Averill Harriman, then Chairman of the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, returned from Europe in 1935 impressed by the spread of luxurious ski resorts throughout the Austrian, Swiss and French Alps. Anxious to expand markets for his own trains, he set out to build American’s first high-end ski area near an existing UP railhead and hired Count Schaffgotsch, a famed Austrian skier, to scout the ideal location. The Count recommended Sun Valley as the perfect site, but there was a problem – the season was short, running only from December through April. In an effort to create an all year playground, Harriman invited Ernest Hemingway to hunt and fish from his lodge. Hemmingway loved it, wrote about it and encouraged his friends to join him and his son Jack as they hunted and fished along Silver Creek. Harriman’s Introduction of Hemingway to the environs succeeded, firmly establishing the valley’s reputation as a sportsman’s paradise.
In the early 1960’s the property was sold to a developer, and fortunately for fishing enthusiasts, the surrounding area including Silver Creek, was part of the transaction. When the property was again for sale in the mid 1970’s, Jack Hemingway stepped in and helped facilitate the purchase of the land by the Nature Conservancy, permanently insuring its preservation. Silver Creek is an ecological anomaly as it is part of a high-desert, cold spring system formed from underground aquifers and unlike typical freestone rivers, tends to maintain consistent temperature and water levels. These consistent conditions yield rich nutrients and provide model waters for trout to live in and thrive. Browns typically range from 14-16 inches although 17-20 inchers are not uncommon. Rainbows found in backwater sloughs can range from 22-24 inches. The creek is approximately 70% rainbow, 30% brown.
Several smaller feeder creeks with clean, gravel stream bottoms provide the breeding grounds for Silver Creek. Despite the fact that the browns and rainbows found today in Silver Creek are not indigenous, they have flourished and the Creek has not been re-stocked since the 1975. Ironically, native cutthroat trout are no longer present in the Creek, although the river continues to support a variety of other wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, cranes, bald and golden eagles, mule deer, elk, coyotes and a rare mountain lion.