from recommendations of the task force and the public. Restoration would include opening the inflow channel to Hulen Meadows Pond, allowing the river to meander and deposit sediment. Drop structures will also be enhanced to decrease water velocity and add river length, creating fish habitat and recreational whitewater features. The Master Plan and resulting restoration aims to create a community-based solution that enhances floodplain function and fish and wildlife habitat, alleviates downstream flooding severity, and incorporates recreational elements for local residents and visitors now and for future generations.
*As shown in a 2004 Wood River Land Trust analysis of the Big Wood River from the Warm Springs confluence in Ketchum to Glendale Road, south of Bellevue.
Hulen Meadows Floodplain Management Project Media Links:
Read this City of Ketchum project description >>>