WRC Blog

Rare Opportunity on the South Fork Salmon

Mar 27th, 2017  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

Rare Opportunity on the South Fork Salmon
Photo by Zach Spector.

Western Rivers Conservancy has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to permanently conserve one of the few remaining parcels of private land along Idaho’s spectacular South Fork Salmon River. In doing so, we will create unprecedented new access to over 100,000 acres of public lands that surround the ranch, and which are otherwise nearly impossible to reach. 

The South Fork Salmon is an 86-mile tributary to the Salmon River and is every bit as beautiful as the better-known Main and Middle Fork Salmon rivers. Yet it is exceedingly more remote, accessible by only a handful of steep, rugged dirt roads that descend thousands of feet into the river canyon. One of the best of these roads accesses the 234-acre South Fork Wilderness Ranch, which WRC is working to protect. Our goal is to partner with the Payette National Forest, a local land trust and a private conservation buyer to improve public access and maximize protection of the ranch’s extraordinary fish and wildlife habitat.  

The South Fork Salmon River courses through deep, forested granite canyons and is surrounded on all sides by the Payette National Forest and Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness. This is one of the most remote backcountry areas in the Lower 48, home to Rocky Mountain elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain lion, black bear, gray wolf and more than 200 species of birds. The second largest tributary to the Salmon River, the South Fork is one of the few rivers in the Columbia River basin that still has reasonably intact assemblages of native fish, including bull trout, spring Chinook, summer steelhead (all threatened) and westslope cutthroat trout.

For both its conservation values and its merits as a backcountry destination for white-water boaters, anglers, hikers, hunters and wildlife watchers, WRC has committed to protecting this rare riverland property. When we succeed, Idaho will be that much richer in outdoor opportunities, and the South Fork Salmon will be one step closer to being protected along its entire length.