After spending many years searching for the perfect Western ranch, David Pratt set his eyes on Three Forks Ranch.
Looking for a cattle ranch with mountains, river and solitude, his alluring dream began to take shape in this Sierra Madre paradise.
He found all the pieces to the puzzle — and one significant challenge. More than a century of misguided agriculture had turned the headwaters of the Little Snake River into a wide, shallow, muddy torrent. So, upon purchasing three Forks ranch, he embarked on an incredible endeavor — to execute the most extensive, privately financed river restoration project in the history of America.
Upon final purchase of the ranch in 1999, conservation agreements were negotiated with Wyoming, Colorado and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the native Colorado River Cutthroat trout. Army Corp of Engineer permits were secured, water rights were adjusted and 22,000 boulders were gathered in preparation for this historic undertaking. Actual construction began May 15, 2000, with 25 pieces of heavy equipment narrowing and deepening the entire 16 miles of the Little Snake River and its tributaries that lie within the boundaries of Three Forks Ranch.
Stretches of the river were realigned to optimum sinuosity, preventing future erosion. The entire river was deepened and narrowed to a third of its original width. Two thousand structures were placed in the river diverting the velocity of the water away from the banks to the center of the stream. Bank erosion was halted and sediment transport enhanced by this design. Thousands of willows were transplanted on river bends to further stabilize the banks and provide shade to cool the water. Miles of unused historic parallel channels were reopened and water diverted to them, further enhancing the fishery.
Dotted with small oxbow lakes, this spring-creek-like environment provides a habitat for huge rainbow trout. The headwaters of the Little Snake River are protected from the raging spring floods. Cool, oxygen-enriched water falls over each of the stabilizing rock structures. Deep pools provide excellent habitats for Rainbow, Brook and Colorado Cutthroat trout. Insect hatches returned, blackening the sky and providing food for the hungry trout. David Pratt did the heavy lifting. Mother Nature put on the finishing touches. The Little Snake River was back.