Green River - Segment No. 1


Upper Green



The entire Green River, and especially the segment upstream from Warren Bridge is one of the most spectacular and productive river fisheries in the state so filing an instream flow water right to maintain this fishery was considered in the public interest. Field studies were conducted to identify the amount of flow needed to protect habitat for all life stages of rainbow trout in this segment of the Green River. Rainbow trout spawn in the spring and juvenile trout of all species (any trout less than about 6 inches long) are present in the river throughout the year so appropriate flows were recommended to maintain habitat for these life stages and species during the critical spring runoff period. The flows recommended from July 1 through September were based on studies that showed that amount of water was needed to maintain habitat for trout growth. Flow recommendations were also provided for the winter period to maintain survival of trout and other fish species during that time of year. This kind of seasonally dynamic flow recommendation is typical of flow needs for most streams in the state. Channel maintenance and flushing flows that maintain long-term habitat by cleaning riffles and scouring deep pools were not filed for but are needed. The state engineer has ruled that the state’s instream flow law does not allow flows for these habitat needs.
The Green River instream flow segment is one of the most heavily used sections of the Green from its headwaters all the way to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Thousands of anglers visit the stream every year in pursuit of world-class fishing and scenery. Brown trout far outnumber any other trout species in that area though rainbow trout can be found on occasion. Cutthroat and brook trout are also present but in extremely low numbers. According to the most recent department surveys on this part of the Green, the average brown was around 10.5 inches long, but anglers commonly catch trout in excess of 22 inches. Mountain whitefish can also be found throughout the instream flow segment, along with native mottled sculpins, speckled dace, and mountain suckers. Just upstream from the instream flow segment, the department installed numerous man-made logjams that are magnets for lunker brown trout and complement the great fishing within the instream flow reach. Historically, the department stocked this part of the river heavily with rainbow trout but that practice has been greatly reduced. Today the department only stocks about 12,500 rainbows per year. The response of the wild trout fishery has been phenomenal and seems to justify the change in management strategy here. Area 4 flowing water fishery regulations apply here. For those anglers who wish to harvest trout, that means there’s a limit of three trout per day or in possession, only one can be over 16 inches long and only one may be a cutthroat trout.
Passes through a mix of BLM and WGFD lands upstream from Warren Bridge.
Drive about 11 miles west from Pinedale on highway 191 to the junction with highway 189 near Daniel. Then continue on another 10 miles or so north towards Jackson until the road crosses the Green River. Immediately on the north side of the river, take the good gravel road (BLM Rd 5201) to the right. This road parallels the river for several miles and there are numerous places you drive or hike down to test the fishing. Though many of the two-track roads down to the river are passable by a passenger car (when the weather’s good), you may find a high clearance vehicle a good choice in some places. The instream flow segment is entirely on public land so no permission is needed.
On December 23, 1969, Wyoming Outdoor Coordinating Council founder Tom Bell, in partnership with six other inspired citizens, the Isaac Walton League and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation submitted the very first instream flow water right application. Of all the great rivers in Wyoming, they chose a section of the upper Green River near Pinedale for this important distinction. The people and groups who submitted this application quite certainly knew their action would create a stir and considerable debate, but they may have had little idea of the ripples their bold step would have in the state even today, some 40 years hence. State Engineer Floyd Bishop had the responsibility of acting on the Green River flow recommendations and on March 13, 1971 he issued his determination that Wyoming water law at the time did not allow him the legal authority to issue the water right. His denial was based on four key points including that 1) instream flow water rights would be of such value to the state that they should be held by all the people of Wyoming as vested in the state and not a handful of individuals, 2) that there was no evidence contained in the application to support the amount of water requested, 3) that there was no diversion or storage proposed (e.g. there was no way to show the water had been controlled by the applicants), and 4) it would be impossible to know if the water right were ever abandoned, which was another key characteristic of water rights at the time. Mr. Bishop suggested that the applicants seek resolution of these issues in the legislature, which they ultimately did. The League of Women’s Voters embraced the concept of instream flows in a Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers seminar in 1972 that led to the formation of a Stream Preservation Feasibility Committee that included Mr. Bishop. Their final report was issued in 1974 and contained model instream flow legislation that was first acted on, and failed, in 1975, as did every other attempt at instream flow legislation until 1986. Finally, with legal authority in hand the Game and Fish Department filed another instream flow water right on the upper Green on January 10, 1989 on behalf of all the people of Wyoming. The result of that filing was every bit as important as the first filing but considerably less dramatic.