Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers

Hells Canyon-Wallowa & Blue Mountain Ecosystems: Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers


The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth … the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.
– Edward Abbey (American writer and naturalist)

The Wallowa Whitman National Forest has over 580,000 acres of designated Wilderness preserved in 4 areas under the Wilderness Act of 1964 that provide for public enjoyment and allow natural functions and processes to continue without significant disturbance of humans. In addition, there are 3 other Wilderness areas in the immediate area.

Wilderness is an indispensable part of American history. Native Americans depended on the bounty of wildlands for survival and held Earth and its wild places as sacred. We now look to Wilderness as a place of spiritual healing, solitude, restoration and recreation.  The popularity of Wilderness is apparent on any summer day in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

More importantly, Wilderness provides a home for wildlife and the diversity of species that makes our world whole.  Our amazing salmon and steelhead depend on cold and clear water for their survival which often comes from wilderness areas. We also know science tells us that bigger is better for far-ranging wildlife species such as wolves and wolverines.  David Quammen, author of the book The Song of the Dodo, gives a convincing argument for protecting larger spaces for the long term viability of many species.  Core Wilderness areas and corridors between core areas are essential for a fully functioning ecosystem.

We are very fortunate to have some prime source areas that are the core of Wilderness in NE Oregon, SE Washington and W Idaho.  We also have available roadless areas that should be included as Wilderness. The lower elevation roadless areas are underrepresented in Wilderness and offer valuable additions to our Wilderness system.  Inventoried roadless areas like Boulder Park, Little Eagle Meadows, Bear Gulch, Huckleberry, Lake Fork, Upper Catherine Creek offer an excellent opportunity for adding thousands of acres to Oregon Wilderness.

HCPC will be proposing more Wilderness in the near future.  It will take many of us working cooperatively to get the attention and support of elected members of Congress.  In the meantime, we are supporting 750,000 acres of new Wilderness areas designated in the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act proposed legislation.

Click on the Wilderness Areas listed below for more details:


Total Acres Year Established
Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness 177,423 1978
Strawberry Mountain Wilderness 69,350 1964
North Fork John Day Wilderness 121,352 1984
North Fork Umatilla Wilderness 20,435 1984
Hells Canyon Wilderness 214,944 1975
Monument Rock Wilderness 19,650 1984
Eagle Cap Wilderness 350,461 1964

Wild and Scenic Rivers

In 1988 nine streams where added to the Wild and Scenic River system on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest including the North Power, North Fork John Day, Grande Ronde, Minam, Lostine, Joseph Creek, Imnaha, and South Fork Imnaha Rivers and Eagle Creek. The Snake River was included in 1975. These 269 stream miles offer protection for a wide range of flora and fauna that contribute to, and help protect the overall biological diversity. Click here for an abridged version of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (minus the lengthy list of protected rivers).