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Q&A with Ed & Carmen Northen: Uniting for the Big Wood River's Future

This interview is part of our Valley Voices series, celebrating the folks that make up our community. amplifying the importance of the Big Wood River.

Ed and Carmen Northen and their dog Maddie.

As the founding board members of the Trout Unlimited Hemingway Chapter—Ed and Carmen Northen have been steady voices for the valley for over two decades. Both former Trout Unlimited Hemingway presidents, the Northens genuinely embody what it means to be responsible stewards. So we caught up with them.

Thanks for taking the time to connect with Project Big Wood today. As long-time locals, we're curious to hear what you see as the main issues facing The Big Wood River today.

First is the need for habitat improvements for its diverse ecosystem, and second is a better and more thoughtful water management practice. It's crucial for maintaining the river's health and ensuring a balanced water supply for various needs throughout the valley. There's also a development issue—the rapid development in sensitive areas has threatened the river's natural balance. And, of course, the one we're all familiar with and can't ignore is climate change. This has profoundly impacted the river's flow, temperature, and overall health.

Those are some serious challenges. Can you describe some of the work you've done over the years and continue to do to address those issues?

Through Trout Unlimited and other collaborations, we've organized and engaged in projects like river cleanups, habitat maintenance, river restoration, fish passages, fish sampling, and advocating for regulation changes to ensure the well-being of the river's ecosystem.

We've also been part of the climate change workgroup, focusing on local solutions and collaborating with national leadership to address water issues. We're also engaged with the Water Collaborative, a local group, helping to manage water distribution during drought situations, working to ensure a fair allocation of resources.

You both have such a profound bond with the river and its surrounding ecosystem. If you had any advice for someone starting their journey into conservation, what would it be?

First and foremost, anyone's journey should begin with understanding ethics and interacting with and respecting ecosystems and the people who use them. Simple but effective actions like implementing "Leave No Trace" principles during your outings and not overcrowding fishing accesses or something as simple as cleaning up after your dog have small but profound impacts.

Next comes understanding how to take care of the river and become more attuned. I (Carmen) enjoy taking a journal to the river to observe and write down what I'm noticing. I'm always on the lookout for the sacred moments. Look for the "sacred moments". These will help guide your understanding of the ecosystem as a whole. For us, when we take time to slow down and observe nature around us, we learn its intricacies, and it comes with a gentle reminder to never take the resource for granted.

Thank you Carmen and Ed! Learn more about the extraordinary efforts of our friends at TU Hemingway and how to support them:


About Ed Northen: Ed is passionate about fly fishing and sharing his knowledge of fishing and river ecosystems. He is one of the founding board members and past Chapter President of Hemingway Chapter Trout Unlimited. He also enjoys x-country skiing, trail running, backpacking to high mountain lakes, and exploring new waters with his wife Carmen in their 1984 VW Vanagon camper. He is a published poet and retired from his career with the Orange County Fire Department as a Fire Captain and Paramedic after 34 years. He lives in Hailey, Idaho, where the Big Wood River is a four-minute walk from their home.

About Carmen Northen: As a retired professional photographer and fishing guide, Carmen started fly fishing in 1994. Her enthusiasm led her in 2000 to guide school in Montana and an 11-year run as a guide at Silver Creek Outfitters. Carmen helped restart the Trout Unlimited Hemingway Chapter and served as President for three years. She has also served as TU State Council Chair and National Leadership Council member representing Idaho to TU National. Carmen enjoys working in the conservation community because of the quality of the people she meets. Both she and Ed volunteer at Galena Lodge every Saturday during the winter as ski patrol along with their pup Madison.

About Valley Voices:

As we embark on restoring and protecting The Big Wood River, we invite you to join us in celebrating the voices that make up our community, amplifying the importance of the Big Wood River, and cultivating a shared commitment to its preservation. Together, we have the power to ensure that future generations will continue to find inspiration, joy, and a connection to nature along its banks.

Have a story of your own to share with us? Shoot us a message at

Read our mission statement here: Discover Project Big Wood



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