There have always been debates over which rocky mountain state is more beautiful. The fact is they are all beautiful. I love Montana, my wife spent some of her childhood there, and I have taken my kids. It is gorgeous. What makes Idaho unique among all the Rockies, and the country for that matter is that it not only rivals them all in beauty, but it stands alone in sheer vastness of the wilderness areas, roadless areas, and isolated places that are found throughout the state. There is no debate when it comes to Idaho having the last true wilderness areas left in the Lower 48. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area is 2.3 Million acres of some of the most brutal, and beautiful wilderness this country has to offer, and it is separated only by one dirt track from the Selway-Bitterrooot wilderness to the north. If you add in the Gospel hump wilderness just north of the salmon river, and the Sawtooth Wilderness just to the south, and the newly formed Boulder-White Cloud wilderness to the southeast, nearly six million acres of wilderness boggle the mind. There are animals in the Frank Church and Selway that have never even seen a human. These wilderness areas in Idaho hold some of the last strong holds for species such as the Wolverine, Mountain Caribou (Selkirks, North Idaho) and Wolves. We can talk about the wolves in another blog as that is a passionate subject here in this state. Lets just say we are losing some of the largest elk herds this country have ever seen here in Idaho. The Clearwater/Lolo Elk herd that used to number close to 20,000 has been picked apart by the wolves, and is having a hard time breaching 3000 animals today. But again, wolves are for another blog. There are still places inside these wilderness areas where the footprint of man has never tread. It's crazy to think that in this country these places still exist, and there are no visitors centers, no hotels, or viewing platforms. It is wilderness in its raw form. The way it is supposed to be. In the frank, the salmon still make one of the worlds longest, and the worlds highest migrations to spawn in the small streams and rivers that abound in this steep country. The "Frank" is unique because much of it is made up of the Idaho Batholith, a huge granite plume that came to the surface and cooled and eroded away, forming the granite spires of the Sawtooth Mountians, and the Bighorn crags. It is one of the largest Batholiths in the country, about the same size as the batholith that makes up the Sierra Nevada"s, where I spent much of my childhood. I could go on and on about the "Frank", but I will let the Mule deer, White tail, Elk, Sheep, Goats, Bears, Mountain lions, Wolverines, and Wolves along with all the other animals that call this steep country home speak. We are losing ground here to climate change. Invasive species, fires, and dramatic temperature swings are changing the landscape in ways we may never recover from. I just hope that this great wilderness is still here for my grand children to enjoy. But it will take a ton of work.
Not only does Idaho have these vast Wilderness areas, it also boasts more river miles than any other state, and much of the west's water originates in this great state. These Rivers, the Snake, Salmon, Clearwater, Lochsa, Selway, Owyhee, and Payette carve some impressive canyons through this state. Hells canyon forms the border between Idaho and Oregon, and is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Just on the other side of the Seven Devils Mountains, which by the way are extremely remote and rugged as well, is the Salmon River Canyon, the longest un-dammed river in the lower 48. It is the second deepest river gorge in North America, and the Middle fork of the Salmon, in the heart of the "Frank" is considered by many to be the premiere rafting trip in North America. South of the Snake River Plain is one of the most remote places left in the lower 48. The Owyhee Canyon lands is a huge area, and has some of the most grand canyon scenery this country has to offer. Many have no Idea it even exists due to the fact that if you get lost out there, you would probably never be found. The Owyhee and Bruneau Rivers carve deep impressive canyons through the rhyolite and basalt flows that came from what is now the Yellowstone hot spot. It is a strong hold of the sage grouse, and unfortunately 300,000 acres of this area burned this year in the Soda fire. It will takes years for this area to recover, and the wild horses that roam this vast area have been rounded up and put in pens with nothing left to feed on. Also south of the snake plain is the Aspen Range of southeast Idaho. This is also a beautiful area, where the autumn colors come to life in this aspen filled forest. I'm leaving a lot out of this blog because there is too much to talk about, but you get the picture. To the northeast is the Henry's fork of the snake river. One of the best fly fishing destinations in the country. Fed by springs the come up from the huge underwater aquifer that sits under Idaho, this water eventually comes out hundreds of years later at places like thousand springs that burst out of the basalt flows and tumble down to the snake river. The Henry's fork spills out of one of the largest caldera's in the world at Mesa Falls. And after it meets the main snake river flows to Shoshone falls which is 45 feet taller than Niagara falls, and in my opinion, much prettier. Just west of this area is the largest rift volcanic lava flows in the country at Craters of the moon National monument. And nearby is One of the greatest example of fault block or horst and graben Mountains in the country. The Lost River Range, and the Lemhi Range run north to south and sit right next to one another. Here the highest peaks in Idaho seem to shoot straight out of the desert below, and make for some very dramatic scenery. The tallest peak in Idaho Mt Borah lives here at almost 13,000 feet, it is one of the most prominent mountains in the U.S.
To the north, the dry forests of southern Idaho give way to a vast inland rain forest with huge old growth stands of cedar trees. The Selkirk mountains, and the Scotchman Peaks Rise above Lake Pend Oreille. Surrounded by a beautiful dense canopy of old growth inland rain forests, this lake is one of the deepest in the country. North Idaho is beautiful as well, and I could write an entire blog on this part of the state. I wrote this blog out of the knowledge I have stored in my head, because of the love I have for this state. In the future I will be writing about topics that are currently impacting this great state, like climate change, and wolves. I must admit, during an elk hunt last year we had wolves howling every night near camp, and even though the wolves have been causing problems here, it felt like I was truly one with nature hearing these animals sing their song. I can only hope that we can come together as a country, as a state, and start to address some of the issues that are beginning to plague this great state. In my opinion, there isn't another state in the country that is more important to us as far as nature, and what it has to offer. Idaho is Wilderness, and we need to get more wilderness back into our lives. I know many of my customers feel the same way.