PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was a major achievement for conservation. It represented part of the ongoing shift in the public interest to preserve wild places, in this case a system of free-flowing rivers set aside for their wild, scenic, or recreational values. So get out there and get to know a Wild and Scenic River this year. After all, these spectacular stretches of river—more than 200 in 40 different states—were protected for all of us to enjoy. Here are a few of our favorites in the West…

TUOLUMNE RIVER, CA

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1984 | Total protected miles: 83

From its source in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, the Tuolumne River flows through the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and into California’s famous Gold Country. Photo: James Kaiser

MERCED RIVER, CA

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1987, 1992 | Total protected miles: 122.5

Flowing from Yosemite National Park, the Merced River begins its course at the foot of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls and flows unimpeded to the man-made reservoir of Lake McClure. Photo: Justin Bailie

KLAMATH RIVER, CA

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1981 | Total protected miles: 286

Historically one of California’s most important salmon runs, the Klamath River is still home to a diverse ecosystem of bird and wildlife. Photo: Josh Miller Photography

OWYHEE RIVER, OR

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1984 | Total protected miles: 120

The Owyhee River is named after three Hawaiian trappers who lost their lives while exploring the region in 1819. “Owyhee” was the standard period spelling of “Hawaii.” Photo: Jillian Lukiwski

ROGUE RIVER, OR

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1968, 1988 | Total protected miles: 124

The Rogue River is one of the original eight rivers named in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 and is home to numerous species of wildlife including deer, otter and black bear. Photo: Justin Bailie

ILLINOIS RIVER, OR

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1984 | Total protected miles: 50.4

An un-dammed tributary of the Rogue River, the Illinois River is home to a millenium-old Chinook salmon run and some very challenging Class IV-V rapids. Photo: Zach Collier

WHITE SALMON RIVER, WA

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1986, 2005 | Total protected miles: 27.7

On October 26, 2011, the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River was intentionally breached as part of the dam’s decommissioning. The breach allowed the river to flow unimpeded for the first time in nearly a century. Photo: Zach Collier

MAIN SALMON RIVER, ID

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1980 | Total protected miles: 125

The Salmon River lies at the heart of the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church Wilderness and it’s one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Lower 48. The abundant wildlife along its banks have provided a food source for Native Americans for thousands of years. Photo: James Kaiser

MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON RIVER, ID

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild & Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1968 | Total protected miles: 104

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is home to the sweep boat—a unique craft that dates back to the 1870’s. The sweep uses two huge oars fore and aft to guide (rather than row) the raft downstream. Photo: Justin Bailie

SNAKE RIVER THROUGH HELLS CANYON, ID & OR

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1975 | Total protected miles: 67.5

Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America at 7,993 feet. At the heart of the canyon and on the bank of the river, McGaffee Cabin stands as a reminder of the early efforts to settle the area. Photo: Justin Bailie

FLATHEAD RIVER, MT

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 1976 | Total protected miles: 219

The North Fork of the Flathead River was deemed the “wildest river in the continental United States” by The New York Times in 2004. Photo: NPS/Tim Rains

HEADWATERS OF THE SNAKE RIVER, WY

PHOTOS: 12 Must-See Wild and Scenic Rivers of the West

Designated in 2009 | Total protected miles: 412.2

The 16 rivers and creeks that make up the Headwaters of the Snake River comprise one of the last intact functioning temperate ecosystems on Earth and are among the most pristine in the nation. Photo: Greg Von Doersten

In 2018, as America celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, OARS has joined forces with American Rivers, REI, YETI, NRS and American Whitewater, as well as a number of other outdoor industry brands and conservation organizations, to collect 5,000 stories from across the country to help tell a bigger story—why rivers matter. Learn more and share your story at: 5000miles.org.

 

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