Buffalo River Gets Facelift

Volunteers stand around barbed wire they removed from the buffalo river

The warm, shallow Buffalo River with its crystal-clear water is a very popular area in Island Park. Every summer, Buffalo River campground gets congested with people, cars, and inner tubes floating down to Pond’s lodge and beyond. But if you’ve ever floated the Buffalo River above the campground, you might remember sections that required careful maneuvering to avoid getting clothes-lined or scratched up by barbed wire.

Fortunately, those days are over. This summer, the Forest Service organized a project to replace portions of the barbed wire fence with “floating gates” made from PVC that boaters can push through.

Last Saturday, property owners and volunteers from Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance and Idaho Master Naturalists got together with the Forest Service to finish the project. They removed over 1500 ft of barbed wire fence from the river. In addition to removing the more dangerous sections of fence, volunteers placed tags marking the top wire of the remaining barbed wire fences to make them more visible and less dangerous to waterfowl.

“We had a gorgeous fall day and the Buffalo River is always a pleasure to be in,” says Caitlyn Wanner, project coordinator of Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance. “I floated the Buffalo this summer after we helped put the gates in. I think they’re a little bit of a learning curve for some people but much better than dodging barbed wire in an inflatable raft.”

Volunteers removed both fence posts and barbed wire from buffalo river

This project has been the dream of Lee Maybe, Forest Service Fisheries Biologist, for many years. This barbed wire fence was built during World War II to separate cattle on either side of the Buffalo River. It has been a hassle to recreationists ever since. With the cooperation of property owners and help from rancher, Blaine Ball, Maybe’s dream has finally happened. He expressed gratitude to all the volunteers and landowners who made it possible.

One volunteer, Tracy River, said of the project, “When I float or fish a river one of the most important things for me is the feeling of being in the wilderness. Old, unused, unnecessary barbed wire fences just erases some of that. After we worked upstream removing all the derelict fencing, it was an incredible feeling looking downstream and seeing a river returned to its natural beauty.”

Next summer, recreationists and wildlife alike will appreciate the greater safety as well as the natural beauty of the upper buffalo river.

Volunteers admire their work after removing barbed wire from the buffalo river