One of the West's ultimate wild rivers
In Idaho, Western Rivers Conservancy is working to expand protection of the iconic Wild and Scenic Selway River. We recently purchased the 152-acre Selway River Ranch, which includes nearly a mile of the western bank of the river and half a mile of Elk City Creek, a minor but important Selway tributary. Our conservation of this stretch of river will fill a gap in protection along a key reach of the lower river.
The 98-mile long Selway River is widely known as one of America’s most spectacular, and most thoroughly protected, free-flowing rivers. From its source in the Bitterroot Mountains, the Selway flows west to the Lochsa River to form the Middle Fork Clearwater. It is one of eight rivers designated in the original Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, and much of the river lies within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the initial wilderness areas protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Thanks to this long history of protection and the river’s remarkably untouched quality (only one raft trip per day is permitted), the Selway is one of few rivers that provides vast, unbroken habitat for fish and wildlife, including westslope cutthroat trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The Selway is also revered by veteran river-runners, as it guarantees a truly pristine wilderness experience.
Expanding protection of the wild and scenic Selway
Before the Selway’s confluence with the Lochsa, it leaves the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and continues through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Along this stretch, a few private inholdings along the otherwise wilderness-blanketed river remain unprotected.
In 2021, WRC negotiated a deal to purchase one of the most important of these inholdings, the Selway River Ranch. The ranch is the finest example of a flat, pristine meadow on the lower Selway. Although the property is partially protected by a scenic easement held by the US Forest Service, it can still be subdivided into at least four home sites, which would forever change the character of the lower Selway River corridor.
In April 2022, we purchased the ranch, locking in our commitment to this special property. We are now holding it while we pursue funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to convey the ranch to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. Our aim is to keep the property intact and undeveloped, to protect its fish and wildlife habitat, and to help maintain the exquisite, untamed character of Idaho’s Wild and Scenic Selway River forever.