History and Legends

A Watershed and Its People: History and Legends

Reflections in honor of HFF's 35th Anniversary


"Remembering Bill Manlove"

Read the article written by Jack Thomas in the Spring 1994 Henry's Fork Foundation Newsletter here.




From Adversaries to Allies...The Early HFF

Death threats over catch and release, near fist fights on the river bank, dewatering Mesa Falls? All part of our early and adversarial history. 

Jamie Laatsch of HFF asked me, as one of the HFF founders, to answer some questions about the early years of HFF. Here's my best attempt to relate our encounters, successes and failures. Rather than answering her specific questions, I'll try to relate our first decade, it was a wild one! 

We met in Jim and Joan Lansche's cabin in Pinehaven in 1984. Bill Manlove incorporated the organization and we were off, unfortunately we lost Bill too early. We were upset about the degradation of the river bank by unrestricted cattle grazing. HFF was born that evening, and already we were in a fight to change nearly a century of cattle grazing history in the Railroad Ranch, now Harriman State Park. The riparian habitat was destroyed which affected siltation, spawning, and overwintering of juvenile fish. Changing the attitude of cattle grazing permittees was not easy, or fun. The Harriman State Park personnel and the Idaho State Parks and Rec Department were initially reluctant to allow fencing. The cattlemen were understandably unwilling to restrict their cattle from water; how would the cattle survive? Fortunately, two scientists and innovators, Dr Bill Platts and Ed Chaney, had extensive research and experience in stream restoration. After many long negotiations and long hours of work, we were allowed to install one of the largest solar powered riparian projects known from Box Canyon to Pinehaven -- the ENTIRE world famous flat water section of the Henry's Fork. Water gaps and off site water allowed the cattle to drink. Slowly the sedge grasses recovered and deepened the entire riverbank. It took several years of nasty meetings, negotiation and sweat, but in the end we had our first, and very visible success. 

Then came the hydro developers. In the 80's extensive financial and tax benefits came to individuals who constructed hydroelectric plants. Suddenly there were seven or so hydroelectric proposals from Riverside to Warm River and some would have dewatered Mesa Falls by diversion! Think of that.....no don't! 

One of our HFF members, Nick Ifft, was well acquainted with the Idaho Senior US Senator James McClure and informed the Senator of our dilemma. A week later Senator McClure and his wife Louise flew to the Henry's Fork and spent the weekend. Mike Lawson floated them through some of the controversial water, and I took the McClures on a tour of Last Chance and the Ranch. We explained the lack of facilities for fishermen/tourists. A week later Senator McClure attached to a federal bill legislation which prevented ANY FURTHER hydroelectric development on the Henry's Fork from Island Park to Ashton AND $ 750,000 to build the Last Chance Fisherman's Access site and facilities. Another home run! 

The Island Park Dam hydroelectric facility was exempted from Senator McClure's legislation, but Ralph Moon, Mike Lawson and I met many times at FERC meetings in order to make sure the project was safe for the river. Fortunately, FERC instituted regulations of water quality which must be met to operate the hydroelectric plant. Just last season, the dissolved oxygen parameters were not met, and flows had to be changed to save the fishery. Hurray! 


Part 2:  Kill fish...or..."catch and release"?

In the early 80's there was a noticeable decline in Ranch fish numbers. We had little clue about causes, but the beginnings of the mantra that "a fish is too valuable to be caught just once" was becoming popular. Then, the current regulations were a "slot limit" allowing harvest of three fish under 12" and one over 20". With increased fishing pressure and improved angler skills, it just didn't make any sense to kill any fish in this renown river. Again, fortunately we had allies, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The IDFG Commission Chairman Lou Racine, our friend and champion promoted the catch and release regulations for the Henry's Fork. The new catch and release regulations were enacted after an ugly and vocal struggle. The opponents argued for a fish harvest: " How can I have fish for a meal ", " My children/grandchildren can't fish anymore ", " We've always done it his way ". I sincerely hope now that people understand the necessity of careful fish handling and release, especially with the immense angling pressure currently. 

The HFF members soon realized that we knew far too little about the basic ecology of the river. Research was the obvious answer. Professor Jack Griffiths of Idaho State University soon was able to fill that void in our cause. Jack and his grad student researchers spent nearly a decade focused on the biology of the Henry's Fork Watershed. They studied habitat, flow regimes, radio telemetry tracking of adult and juveniles, vegetation, and invertebrates. Much of the early research serves as a base for current HFF research work. One of the most important and dramatic findings was that juvenile trout survival depends on adequate winter flows, and when those flows are too low, the young trout can't find habitat and do not survive. One of the ongoing goals of HFF will be to ensure adequate flow in the depth of winter. 

Reorganize HFF...or quit?

For the first decade of HFF's existence, it was run much like a military organization ......identify an objective and assign a task force to deal with it. That's the way Colonel Manlove organized the group. We had a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer (we had very little money). Members with a capital "M" were recruited with various areas of expertise to take on objectives. By the early 1990s we had accomplished a lot, but realized that if the organization was to survive, we needed professional help. Dr. Jim Lansche and wife Joan again came to the rescue and championed reorganization, with hiring an Executive Director, major fundraising, and a Governing Board.  Fortunately, our first Executive Director Jan Brown provided just the expertise and leadership that was needed. Jan and the new Board are responsible for many accomplishments, far too numerous to list. By far the biggest accomplishment though was to turn the organization from an adversarial one to one working with, not against allies. The Watershed Council was and is an amazing concept and has born great fruit. It brought together all the necessary groups and individuals in the watershed to carry out meaningful and constructive work with the common goal being the welfare of the river and its people. My hearty congratulations, that initial work has laid the foundation for the immensely successful organization we know as HFF. 


by Mick Mickelson, M.D., President of the Foundation from 1985 - 1992


Dr. Mickelson is one of the founders of the Henry's Fork Foundation and the organization was run out of his office in the early days. Above are his reflections of the beginnings of HFF written in 2018.


Join us for 35th Anniversary celebrations and events throughout the year!

History of the Henry's Fork Foundation

by Mick Mickelson, M.D., President of the Foundation 1985 - 1992


In the beginning there were gasses and solids, water, rain, volcanoes, finally trees, a river, fish (cutthroats), Native Americans, settlers, ranchers, loggers, recreationists, and finally—Bill Manlove. Bill, the Henry's Fork Foundation founder, according to the stories he told me, first visited the Henry's Fork in the 1960s after having read about it in an outdoors article. He was an avid fly fisherman and cared a great deal about the environment. His professional background was illustrious: a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a decorated flier in World War II, and afterwards a career with the U.S. Air Force designing guidance systems, and finally, teaching at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He retired after a short involvement with private research, and then built his home on the Henry's Fork with his lovely wife Rita. While living on the river in North Pinehaven he became concerned about the rapid degradation of the stream by cattle. This insult to his beloved river was the battle cry that resulted in the organization of the Henry's Fork Foundation.

Founding of the Henry's Fork Foundation

One evening in 1983 while meeting at a cabin belonging to Jim and Joan Lansche, Bill and Rita Manlove, Jack and Cookie Thomas, Jim and Joan Lansche, Jimmy Gabettas, Jack Griffith and Mick Mickelson decided that an organization was needed to protect the river. Several of us had been involved with, or were aware of, a successful environmental fight to stop a large dam project at Eagle Rock on the Snake River below American Falls. It seemed indeed that finally Goliath could be fought successfully. Bill incorporated the Foundation as a nonprofit organization in the State of Idaho in 1984 and began a membership drive.

The initial organization was structured far differently than it is now. Bill knew from his dealings with the military bureaucracy that the best way to get something done was to have "a few good people," each with an area of expertise, in a loose knit organizational structure. At that time our bylaws provided for a decision-making Board of Members of approximately fifteen individuals, all with various connections and areas of expertise. Our constituency was small and the democratic process somewhat abridged, which resulted in criticism that we did not represent the entire community of all concerned. Our philosophy, which worked for that stage of development, was that we needed to establish credibility as an organization with a core of hard working proven individuals.

The First Battle 1984

The worst cattle damage to the river's riparian system occurred on Har­riman East. The Foundation, through Bill's efforts, launched a barrage of media information. The Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands responded favorably. We were able to work with their outstanding executive director Sharon Hubler, and board chair Hope Kading to arrive at positive solutions for a devastating environmental problem. Two of the best men that I have had the pleasure of dealing with helped us reach this positive solution for Harriman East. Bill Platts a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist, and Ed Chaney, a true friend of many rivers and a welt-decorated champion of many environmental wars, helped us design a fencing system. Herb Pollard and Steve Elle of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game were instrumental in helping organize the first solar fencing project.

After many backbreaking hours we constructed nearly seven miles of solar electric fence to protect the bank of the river while still allowing for optimal grazing in this area. Now, eight years later, the riparian zone has shown dramatic improvement.

Growth of the Foundation 1986-1992

The organization continued to grow with increasing members and political clout. Unfortunately, in the early years Bill Manlove succumbed to a lingering illness, but he left us with a solid pedestal from which to work, and left all of us a legacy of principles, leadership, and courage. The river was threatened by numerous hydroelectric projects from Island Park to Ashton. We were successful in getting Senator James McClure and his gracious wife Louise to help us with major federal legislation to protect the Henry's Fork from any further hydroelectric dam development. This legislation will probably be recognized as the most significant action to save this fabulous stretch of river. Can you imagine a turbine on Mesa Falls? Senator McClure was also able, through senate appropriations, to finance the fishermen's access site at Last Chance after a visit to that area.

Dr. Mickelson is an orthopedic surgeon in Pocatello. Above are excerpts from his historical account as written in 1994.

Legends of the Henry's Fork

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.

Bing Lempke (1917-1991)
Ernest Schwiebert (1930-2005)
Charles Brooks (1921-1986)
Andre Puyans (1935-2005)
Gary LaFontaine (1946-2002)

History of the Henry's Fork Watershed - North Fork

While famous for its legendary trout, the Henry’s Fork has a rich history that flows much wider and deeper than its river. The North Fork (aka Henry’s Fork) is steeped in a western history. That history includes events as diverse as battles between US government troops and Chief Joseph's Nez Perce tribe to early 20th century cattle ranching by wealthy railroad barons and industrialist like Guggenheim and Harriman.

Some of the most enduring history, however, is of the people that have called the Henry’s Fork watershed home. This includes the Shoshone tribes who hunted, fished and traveled this area to early Mormon pioneers who carved out a living from the soil by building the expansive irrigation systems still in use today. Understanding this history creates a greater appreciation and commitment to preserve the river and its environment for the fish, wildlife, plants, and people that for generations yet to come will have the privilege of calling the North Fork home.

For more on the History of the River click here.