Landscape & Wildlife
The Boulder and White Cloud Mountain Ranges span an area of half a million acres. Germania Creek separates ten miles of high peaks in the Boulder Mountains from 20 miles of towering peaks in the White Cloud Mountains. The White Clouds’ alabaster peaks that from a distance appear to merge with the clouds above give them their name. “It’s a place of beauty. It’s a place of solitude. It’s a place that I’ve been scared. It’s a place that I have been hotter than I have ever been and colder than I have ever been,” described outdoorsman Tom Pomeroy. “It’s a great spot.”
There are more than 150 peaks above 10,000 feet and more than 100 lakes in the Boulder-White Clouds. Castle Peak at 11,815 feet is the highest peak in the Boulder-White Clouds and the fourth highest peak in Idaho. Four rivers originate from the Boulder-White Clouds: the East Fork of the Salmon River, the Big Wood River, the Big Lost River and tributaries of the main Salmon. Water flowing from the Boulder-White Clouds provides drinking water to the nearby towns of Stanley, Sun Valley, Ketchum and Mackay.
There are three types of ecosystems in the Boulder-White Clouds. About one-fifth of the area is covered by sagebrush along with chokecherry, snowberry and serviceberry bushes. Douglas-firs cover the woodlands of Boulder-White Clouds at lower elevations. At higher elevations, Douglas-firs stand among aspens, ponderosa pines, lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruces.
The Boulder-White Clouds are home to two endangered species: the peregrine falcon and the sockeye salmon. Among the numerous species of the Boulder-White Clouds are the gray wolf, Canada lynx, chinook salmon, steelhead trout and bull trout. Two-thirds of the area contains habitat for anadromous fish who spend most of their life in the Pacific Ocean before migrating more than 900 miles to the Boulder-White Clouds to spawn. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, antelope, cougars, black bears, moose, wolverines and mule deer of some of the 60 species who also inhabit the Boulder-White Clouds. The last grizzly bear was seen in the area in the 1940s.
The presence of the mountain goat, which has long been a symbol of the
Boulder-White Clouds, has declined in recent years. In 1988, Fish &
Game counted 186 mountain goats in the White Clouds and 278 mountain goats
in the Boulders during aerial surveys. When Fish & Game conducted
aerial surveys in 2002, they counted 61 mountain goats in the White Clouds
and 120 mountain goats in the Boulders. “We don’t know what
is causing it. We are very concerned. We have to assess all the potential
affects to those animals, and try to take what steps we can to protect
the remaining animals. We’re short of funds, not a lot of resources,
so I don’t know how we will decide the best way to proceed,”
said Ed Cannady, the backcountry manager for the U.S. Forest Service in
the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Fish & Game is sending biologists
into the field to learn more.