Big Wood River

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

It’s Mid-May, I’m at the Boise airport, hopping in a Cessna with pilot Don Reiman and Kevin Lewis, the director of Idaho Rivers United. We’re going to “fly the flood,” to see what the swollen rivers and reservoirs look like from the air, especially along the Boise and Big Wood rivers.

There has been months of flooding on Idaho rivers, with a reservoir system that’s been straining at capacity, as the deep winter snowpack has slowly melted off. Now, in the second half of June, the floodwaters are receding.

Don sketches out the flight path.

Catherine Chanel / Flickr

As floodwaters in the Wood River Valley recede, residents and officials are getting their first look at damage caused by a season of high water.

For six weeks the Big Wood River has inundated parts of Hailey. With summer just days away, the high spring flows are finally ebbing. As the river recedes, damage to homes, roads and electrical equipment that was underwater is finally coming into view.

Mookie Forcella / Flickr

With flooding affecting much of southern Idaho this spring, the National Weather Service revised its predictions on just how high the Big Wood River will rise.

Last week, the Weather Service projected the Big Wood reaching a peak of 7.88 ft. on Friday. While it didn’t get that high – the river topped out at 7.57 feet that day – meteorologists expect the river to approach the record of 7.93 ft. Tuesday.

Blaine County Sheriff / Facebook

Officials in Blaine County are telling residents water levels in the Big Wood River will rise again.  

Cooler temperatures and a momentary reprieve from flooding in the Wood River Valley are being called “the eye of the hurricane.” Speaking to a group at the Community Campus, Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn invoked the imagery while reminding people there's still plenty of snow yet to melt in the mountains.

Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

Wood River Valley residents continued to battle floodwaters over the weekend. Officials distributed sandbags as worried residents moved to fortify their homes throughout Blaine County. 

The Big Wood River continued to rush along at flood-level stages. The river hit a peak level on Friday night, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began reinforcing the Broadford levee in Bellevue. On Saturday, Governor Butch Otter arrived in Hailey to meet with local officials.

Each day, librarian Randy Kemp has seen Warm Springs Creek rise and rise by his Ketchum home.

Twitter / U.S. Geological Survey Idaho

Despite last year's prediction that El Nino would bring warmer and drier weather to Idaho, the mountain snowpack is filling up reservoirs and swelling rivers around the state. The U.S. Geological Survey in Idaho (USGS) is keeping track of the latter, measuring rivers in different regions of the Gem State. 

In the Treasure Valley, water managers released more water from Lucky Peak Dam last week. As a result, the Boise River jumped to 5,770 cubic feet per second (cfs) Tuesday morning.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A newly published study looks closely at one of the most beloved rivers in Idaho. The Big Wood River runs through the heart of Blaine County. The waterway is used for recreation and it helps fuel the county’s agricultural producers.