Our History

Fishing on the Teton River has a rich and storied past, that has long been heralded by founding families and settlers.

Journal Entry by Lyle Kunz (February 2001):

“I, with my family, began the first fishing lodge on the [Teton] river (in 1919) [and] almost before we new (sic) it, we began to see tourists from the east coast who knew about the fly fishing and said of the Teton that this is one of the best streams in the country.”
However, “Things on the river…changed radically beginning [at] the start of the [1990’s]. Numbers of fish went way down. Drought conditions did not sustain the springs and spawning creeks went dry.”
Lyle and a handful of others–Randy Berry, Boyd Moulton, Tom Fenger, Bill Kelly, Katie Salsbury–and Lyn Benjamin (founding Executive Director) incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in December of 2000.
“We have named the corporation Friends of the Teton River…we have identified the major problems…and work to be done.”
The rest, as they say, is history.

The Teton Dam collapse changed the course of history

One of the most altering events in the course of the Teton River was the collapse of the Teton Dam, on June 5, 1976–just as it was being filled for the first time. Eleven people perished, entire towns were destroyed, 13,000 head of livestock were killed, and tens of thousands of acres of farmland were stripped of topsoil.The force of the failure destroyed the lower part of the Teton River, washing away riparian zones and reducing the canyon walls. This significantly changed the river’s ecology and the future of recreation in the Canyon itself. What remains is a striking and remote basaltic canyon that few anglers and boaters access each year.

In Memory of our Founding Executive Director, Lyn Benjamin (1956-2013)

Born in London’s Hampstead, Lyn Benjamin fell in love with the rivers and wilderness of Idaho during a trip to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. While working as a hydrology graduate student and technical advisor to the Henry’s Fork Watershed Council, Lyn became aware of deepening community concerns about the Teton River. Drawing upon relationships she had built in the Teton Basin during her graduate studies, Lyn brought together a diverse group of farmers, river guides, research scientists, agency representatives, conservationists, and Teton Valley citizens who worked together to identify an ambitious research and restoration agenda for the Teton Watershed.

“Lyn was a real firebrand. We need more, not less, of her type.”

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia, Inc.

Want to know More?

For more history of the Teton River, see Newsletter Issue Summer 2012. (can we link to it?)

Patagonia “Cleanest Line” Blog: What Does the Future Hold for the Teton Watershed?

Bureau of Reclamation: Teton Dam History 

Teton Flood Museum Website (located in Rexburg, ID)