Wild & Scenic Rivers - Rocky Mountains



Cache la Poudre River
Arapaho National Forest
Roosevelt National Forest
Originating in Rocky Mountain National Park, the river is characterized by pools, cascades, and waterfalls flowing from above teeline into a dense spruce-fir forest through excellent backpacking country.
Total Miles: 76, Wild: 30, Recreational: 46

Clearwater River, Middle Fork
Bitterroot National Forest
Clearwater National Forest
Nez Perce National Forest
Part of the exploration route of Lewis and Clark, most of this river lies in northern Idaho's Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. It includes the Lochsa and Selway Rivers, which are premier whitewater floating
Total Miles: 185; Wild: 54, Recreational: 131

Rapid River
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area,
Route 1, Box 270A, Enterprise, OR 97828
This river's whitewater harbors an important salmon hatchery.
Total Miles: 26.8; Wild: 26.8

Salmon River, Middle Fork, Idaho
Challis National Forest
Churning through central Idaho's wilderness, this river remains as primitive as it was during the explorations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Total Miles: 104; Wild: 103, Recreational: 1

Salmon River, Idaho
Salmon National Forest
This is the famous "River of No Return" that flows through a wilderness in central Idaho bearing the same name. The river is noted for its whitewater.
Total Miles: 125; Wild: 79, Recreational: 46

Saint Joe River
Idaho Panhandle National Forests
This central Idaho river offers outstanding scenery, good fishing, and plenty of wildlife.
Total Miles: 66.3 Wild: 26.6 Recreational: 39.7

Snake River
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area,
Route 1, Box 270A, Enterprise, OR 97828
Traversing Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge on the North American continent, the Snake is famed for whitewater boating and fishing. The river offers spectacular scenery, rich cultural resources, and unique plant and wildlife species.
Total Miles: 66.9, Wild: 32.5, Scenic 34.4


Flathead River
Flathead National Forest
Glacier National Park
This designation includes the North Fork, Middle Fork, and South Fork above Hungry Horse Reservoir. The river is the boundary with Glacier National Park and flows through the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness areas.
Total Miles: 219, Wild: 97.9, Scenic: 40.7, Recreational: 80.4

Missouri River
Bureau of Land Management, Lewistown District,
P.O. Box 1160, Lewistown, MT 59457-1160
A spectacular Montana valley with striking rock formations and diverse flora and fauna, this river corridor also includes numerous historical and archeological sites, as well as the Missouri Breaks wilderness region.
Total Miles: 149, Wild: 64, Scenic: 26, Recreational: 59


Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone
Shoshone National Forest
Named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Clarks Fork flows through a deep canyon. Its tumultuous waterfalls, whitewater cascades, deep pools, and rugged corridor lands are its unique characteristics.
Total Miles: 20.5 Wild: 20.5

Definitions of the terms; "Wild, Scenic, and Recreational."

Contrary to what you might think, these terms don't describe the character of the river. Wild doesn't mean it's a wicked and foamy stretch of whitewater, and scenic doesn't mean it's a pastoral float. Rather, it's all about accessibility. Here's what the government says. . . Wild; this river is accessible only by trail, is undeveloped and generally is unpolluted.
Scenic; this river can be accessed by some roads but is mainly still a trail access river.
Recreational; this river has been developed along the shoreline and is easily accessible by roads, trails not necessary.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »