Lower Salmon River near Cottonwood. Photo: USFS/CreativeCommons.

(The following is an excerpt of the US Forest Service Regional Intermountain News dated September 5, 2018.)

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed on Oct. 2, 1968, to preserve selected rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Of the approximately 3.6 million miles of streams in the U.S., less than one quarter of one percent – 12,734 miles – are protected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

The Forest Service is involved in managing nearly 5,000 of those wild and scenic rivers miles. Many of the wild and scenic rivers under Forest Service management offer an incredible spectrum of recreational opportunities that range from fly fishing to whitewater boating to places where the public can simply cool off and sit in quiet. These rivers are not managed to prohibit their use and enjoyment by people, but to protect them from overuse, instream developments, and other detrimental effects.

Rivers or sections of rivers that are designated as ‘Wild,’ ‘Scenic,’ or ‘Recreational’ are protected through voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users, and through regulation and programs of federal, state, local or tribal governments. A singular river can have more than one designation.

Wild Rivers are rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America. The majority of the Salmon River – which weaves through the Salmon-Challis National Forest- is designated as wild.

Scenic Rivers are rivers or sections that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is penetrated by the Snake River Headwaters, which is classified as wild, scenic, and recreational.

Recreational Rivers are rivers or sections that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past. For example, Fishlake National Forest’s Virgin River is wild, scenic, and recreational.

In 1968 the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed by Congress to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

There are approximately 3.6 million miles of rivers in the United States. Of these, 12,734 miles are protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Idaho has approximately 107,651 total miles of river, of which 891 miles are designated as wild and scenic. More than 220 miles are designated on the Salmon-Challis National Forest and include the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the segment of the Salmon River from the mouth of the North Fork of the Salmon River downstream to Long Tom Bar.

As the Act nears a half century of protecting some of our greatest rivers, join us in celebrating its accomplishments, while working for its future. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is hosting the Teton Plain Air painters, in cooperation with the Grand Teton Association to commemorate the Wild & Scenic Act 50th Anniversary between October 2nd and 7th. The painters will paint Wild & Scenic Rivers and streams found on the 3.4 million-acre Bridger-Teton National Forest. The art will be on display at the Forest administrative office at 340 N. Cache Street in Jackson, WY on October 3. There will be a community open house and educational event on October 4-7 at the Forest office with a chance to view the paintings, see the work of local fiber artists and share their connection to the Wild & Scenic Rivers that flow through their public lands.

For more information on the act and events near you, please visit Wild & Scenic Rivers.

About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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