The River of No Return Wilderness

Senator Frank Church It used to be known as The Primitive Area. But "primitive area" designations were administrative decisions, which could easily be undone. So a group of Idahoans banded together to promote the area as a permanently protected wilderness. A "group of four" -- Ernie Day, Bruce Bowler, Frank Jones, and Mort Brigham -- initiated a network of support. Ted Trueblood, a nationally known outdoors writer, joined them. They raised money, had meetings, stuffed envelopes. Eventually, they caught the attention of Senator Frank Church, who had carried the original Wilderness bill in 1964.

The campaign concluded with a victory in 1980, when Congress designated 2.4 million acres as the River of No Return. But Church and his Idaho colleague Senator Jim McClure knew that Idaho's Primitive Area would never be designated wilderness without two major concessions: keep the back country air strips and allow for the continued use of jet boats on the Salmon.

Even though the jet boats are noisy and several of the eighteen back country airstrips can get busier than some city airports, the River of No Return Wilderness is now a reality. In 1984, as his colleague was dying of cancer, Senator McClure asked Congress to add the name of Frank Church to the River of No Return Wilderness.

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area has been called, "the crown jewel of the National Wilderness System."

Map of Idaho Wilderness area
Cartography and design by National Geographic Maps
Cartography and design by National Geographic Maps.
For more information on Idaho's wilderness areas, visit the site


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