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New River Monitoring System Coming to the Big Wood
Saturday, May 27, 2023




“High water on the Big Wood.” That’s what experienced angler Amanda Bauman has predicted for today’s Opening Day of the local fishing season.  And, after such a snowy winter, many forecast challenging river conditions for weeks afterwards.

When will it be safe to wade, or swim?  A new tool could help read the situation soon.  This June and July the new non-profit Project Big Wood plans to install two sondes water monitoring systems in the Big Wood River--one north of Ketchum and the other south. 

The tubular device measures about a foot long, runs on batteries and is made of plastic and titanium to withstand water.  Sensors will collect information and cellular technology relays the data.

A graph will then be posted on PBW’s website so people can go to and see the river’s flow in cubic feet per second, along with the water’s temperature, quality, turbidity, dissolved oxygen levels and algae build up.

Bauman is PBW’s executive director.  She says Henry’s Fork Foundation has put 20 or so of the monitors on the Snake and Henry’s Fork rivers. 

“It’s a tool to aid in science and make informed decisions in conservation,” she said, noting the monitors cost $25,000 apiece.

PBW’s two are being paid for in part by donations generated from ticket sales at the recent 17th Annual Fly Fishing Film Tour in Sun Valley.

Kenny Van Zant of Santa Barbara founded PBW in January and serves on the five-person board.  Bauman calls the board members all passionate river users and describes Van Zant as an avid fisherman with a background in tech, who has had a home for a long time in the Wood River Valley.

She said privately funded seed money will keep the organization running for at least three years.

The group’s website states the mission “is to protect and restore the Big Wood River as a world-class trout stream by activating local pride.”

Bauman also works as a fishing guide for Silver Creek Outfitters and has seen firsthand what PBW’s website claims: “In recent years the native trout population has seen a decline in size and numbers – a bellwether of the health of the river.”

Bauman attributes the decreases to a lack of habitat.

PBW wants to increase public awareness of how factors such as overuse and development are negatively impacting one of the area’s biggest assets.

Bauman says PBW intends to update the 2020 Big Wood River Atlas, which can be found online at

A lidar study was done of the river’s 137-mile course from the Sawtooth Mountains to the Magic Reservoir.  In the past few years, changes have occurred due to natural erosion and human activity, such as riprap being removed and construction. But the atlas provides a striking educational and visual overview of the valley.

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