The Meadow Creek Roadless Area is approximately 215,000 acres, adjoining the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness to the east, and separated from the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness by the Magruder Corridor to the south. With elevations ranging from 1,800 – 8,200 feet, this spectacular landscape is drained by waterways that feed into the Wild & Scenic Selway and Salmon Rivers, as well as the South Fork Clearwater River. Running Creek, a tributary of the Selway, enters the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness near Parachute Ridge, while Bargamin Creek, a tributary of the Salmon, enters the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness near the Southern Nez Perce Trail.
Western red cedar and grand fir are prominent in creek bottoms throughout the area, with ponderosa pine and Douglas fir found mid-slope, and lodgepole pine and sub-alpine fir found in the highest elevations. Payson’s milkvetch, Idaho douglasia, candystick, clustered-lady’s slipper, banks monkeyflower, and evergreen kittentail are Region One sensitive plant species. The 500 acre Warm Spring Creek Research Natural Area (RNA) is located near the confluence of Warm Springs Creek and Running Creek. Pacific Yew can be found with the RNA.
The geology of Meadow Creek is unique. The headwaters of Meadow Creek proper were never glaciated. Thus, the meadows in the upper stream system were not scoured, as were most high elevation mountain meadows.
The Meadow Creek Roadless Area is considered the most important fishery of any roadless area on the Nez Perce portion of the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests. Due to intact habitat and incredibly high water quality, healthy populations of Westslope – cutthroat, steelhead, rainbow trout, and Bull trout exist throughout the drainage. Summer Chinook still make their journey from the ocean to the clean and cold tributaries of the roadless area. Despite these facts, fishing pressure is small, particularly compared to hunting seasons.
Gray wolves, wolverines, fisher, and black bear inhabit Meadow Creek, with habitat available for grizzly bears and lynx. The status of the latter two species is unknown, though it is believed Canada lynx still inhabit the area. The roadless area contains important summer range for elk and winter range for moose, with mule and whitetail deer also finding forage in this highly productive and dense forest. The Coeur d’Alene salamander, Columbia spotted frog, and the western toad can also be found by those that take the time to carefully and meticulously search for these rare species.
The potential for wilderness designation cannot be understated when speaking of Meadow Creek. Part of the area was protected as part of the old Selway Primitive Area prior to 1964. Even the Forest Service recognized the value of this area when it studied the area for wilderness potential in the 1970s. Unfortunately, politics interfered and recommendations of the Forest Service to protect the area as wilderness were overturned at higher levels. In spite of public support, the area was not included as an addition to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness when the Central Idaho Wilderness Act was passed in 1980. That legislation established the River of No Return Wilderness and made an addition to the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness in the upper Selway River system. This roadless area, when joined by the neighboring Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness, offers solitude, tranquility, and ruggedness perhaps, like no other place in the Lower 48. Backpacking, day hiking, hunting, fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant in this primitive recreational paradise.
Descriptions of other Roadless Areas on the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests.