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The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

People keep asking...."Exactly where were you?"

Our response: The Middle Fork of the Salmon River within 2,366,757 acres of pristine wilderness. For those of you who want to know more, I've copied the following off the internet and added some of my own photos.

"Few places in America, and nowhere outside of Alaska, provide a Wilderness experience to match the sheer magnitude of the Frank Church-River of No Return, the second largest unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System in the Lower 48 (second in size only to California's Death Valley Wilderness). This area combines the old Idaho Primitive Area, the Salmon Breaks Primitive Area, territory on six national forests, and a small swath of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Senator Frank Church played a key role in the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and his name was added to the Wilderness in 1984, shortly before his death.

It is a land of clear rivers, deep canyons, and rugged mountains. Two white-water rivers draw many human visitors: the Main Salmon River, which runs west near the northern boundary; and the Middle Fork of the Salmon, which begins near the southern boundary and runs north for about 104 miles until it joins the Main. Reaching 6,300 feet from the river bottom, the canyon carved by the Main Salmon is deeper than most of the earth's canyons--including the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River--and this fast-moving waterway has been dubbed the River of No Return. In the northeastern corner of the Wilderness, the Selway River flows north into the nearby Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (see below). Trout fishing usually rates from good to excellent, and I've had some of the best fly-fishing trips of my life here. The Middle Fork, the Selway, and a portion of the Main Salmon are Wild and Scenic Rivers. Unlike the sheer walls of the Grand Canyon, these rivers rush below wooded ridges rising steeply toward the sky, beneath eroded bluffs and ragged, solitary crags.

The Salmon River Mountains dominate the interior of the Wilderness. Without a major crest, these mountains splay out in a multitude of minor crests in all directions, and rise gradually to wide summits. East of the Middle Fork, the fabulous Bighorn Crags form a jagged series of summits, at least one topping 10,000 feet. The Bighorns surround 14 strikingly beautiful clearwater lakes. Hiking up from the rivers into the mountains brings sudden elevation changes.

Great forests of Douglas fir and lodgepole pine cover much of the area, with spruce and fir higher up and ponderosa pine at lower altitudes. The forests are broken by grassy meadows and sun-washed, treeless slopes.

A dry country, as little as 15 inches of precipitation falls near the rivers. As much as 50 inches may fall on the mountaintops, but much of it is snow. Despite the dryness, wildlife abounds. As many as 370 species have been identified in a single year, including eight big game animals. A network of 296 maintained trails (approximately 2,616 miles worth) provides access to this seemingly endless area, crossing rivers and streams on 114 bridges. This is a paradise for horsepackers. Thirty-two Forest Service Roads lead to 66 trailheads. Despite the extensive trail system, an amazing 1.5 million acres remains trail-free. Small planes are allowed to land on several primitive airstrips dating back to the days before Wilderness designation."

So here are some of our photos of the Middle Fork. We saw a little of everything in terms of landscape - forest, sandy dry areas, rocky cliffs. Our guide Chris said it would just continue to get better as we got further down the river and how right he was. How I wish these photos could accurately show what we experienced. They do not do the beauty of the river justice. It was hard not to take beautiful photos of the landscape but Julie's were really spectacular (be sure to check the Kodak Gallery album you received).

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(photo by Julie)

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View from Pungo Mine site (photo by Julie)

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campsite 2 (photo by Julie)

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campsite 2

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Dry and sandy (photo by Julie)

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Near the Flying B (photo by Julie)

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Near Tappan (photo by Julie)

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nearing the end (photo by Julie)

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(photo by Heather)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 23, 2007 6:08 PM.

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