Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

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Located in the Challis, Salmon, Nez Perce, Payette, and Boise National Forests in Idaho and the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is the largest Wilderness area in the lower 48 states. This 2.3 million acre Wilderness contains parts of six national forests; the Challis, Salmon, Nez Perce, Payette, and Boise National Forests in Idaho and the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

The River of No Return Wilderness was created by Congress with the passage of the Central Idaho Wilderness Act on July 23, 1980. Frank Church's name was added to the Wilderness in 1983, one month before his death. Church was the Idaho Senator who was a key figure in the creation of the Wilderness, enactment of the 1964 Wilderness Act and the enactment of the Wild and Scenic Rivers bill in 1968.

Elevations within the Wilderness vary from 2,000 - 10,000 feet. Because of the variations in elevation, trails within the Wilderness can climb and descend thousands of feet in just a few miles making traveling in the Wilderness a challenging experience.

The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness protects some of Idaho's most famous whitewater rivers; the Middle Fork of the Salmon Wild and Scenic River (Trips on the Salmon), and the Salmon Wild and Scenic River, as well as the source of the Selway are contained within the Wilderness boundaries. Because of the popularity of some of the whitewater rafting locations, permits are required to raft on the Main Salmon and the Middle Fork. It is advisable to obtain permits the winter before your intended raft trip from the Middle Fork Ranger District in the Challis National Forest for the Middle Fork and the North Fork Ranger District in the Salmon National Forest for the Main Salmon.

The Wilderness is known for its large population of Mountain Lions. Other wildlife within the Wilderness includes Bighorn sheep, mountain goat, elk, mule and whitetail deer, moose, marten, Fisher, Lynx, Coyote, red fox, wolverine and numerous raptors.

The major tree species found in the Wilderness is Douglas-fir. Other species include ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, western larch, grand fir and alpine larch.

Access to the wilderness is provided by a series of backcountry airstrips and access roads. The availability of airstrips within the Wilderness is quite unique. Air charter services into the Wilderness are available from at Boise, Salmon, Cascade, McCall, Hailey, Challis, and Grangeville. For more information regarding air service into the Wilderness contact the Idaho State Department of Aeronautics in Boise or reference the Idaho Airport Facilities Directory published by the Idaho Department of Transportation.

Feature Article: The Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness - offers great horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and solitary hiking in Idaho's rugged interior.

For further information contact:
West Fork Ranger District - Bitterroot National Forest
Cascade and Lowman Ranger Districts - Boise National Forest
Challis and Middle Fork Ranger District - Challis National Forest
Red river Ranger District - Nez Perce National Forest
Big Creek/McCall Ranger District - Payette National Forest
Cobalt and North Fork Ranger District - Salmon National Forest


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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