There are hundreds of miles of rivers throughout the Clearwater Basin that quality for protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Despite the Lochsa, Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater Rivers receiving permanent protection in 1968, not another mile of river has been protected in the basin since.
Selway River Tributaries
The Selway has numerous tributaries that have been studied by the Forest Service for inclusion in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. Bear Creek, Moose Creek, and Three Links Creek flow from deep within the Selway -Bitterroot Wilderness, making them prime candidates for designation. Running Creek, which enters the Wilderness from the west, has also been studied. Meadow Creek and Gedney Creek flow from roadless areas adjacent to the Wilderness, before they join the Selway. Both rivers have been studied for further protection, too.
Lochsa River & Tributaries
Due to a possible administrative error in the 1960′s, the upper portion of the Lochsa River is not protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Protection should be extended upstream from the Powell Ranger Station to the confluence of the Crooked Fork and Colt Killed Creek.
The headwaters of the Lochsa River are not protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act either. Colt Killed Creek, a tributary of the Lochsa, originates in the Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness (the Lewis & Clark Expedition killed a colt for meat here, hence the name). The Forest Service has studied this river for protection, but it is currently unprotected.
Fish & Hungery Creek provides the most important habitat for B-run steelhead in the state of Idaho. The Forest Service has said they intend to study the river for protective status. Fish Creek enters the Lochsa River near the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station.
South Fork Clearwater & Tributaries
Both the South Fork Clearwater and John’s Creek have been studied for protective status, but have yet to receive any. John’s Creek and Tenmile Creek flow from the Gospel – Hump Wilderness, and provide crucial habitat for steelhead, Chinook salmon, and Bull trout.
North Fork Clearwater & Tributaries
Before construction of Dworshak Dam, the North Fork Clearwater had the largest steelhead run in the Lower 48. Today Kelly Creek and Cayuse Creek provide some of the coldest and cleanest water in the entire Basin, including habitat for Westslope – cutthroat and Bull trout. Weitas Creek and the Upper North Fork are also worthy of protection.
Little North Fork Clearwater
A hidden gem whose headwaters are located in a checkerboard landscape managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The river unfortunately terminates abruptly at Dworshak Reservoir. It does however provide important habitat for Westslope – cutthroat and Bull trout, Foehl Creek is an important tributary of the Little North Fork. The Little North Fork has been studied for designation, but is currently unprotected.
Salmon River & Tributaries
Much of the Main Salmon River is designated Wild and Recreation until Vinegar Creek. The Forest Service has studied the section of river between Vinegar and the confluence with the Little Salmon River for protection, but none has been given. Slate Creek and Bargamin Creek, both tributaries of the Salmon, are important for anadramous fish and have been studied for designation, but also have yet to receive protection. The Forest Service has studied the section of Lake Creek from its headwaters in the Gospel – Hump Wilderness, to its confluence with Crooked Creek for protective status, but none has been given.
The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act would give these rivers and others the permanent protection they deserve.
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