For much of the past three years we have fished in the presence of major alteration at one of the more prominent access points on the Henry’s Fork.
Whether floating or wading, the sight and sounds associated with replacement of the ancient bridge at Ora were a constant reminder that change is inevitable in nearly all aspects of existence. Some forms of change can be rather sinister particularly when it involves the potential for massive disruption to the river as was suggested in the construction of the new span and the destruction of the old one it would replace.
Gratefully, most concerns from the fishing community pertaining to public access and disturbance to a vital stretch of spawning habitat for both brown and rainbow trout were satisfactorily addressed, and only minor disruption occurred throughout the project period. This is in distinct contrast to the emergency repair of Ashton Dam a decade or so back.
Roughly a half mile upstream from Ora Bridge, efforts to correct weakness in the dam resulted in a rather grave release of sediment from Ashton Reservoir into the river directly downstream. Though never officially documented, impact from this event was generally perceived as a factor in reduced insect hatches and lower recruitment of rainbow trout for several years subsequent to successful correction of the problem. It cannot be implied, however, that any indifference toward minimizing harm to the river existed in the course of planning and executing that urgent measure. The fact is that the damage could have been much more severe, and the fishery has basically recovered to its former level of productivity.
The Henry’s Fork Foundation deserves recognition for its influence in securing significant consideration for the fishery and its advocates through the two major projects witnessed recently at Ora.
In late January, with the bridge replacement project in its final phase of completion, Bonnie and I visited the site on a bright, cold day to bid farewell to the historic Ora Bridge. From the deck of the longer, wider, and taller replacement, we watched a half dozen anglers fishing in temperatures shy of 20°F while a giant crane lifted great chunks of decayed concrete and steel from the partially dismantled relic from the past. All pursued their sport from a safe distance and two landed respectable trout in the thirty-minutes we were there.
Though comforting in a way, it was a somber moment of contemplation as the reality of Ora without the familiar and historic landmark began to sink in.
From high above the canyon floor, we gazed emotionally across a vast open snowscape toward the mighty Tetons rising stoically on the eastern horizon while knowing that this was a feature of our homeland that will not change in our lifetime.