Stretching across six(!) National Forests, is the incomparable Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. At 2.367 million acres, “the Frank” is the second largest protected wilderness area in the contiguous United States, just behind Death Valley. Established in 1980 as the River of No Return Wilderness, it was renamed after Senator Frank Church, who played a key lead role in passing 1964’s landmark Wilderness Act.
Coursing through this picturesque land is the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, named the River of No Return by pioneers due to its high speed and one-way only travel. Today the Salmon is one of the most popular areas for experiencing a whitewater thrill, with runs of both the middle fork and main fork barreling down deep canyons with gorgeous scenery. The river is fast as it drops steeply through towering canyons 1000’ deeper than the Grand Canyon.
High above lies the remote and jagged Bighorn Crags, a rugged collection of granite peaks and alpine lakes offering spectacular vistas for which it is widely known. Recreation opportunities abound here, with incredible fishing for native salmon and steelhead trout, miles upon miles of hiking, and a photographer’s dream of sweeping views surrounded by rugged peaks in this undeveloped forest.
Indeed, the area does see high traffic (for Idaho standards anyways) and our service project, set for August 15 - 22, is assisting wilderness rangers on the North Fork Ranger District with needed trail maintenance on the Mirror Lake Trail. This will include building a turnpike through a bog, creating and installing log waterbars, and retreading a section of trail. We’ll start with a 9. 5 mile scenic backpack via Birdbill Lake to a picturesque base camp at Mirror Lake. The Forest Service will provide pack animals to carry our group food, commissary and tools. Free day activities might include day hiking to Ship Island Lake, Big Clear Lake basin or other remote lakes or peaks, picking and eating in season huckleberry, fishing, swimming or just relaxing beside alpine lakes & streams.
Feel free to check out pictures from previous years of WV projects over on the gallery to see some examples of this incredible area. Click here to learn more and signup for the Bighorn Crags, FCRONR Wilderness service project, August 15 - 22!