History of Cartier Slough WMA

History

The area around and including the Cartier Slough WMA was a popular wintering area for Shoshone and Bannock Indians. The first written history of the area indicated that a party of trappers led by William Sublette, and including Joe Meek, used the area as a winter headquarters around 1832. In 1835, Osborne Russell spent part of a winter with Bannock Indians on or very near the area. 

Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh settled near the area shortly after the Civil War and lived there until his first family died of smallpox in 1876. He guided the Hayden Party on their exploration of the Tetons from his home near the WMA. 

Sometime prior to 1883, the Carter family homesteaded the area as a cattle ranch. They also cut wild hay and sold it to travelers, freighters and the then-new settlement of Rexburg. Efforts began in 1929-1930 to drain the sloughs, clear brush, and farm more to the surrounding land. 

On June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam, located upstream of the WMA on the Teton River, failed. The Teton River and the Henrys Fork River were changed significantly when sediment carried by the flood water were deposited for many miles downstream of the dam. Cartier Slough WMA and the Henrys Fork River upstream and downstream of the WMA were impacted by this event. 

Cartier Slough WMA was Idaho’s first waterfowl mitigation project. The properties had changed ownership several times before the COE and BOR bought the properties from Arden Hughes and Art Keller to form Cartier Slough WMA for waterfowl mitigation. 

It was purchased in two separate pieces. The COE purchased 400 acres from Hughes in 1976 (Ririe Mitigation), and the BOR purchased 560 acres from Keller in 1977 (Teton Mitigation). Another 68 acres were later purchased for Teton Mitigation. The BOR is now the primary management funding source for Cartier Slough WMA. 

In 1978, a series of construction projects were completed to manipulate water movements on Cartier Slough WMA. A large water control structure was added to the main slough to hold water longer into the fall. An old flood channel off of the river was re-opened to create an approximately 4,100 foot long, 15-20 foot wide channel. Five islands were constructed in this channel high enough to be safe from flooding. A 1,000 foot channel from the river was reopened to provide more water to the main slough. An oxbow island was created by constructing a 400 foot channel from the river. 

Historically, Cartier Slough the Henrys Fork of the Snake River floods Cartier Slough WMA an average of once every three years, inundating most of the area for weeks at a time. 2008 and 2011 were the most recent flood years.