Spring has arrived in Idaho and the excitement of river season is beginning to build. 2018 marks a special year for the wild rivers we enjoy as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The National Wild and Scenic River System was put in place by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The act works not only to preserve these rivers in their free-flowing state, but also to promote recreational values and enjoyment of these special and remarkable places across the United States.
Idaho has a lot of river miles within its boundaries, somewhere around 107,651 miles to try and put a number on it. Of those 100,000 plus miles of rivers just under 1,000 of these miles are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Several of the original eight rivers designated Wild and Scenic lie within the states’ boundary: the Middle Fork Salmon, Selway, Lochsa and Clearwater to name a few. The Middle Fork Salmon and Selway are often referred to as the crown jewels of the Wild and Scenic River System.
Since the 1968 act was put in place several additional rivers have received the Wild and Scenic designation in the state of Idaho. In 1980 the Main Salmon River, also known as the River of No Return was added to the Idaho list. Some of the most recent additions were in 2009, when many rivers in the Owyhee Canyonlands were placed under this protection. The Jarbidge, West Fork Bruneau, Bruneau, East Fork, South Fork and North Fork of Owyhee, Battle Creek, Deep Creek, Dickshooter Creek and Big and Little Jacks Creek are all in the Owyhees and are now protected under this designation. We are very fortunate to be based in a state with many world-class rivers in our backyard, and even better that we get to share these rivers and special places with everyone else. Public lands are owned by everyone, it’s an honor to help provide the public access to these wild rivers.
Montana has two Wild and Scenic River designations, the Flathead and the Missouri. The Flathead designation includes the Middle Fork from its origins in the Great Bear Wilderness to the confluence with South Fork near Hungry Horse, the South Fork from its origin in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to where it flows into Hungry Horse Reservoir, and the North Fork from the Canadian border until it joins the Middle Fork. These rivers in the Flathead system were designated Wild and Scenic in 1976, eight years after the act was signed into law. They highlight some of the characteristics the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is based on, including free-flowing, remote, pristine wilderness landscapes and remote accessibility. There have not been any further Wild and Scenic designations in the state of Montana, since 1976, but there are several proposed designations right now, many of them are in the South Fork drainage. Find out more on these proposed designations on Montanas For Healthy Rivers.
The South Fork has no road or backcountry airstrip access and is only accessible by trail. After a 25 mile hike or horseback ride into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, you reach the South Fork proper. Floating from here to the Meadow Creek Gorge, you enjoy crystal clear pristine Montana waters, loaded with native trout! The Middle Fork does have the option to fly into Schafer Meadows, but once you arrive in the heart of the Great Bear Wilderness, besides a few Forest Service guard stations, it’s a pristine alpine landscape that rivals any wilderness experience you will find in the United States.
Over the course of 2018, take a day, maybe a week or hopefully even more time to explore some of the Wild and Scenic Rivers around the country. Visit these places and enjoy the free-flowing natural waterways, appreciate the fish and wildlife habitat, and the amazing recreational values for us and future generations. We have highlighted a few of our favorite Wild and Scenic Rivers where we are lucky enough to spend our summers in Idaho and Montana, but there are many rivers around the country to enjoy. Visit www.rivers.gov for more information about Wild and Scenic Rivers near you and start planning your 50th-anniversary celebratory visit to one of these amazing river systems!
In an effort to help protect our Wild and Scenic Rivers, from now until the end of April, we will donate 5% of sales on the selected trips to American Rivers. American Rivers is a very active conservation organization with a focus on wild rivers. They are currently spearheading a #5000 Miles of Wild campaign, find out more about this project at www.5000miles.com.
Selected Wild and Scenic river trips in 2018 with 5% donated to American Rivers.
Jarbidge Bruneau May 12th – 17th (depending on the snowpack runoff)
June 16th – 21st Middle Fork Salmon
Middle Fork Flathead June 24th – 28th
Middle Fork Flathead July 8th – 12th
Main Salmon August 17th – 22nd