Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

Posted by Hughes Group Blog Team on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 at 3:42pm.

 

In 1980, congress used its power to designate an area of more than two million acres at the center of Idaho as a wilderness area, an area of land protected by the government from too much human impact. This is the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, though it was not always called that. Its name was changed in 1984 to honor and remember cancer stricken United States senator Frank Church, a man who was instrumental in making the creation of wilderness areas possible. In the mainland United States, the Frank Church Wilderness is the largest wilderness area that runs continuously. There are wilderness areas with more acreage, but not many, and they are cut up into multiple areas where the space in-between is not protected by the same laws. Death Valley is just over three million acres, and is one of the split up areas. The only place you can find larger wilderness areas that are still connected is Alaska.

A wilderness area is usually somewhere so important to the nation and state’s history and identity, that it is deemed too important to allow regular human development. If people and business were to come in and start using the land for too much sightseeing or personal gain, the area would be ruined, and something vital to the planet would be lost. A wilderness area like the Frank Church Wilderness is not completely off limits. You can still visit as long as you follow the rules and regulations set out by the area’s governing body.

The Frank Church Wilderness is no exception. It has about every natural feature you might expect to find in a vast and untamed wilderness, and is stunningly wild and beautiful. Its primary feature is the Salmon River, originally known as the River of No Return (You can see where the area got its name), and is bordered by snow capped mountains, and one of the deepest canyon gorges in all of North America, not just the United States. The Grand Canyon, so famous for its depth and breadth, is not so deep as Salmon River Canyon. In the past, the Frank Church Wilderness was lived in by many of the different Native American tribes that inhabited Idaho. For them, it was not so much a wilderness as a home, and while modern American influence might utterly destroy the Frank Church Wilderness, Native American influence was careful to cultivate the land, and preserve it while still taking resources from it for survival.

All kinds of wildlife can be found in the Frank Church Wilderness. It has the ideal range of habitats to accommodate everything from bighorn sheep to grizzly bears, though grizzly bears do not currently live in the area in sizeable areas. It can support them, but they do not currently use it. Some of these animals can be hunted, but you must absolutely do so only with the consent of the area’s governing bodies, the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service. Most animals require that you have a tag to hunt them, and these tags are only given out in limited numbers. If you hunt without one of these tags, or over-hunt with one of these tags, not only are you risking government action for breaking the law, but you are damaging a very fragile ecosystem that is not prepared to be touched by too many human hands.

The rules for visiting the Frank Church Wilderness basically come down to leaving behind as small of an impact as possible. The number of people you bring in with you is limited, the maximum group size being twenty people. Still, it is recommended that you limit groups to ten, and only go over when necessary. Usually, most wilderness areas prohibit motorized or mechanical vehicles, meaning you cannot even take a bike on the trails, but the Frank Church Wilderness has a few exceptions, mostly for water activities. You can boat the Salmon River, and you can even use jet boats, but only on the Salmon River. Any other river or sufficiently large creek is off limits. For the few that this may apply to, there are a handful of airfields in the Frank Church Wilderness that are open for business. They usually facilitate government actors in the area, allowing wilderness staff to get to hard reach areas or pull lost campers out of the fire.

In 1980, congress used its power to designate an area of more than two million acres at the center of Idaho as a wilderness area, an area of land protected by the government from too much human impact. This is the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, though it was not always called that. Its name was changed in 1984 to honor and remember cancer-stricken United States Senator Frank Church, a man who was instrumental in making the creation of wilderness areas possible. In the mainland United States, the Frank Church Wilderness is the largest wilderness area that runs continuously. There are wilderness areas with more acreage, but not many, and they are cut up into multiple areas where the space in-between is not protected by the same laws. Death Valley is just over three million acres, and is one of the split up areas. The only place you can find larger wilderness areas that are still connected is Alaska.

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