Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Silver Creek Preserve 101

By Nancy Mendelsohn, Director of Operations

As a Washington State native and recent transplant to the Wood River Valley in Idaho, I never had a chance visit to the beautiful, peaceful and unique Silver Creek Preserve. The preserve was a favorite spot for my dad, once an avid fly fisherman, where he would come with his fishing buddy to do a little catch and release with his hand made flies (made out of my golden retriever’s dog hair and other goodies).

Just a few weeks ago, I moved to Idaho to start my new job with The Nature Conservancy in Hailey, Idaho. Right away, I was offered the opportunity to visit the Silver Creek Preserve. It was my first field trip, my first outing to one of our conservation projects and my first opportunity to show off my canoe skills to anybody who cared, after a 25 year hiatus. I was so ready for this visit! I packed my car full of every possible needed item: food, rain gear, sun gear, cell phone, camera, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, boots and sandals.

The journey begins!

The staff at the on-site office graciously received me. Dayna Gross, Conservation Manager for Silver Creek and Sunny Healey, Silver Creek Preserve Assistant Manager, gave me a quick tour of the office facility, the community garden, the work shed and the bathroom, complete with samples of mayfly larvae and other interesting insect species collected from "insect condos" in the creek. These condos cost about $25 a piece, and are made of a series of cut circles of hard, waterproof material that have uniform spaces between them on a wire hanger. Sunny Healey puts these collection devices in the creek, leaves them for a period of time, goes back to collect them and looks at all the different insects that have built their homes within the condo. The species types, the volume of insects... all provide valuable information on the health of Silver Creek and other variant factors used in scientific studies. 

We met up with Pete, an experienced seasonal volunteer who mans the visitor center at the preserve during a few weeks every summer.  The four of us headed on the gravel road to find two canoes ready for use to paddle down the creek.

Gearing up for a paddle down the creek

I was amazed at the clear waters of this beautiful desert spring creek. I was also surprised to find the depth of the creek to be so shallow... and when I could see the fish darting around the canoe, I just smiled from ear to ear.

Beautifully colored fish, big, small, swimming in and out of the water plants, chasing each other around, fleeing from the paddles, occasionally biting for flies. We paddled in the winds, down the quiet creek, watching for wildlife, seeing ducks, heron, fly fisherman and fisherman in innertubes!  How fun is that?

A view from a canoe with Conservation Manager Dayna Gross
The float trip was wonderful. The staff at Silver Creek have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in areas I can only hope to touch on in my lifetime, and the natural beauty, the sweet smells, the sunshine on my face and the sounds of the cranes and waterfowl made me think I was in Mother Nature’s Disneyland. I soon realized the impact this preserve must have on other visitors and why it is such a perfect place to share with a community of nature lovers and conservationists. 

On a recent visit back to Washington, my dad proudly gave me his fly fishing pole, his prized fishing vest that he made himself, a box of gear including artistically tied flies of red dog hair and his size twelve waders.  I will be dressed for success next time I visit the Silver Creek Preserve, and believe my visit to Silver Creek Preserve, the introductory 101 version, will be the start of a long-term relationship.

The iconic landscape of the Silver Creek Preserve

Photos ©Nancy Mendelsohn/TNC

Monday, September 23, 2013

UPDATE on the restoration of Kilpatrick Pond at Silver Creek

The first phase of the Kilpatrick/Purdy Pond Stream Enhancement Restoration Project will begin this week with dredging at the Purdy Pond. The Nature Conservancy, RR Ranch and Golden Enviro ask that the public respect the “Hard Hat” restrictions in the area and do not enter the construction area. Any questions you may have can be directed to the Nature Conservancy (208) 720-5465 or RR Ranch.

The dredging portion of the project is scheduled to last about 3 to 4 weeks with the construction of a new dam and wetland areas to follow. Strict guidelines and permit requirements will require the contractors, RR Ranch and Nature Conservancy to monitor the area on a regular basis. Phase two of the project is scheduled to begin next year. We will have updates as they are made available.

Learn more about the project and how you can contribute at: the Kilpatrick Pond Project webpage