Outdoors

No doubt about it, we need to have a Teton River State Park

The Teton River in eastern Idaho is a river sent from heaven.

The stretch in the Teton Basin near Driggs and Victor is a mellow, meandering river that's known for its fly fishing and incredible views of the magnificent Teton Peaks.

It is a canoeing river. Some people even float it in inner tubes.

It's a river where more work has to be done on critical Yellowstone cutthroat habitat.

The trouble is, most of the land along the river is private ranch land, and public access is limited.

So it gets my vote as the site for Idaho's next state park. Hands down. No contest. This is the place.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for a site for a state park in that part of the state.

A committee, created through an executive order by former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, will be considering ideas from residents this summer. Members of the committee also will be visiting potential park sites.

Hey, just go over and fly fish this river and you'll come back convinced that there should be a Teton River State Park.

The eastern Idaho mountain valley, about 40 miles east of Rexburg, is experiencing astronomical growth, according to Friends of the Teton River, a conservation organization. Growth was 24 percent last year and 42 percent the first three months of this year, the group said.

Ranch land is being eyed by developers. The valley is getting spillover growth from the Jackson Hole area.

So instead of condos along the Teton River, why not a state park where the public will get access to the river and the river can be protected?

"I think the timing is perfect," said Mike Lien, restoration director for Friends of the Teton River.

"It's a great family stream," Lien said. "It would be a park for the whole family to enjoy."

It would be a canoeing and drift-boating park, a wildlife-watching park, a river interpretive park and a great place to camp. Cross-country skiing has to be super in the winter.

Lien sees the bonuses for a state park along the river in Teton Valley:

More public access, because right now you have to float between highway access points to fish.

Idaho Fish and Game has public access points along the river, but they are not enough, especially for camping. A campground is needed in the area.

There is virtually no bank fishing for fly anglers because of private land along the river.

The river is mellow enough to be considered a family stream. This is not the canyon section where the Teton Dam famously collapsed.

A state park also would create more opportunities to work with restoring habitat for sensitive Yellowstone cutthroat.

The state park's interpretive center could talk about the importance of eastern Idaho's trout rivers and the importance of the ecosystem for Yellowstone cutts and mountain whitefish. Some of the biggest Yellowstone cutts in the region come from the Teton River.

It could focus on the importance of adequate river levels, preventing siltation, ensuring proper insect hatches and aquatic plant life, and increasing trout populations.

Teton River State Park could be to the Teton River what Harriman State Park is to the Henrys Fork of the Snake River. The interpretive information at Harriman really makes you appreciate the Henrys Fork's richness in wildlife and fish.

The scenery is incredible, with the river, marshlands and huge mountain backdrop, yes, the famed Tetons.

Maybe Idaho Parks and Recreation can get a retiring rancher to donate land for the state park.

Maybe the state agency can work with The Nature Conservancy to buy land along the river before developers get it. Trout Unlimited should get involved.

What an incredible resource. Teton River State Park has a nice ring to it.

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