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History of the Henry's Fork Watershed


The Henry's Fork watershed in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming encompasses 1.7 million acres and over 3,000 miles of rivers, streams and canals. High mountain streams and warm natural springs form the headwaters of the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, which flows through deep canyons as it descends to the agricultural land of the upper Snake River Valley. This rich watershed supports healthy populations of fish and wildlife, as well as high-quality recreational experiences.

The native inhabitants of the Henry’s Fork Watershed were various branches of the Shoshone people. Largely nomadic, they spent the winter in the lower elevations of the Snake River Plain and traveled to the higher elevations seasonally to hunt, fish, gather roots and berries, and obtain obsidian from sources in and around what is now Yellowstone National Park.

Andrew Henry, for whom the Henry’s Fork and Henrys Lake are named, and a group of Missouri Fur Company trappers arrived in the area in 1810 during an exploration of the West – five years after Lewis and Clark. They constructed several buildings, and established the first American fur post west of the continental divide. Unfortunately, in 1811, after a harsh winter, the group disbanded and abandoned Fort Henry permanently.

To learn more about the history of the watershed, visit the Henry’s Fork Country Interpretive Center in the HFF Community Campus – 801 Main Street, Ashton, ID.

History of the Henry's Fork Foundation         


In 1984, a small group of concerned citizens gathered around a kitchen table in Island Park to discuss the future of the Henry’s Fork. The group was primarily concerned with a proposal to construct hydroelectric facilities on and near Mesa Falls, but soon expanded their scope to include riparian fencing projects in the Ranch and improvements to an access site we now know as “the parking lot”.


One of the Foundation’s most significant turning points came in the early 1990s with the creation of the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council. The effort to build partnerships and better understand the irrigators, water managers, and agencies who make decisions that impact this river every day, built the foundation on which we now stand. The Henry’s Fork Foundation does not have water rights or management authority over Henry’s Fork water or fisheries, but what we do have is a reputation for bringing the best possible data to the table and a desire to find common ground for the benefit of these fisheries.

Read more:

“History of the Henry’s Fork Foundation” by Mick Mickelson (1994)

“Remembering Bill Manlove” by Jack Thomas (1994)

“Reflection:  HFF’s 35th Anniversary” by Mick Mickelson (2018)




Some of the greatest fly fisherman to ever apply their craft have looked to the Henry’s Fork waters to test their skills. What has set a few apart is their ability to kindle the imagination of fishermen everywhere. Through their literature, storytelling and in all cases their whole-hearted meld with the beauty and fascination of the place we call the Henry’s Fork, they have contributed to its preservation and legend. Click each legend for more information.

Bing Lempke (1917-1991)

Ernest Schwiebert (1930-2005)

Charles Brooks (1921-1986)

Andre Puyans (1935-2005)

Gary LaFontaine (1946-2002)

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