Places We Protect

Silver Creek Preserve

Idaho

Silver Creek meanders through fields with mountains in the distance.
Silver Creek Preserve The creek under a cloudy sky. © Steve Dondero

A unique spring creek with abundant wildlife, Silver Creek is one of the most spectacular natural places in the world.

Overview

Description

Notice:

Due to current low flows, hot water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels caused by exteme heat and drought in the Wood River Valley, TNC is closing access to fishing at Silver Creek Preserve effective 9pm on July 2, 2021 until conditions improve. At this time, boating and floating is also strongly discouraged due to extremely low water levels. Hiking, bird-watching and other land activities remain open.

The Visitor Center is currently under construction and will reopen in the Spring of 2022. For your safety and the protection of habitat, please follow posted signs and do not enter areas that have been marked off. For more information, please review these frequently asked questions before your visit.

All visitors must sign-in electronically prior to entering the Preserve.

 


 

Silver Creek Preserve

Gliding across the water, settled into the seat of a canoe, it’s not hard to understand why years of work and collaboration have been dedicated to protecting Silver Creek—it is a magical place.

In no small part, the wonder of Silver Creek’s story comes from the people who came together to make it a reality. It started in 1976 when the local community urged The Nature Conservancy to purchase 479-acres then called the Sun Valley Ranch and create its flagship preserve, Silver Creek. This launched a landowner conservation effort along the stream to protect an additional 12,000-acres through conservation easements, making this one of the most successful stream conservation efforts ever undertaken for public benefit and a model for community-based conservation.

Over the last forty years TNC Idaho has expanded the Preserve to 881-acres and restored this high-desert spring creek to a thriving ecosystem for an abundance of wildlife including eagles, coyotes, bobcats, and moose. As many as 150 species of birds have been identified along the nature trail and its globally unique aquatic ecosystem features one of the highest densities of stream insects in North America.

TNC Idaho and our partners are working together to expand restoration efforts across the Silver Creek Watershed and its native fishery. We are developing science-based restoration projects in the system to restore stream function, enhance aquatic habitats and expand riparian buffers. Projects include improvements to channel conditions, hydrologic functions, fish habitat complexity, riparian buffers and floodplain connectivity.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Please note: dogs are not allowed on the preserve

Hours

Sunrise to sunset year-round,

Fishing open Memorial Day to November 30th,

Visitor Center temporarily closed

Highlights

Hiking, Birding, Fishing (summer), Photography, Canoeing, Snowshoeing (winter)

Explore our work in Idaho

Silver Creek Enhancement Plan

Designed with the community in mind, the Silver Creek Enhancement Plan benefits both people and nature.

Responding to a convergence of threats and opportunities, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho has created the Silver Creek Enhancement Plan, a 5-year project launched in 2020 to enhance the visitor experience, broaden community opportunities and restore the Creek’s unique ecosystem.

Renovation of the Visitor Center and infrastructure, new educational and outreach programming and innovative, science-driven restoration will ensure Silver Creek Preserve remains a place where visitors can experience first-hand the benefits of natural resource conservation and protection.

Construction begins mid-April 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2022. The Visitor Center will be closed during construction. For more information, please review these frequently asked questions before your visit.

The Enhancement Plan has three main elements: 

  • Visitor Experience
  • Education & Outreach
  • Resource Conservation and Restoration
Silver Creek Welcome Silver Creek Preserve Visitor Center © Tim Tower

Visitor Experience

TNC seeks to provide a positive experience at Silver Creek Preserve where the visitor can experience first-hand the benefits of natural resource conservation and protection. Investing in improvements to facilities at Silver Creek will ensure the Preserve remains a beloved community resource and an inspiration for community-based conservation.

Infrastructure enhancements across the preserve include:

TNC seeks to provide a positive experience at Silver Creek Preserve where the visitor can experience first-hand the benefits of natural resource conservation and protection. Investing in improvements to facilities at Silver Creek will ensure the Preserve remains a beloved community resource and an inspiration for community-based conservation.

Infrastructure enhancements across the preserve include:

  • Redesign the Visitor Center to serve as a meeting space for educational activities and community events.
  • Improve existing trails and boardwalks for safer access.
  • Add fishing access structures (steps, ramps etc.) to provide safe ingress/egress locations for anglers while also protecting riparian and streambank resources.

The Nature Conservancy has secured approval from Blaine County for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and a Site Alteration Permit to renovate the recreational facility known commonly as the Silver Creek Visitor Center. This will add a 1,422 square foot classroom suitable for approximately 25 students and other community educational events.

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Proposed Improvements to Silver Creek Visitor Center 

Artists rendering of building on sage covered hillside
Building set on side of sage covered hill
Before and After Visitor Center Improvements Artistic rendering shows proposed visitor center improvements and addition © Photos and rendering courtesy of Rebecca F. Bundy, architect, and Nathan Schutte, NS Consulting, landscape architect
Bioblitz A girl takes a photograph of a species of plant to upload to iNaturalist. © Devan King/TNC

Education and Outreach

Core to TNC’s vision for the future of Silver Creek is the idea that it could become a place of exploration and learning for all ages. Through both formal educational opportunities and volunteer opportunities for service to nature, we seek to develop the emotional and social values that lead to deep personal commitments to conservation.

By concentrating efforts to expand outreach and educational programs, TNC can be a catalyst for empowering youth and community members to drive science-based solutions for challenges such as climate change, air and water pollution, environmental degradation, human health and quality of life.

Core to TNC’s vision for the future of Silver Creek is the idea that it could become a place of exploration and learning for all ages. Through both formal educational opportunities and volunteer opportunities for service to nature, we seek to develop the emotional and social values that lead to deep personal commitments to conservation.

By concentrating efforts to expand outreach and educational programs, TNC can be a catalyst for empowering youth and community members to drive science-based solutions for challenges such as climate change, air and water pollution, environmental degradation, human health and quality of life.

  • Provide on-site educational activities, such as aquatic monitoring and pollinator studies, related to environmental issues and outdoor STEM curriculum.
  • Establish programs for youth to achieve collective impact through summer internships, strategic partnerships with youth-serving organizations and school classrooms.
  • Provide transformational volunteer experiences that will inspire people to care about nature while increasing capacity on the Preserve.
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Silver Creek Preserve Silver Creek is a world-class trout fishery © Steve Dondero

Resource Conservation and Restoration

The Silver Creek Watershed is a model for sustained rural conservation and community-engaged science and restoration. The collaborative work that TNC and our partners are engaged in will help sustain and improve this diverse and resilient high desert cold springs aquatic ecosystem and its wild trout fishery.

Over the next five years, we will lead a collaborative effort to enhance and restore the Silver Creek aquatic ecosystem through targeted actions that restore stream function, secure water supplies, enhance aquatic habitats and expand riparian buffers.

The Silver Creek Watershed is a model for sustained rural conservation and community-engaged science and restoration. The collaborative work that TNC and our partners are engaged in will help sustain and improve this diverse and resilient high desert cold springs aquatic ecosystem and its wild trout fishery.

Over the next five years, we will lead a collaborative effort to enhance and restore the Silver Creek aquatic ecosystem through targeted actions that restore stream function, secure water supplies, enhance aquatic habitats and expand riparian buffers.

This effort will include:

  • Keep more water in Silver Creek and tributaries through the implementation of first of their kind water market mechanisms and irrigation infrastructure efficiency projects.
  • Improve channel conditions, hydrologic functions, fish habitat complexity, riparian buffers and floodplain connectivity on Silver Creek and its tributaries.
  • Promote agricultural practices that reduce topsoil loss, erosion and sediment conveyance into waterways through alternative/regenerative farming partnerships.
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Building on four decades of conservation history at Silver Creek, TNC is enhancing the Preserve and creating a place where the public can experience first-hand the benefits of in-tact natural areas—to learn from it, be inspired by it, and enjoy it. We invite you to partner with us to build a brighter future for conservation in Idaho.

Silver Creek Watershed

The water that flows into Silver Creek Preserve may originate in a series of springs, but the path it takes before it reaches Silver Creek is a complicated one. The Nature Conservancy in Idaho recognizes that in order to keep Silver Creek’s aquatic ecosystem healthy, we must consider the health of the entire watershed.

That's why TNC Idaho collaborates with partners, landowners and individuals to find lasting solutions to our conservation challenges throughout the landscape. Working together, we can achieve a bright future for this special waterway—a creek like none other in the world.

So far, twenty-two landowners have donated nearly 10,000 acres in conservation easements, protecting nearly the entire main stem from development.

The health of the Silver Creek watershed and its aquatic ecosystem are dependent on water quantity and quality. Changes in water availability and water-use practices in the Wood River system have impacted the Big Wood River and its aquifer, which, as the primary water source for Silver Creek, has affected stream flows and increased water temperatures. In addition, land use practices have affected the integrity and effectiveness of riparian buffer zones, sediment loads, and water quality in Silver Creek and its tributaries.

A paradigm shift in water management was needed. To catalyze this, TNC Idaho helped form the Wood River Water Collaborative (WRWC), to develop proactive solutions to resolve water conflicts and improve water use in the Wood River watershed. From its creation there has been an effort to include all interested stakeholders in the WRWC. The Collaborative has agreed to three overarching goals which include:

In the Field

In partnership with the Silver Creek Alliance, we completed a geomorphic assessment of the entire Silver Creek Watershed. The report synthesizes and builds upon all the aquatic and riparian studies completed for Silver Creek and its tributaries to-date. It also identifies high priority needs and opportunities for restoration to benefit Silver Creek’s wild trout fishery. With a wholistic approach to understanding ecological issues and strategies for restoration throughout the system, TNC Idaho and our partners are developing science-based restoration projects. These projects will restore stream function, enhance aquatic habitats and expand riparian buffers. This work includes:

  • Restoring stream channel and floodplain complexity.
  • Increasing stream habitat connectivity and improving fish passage.
  • Protecting water quality and maintaining cooler water temperatures year-round on tributary streams through riparian plantings and increased streambank cover.
  • Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, Silver Creek Alliance and the State of Idaho on water quality, streamflow, insect and fish surveys.
  • Continuing restoration and monitoring of the water and wildlife of Silver Creek Preserve.

 

Notice:

Due to current low flows, hot water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels caused by exteme heat and drought in the Wood River Valley, TNC is closing access to fishing at Silver Creek Preserve effective 9pm on July 2, 2021 until conditions improve. At this time, boating and floating is also strongly discouraged due to extremely low water levels. Hiking, bird-watching and other land activities remain open.

The Visitor Center is currently under construction and will reopen in the Spring of 2022. For your safety and the protection of habitat, please follow posted signs and do not enter areas that have been marked off. For more information, please review these frequently asked questions before your visit.


 

Maybe it will be a trophy trout that draws you to Silver Creek; always feeding, but never interested in your fly. Maybe you'll come to hear the cry of the sandhill cranes as they return in the spring or the flocks of waterfowl whistling overhead on their fall migration. Or perhaps you'll make the trip to see that legendary, glorious light: A light that seems designed by a photographer, or an artist, with its rich pastel of purples, reds, yellows and blues.

Whatever the reason, we know your heart will be captured by this special place in Idaho's high desert.

Each year, the Preserve draws visitors from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries. The fly fishing is legendary, of course, but the Preserve offers many other outdoor activities.

Special Preserve Notes

  • All visitors must sign-in electronically prior to entering the Preserve.
  • Use caution and never approach, feed or disturb wildlife.
  • Combat the spread of invasive species by washing and drying floating and wading gear before and after entering the Preserve.
  • Waterfowl hunting during season permitted on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visit our Hunting and Fishing page for more information. 
  • Trash and Recycling. Visitors are asked to pack out what is brought in. This includes fishing line and food scraps. There is no public trash or recycling at the Visitor Center.

Facilities: The Visitor Center is currently closed for construction. Restroom facilities are open and available.

Parking is not available at the Visitor Center due to construction traffic and safety closures. Elsewhere on the Preserve, parallel parking along the north side of the road is allowed (with the exception of Kilpatrick Bridge and Stalker Bridge trailheads, where parking on both sides of the road is allowed).

AUDIO TOUR INFORMATION

A free audio tour of Silver Creek Preserve, narrated by Mariel Hemingway, is available. Whether you are a first-time visitor or have been to the Preserve many times, you will learn something new about this unique place!

From mayflies to Ernest Hemingway, this tour includes stories and fun facts about one of our favorite places. No wireless or cellular service is needed to take the tour.

Before You Visit

  • Download the free TravelStorys app to your smartphone or tablet.
  • Open the app on your device and search for Silver Creek Preserve.
  • Download this tour to your device.

At the Preserve

  • Enable your device’s GPS/location function.
  • Open the app on your device.
  • No need to click play – the audio will automatically play at selected points along the route. Be sure to pause to let each story play fully.

Your Chance to Give Back

We are working in the Silver Creek Watershed to fully restore the unique aquatic ecosystem, safeguard the creek’s water supply, sustain its wild trout fishery and provide refuge for an abundance of wildlife. You can help us realize this vision.