Solitude in the River of No Return Wilderness…until all the motorboats

By Brett Haverstick

BrettI arrived at the Corn Creek trailhead about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. The sun was still hot, and the river canyon felt like an oven, particularly for May. After a few hours of hiking along the trail, I reached Horse Creek, a small tributary of the Salmon River. The creek was loud and brimming bank-to-bank with spring runoff. I decided to cross the creek using the foot-bridge—it was the wrong time of the year to wade into the water and attempt a stream crossing!

 

After hiking about ten miles, I found a place to camp near Fawn Creek Bar, which is one or two miles upstream from Lantz Bar. I pitched my tent, boiled water for soup, nibbled on a piece of chocolate, and gazed into the stars that were just beginning to appear in the evening sky. All was quiet, and everything seemed right in the world. I slid into my sleeping bag and slept deeply through the night.

 

I awakened to a bright blue sky arcing over my tent and the ponderosa pines that line the river’s banks. I sipped on some coffee, prepared breakfast and listened to the rhythm of the rapids. It was a beautiful and peaceful morning, and I watched numerous ducks glide across the top of the river. I think they were Common Mergansers, but I couldn’t get to my binoculars in time to get a better look.

 

Shortly thereafter, while tidying up my camp, I heard the first boat engines of the day echoing in the canyon. The obnoxious noise was nearing closer, and I cringed with disappointment - I was hoping to have at least a few more hours of solitude before the roar of the motors invaded my conscience. Four motorboats passed me the day before, and I, unfortunately, expected to see even more over the holiday weekend. I knew the motorboat mobs would be out in full force.

 

The River of No Return Wilderness was established in 1980. At roughly 2.3 million acres, it’s the largest contiguous unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System in the Lower 48. It is located entirely in Idaho, and the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are charged with its stewardship. Frank Church‘s (D-ID) name was added to the Wilderness in 1984, not long after the Senator’s death. Today, the area is known as the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (FC-RONRW).

 

Unfortunately, a special provision in the Central Idaho Wilderness Act, the legislation that designated the FC-RONRW, allowed motorboat use to continue along the main Salmon River. The original version of the legislation stated that future motorboat use couldn’t exceed current levels at that time (1978-1979), but when the bill made it out of conference committee, that language had been flipped on its head. The new legislation did away with a hard cap for future motorboat use, and instead, established the 1978-1979 motorboat use levels as the minimum.

 

Wilderness legislation that contains harmful provisions, such as allowing motorboat use, completely fails to honor and live up to the spirit and intent of the Wilderness Act. The authors of the act were clear in their intentions to prohibit motorized and mechanized use in Wilderness, “except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act.” Motorboat use certainly doesn’t meet this threshold.

 

Unfortunately, the inclusion of special provisions in wilderness legislation is quite common today. Congress is authorizing more and more exceptions for motorized access, wildlife management, private inholdings, landing strips, water rights, border patrol activities, fixed anchors (rock climbing) and more. Wilderness and the wilderness system are dying from a thousand provisions!

 

It’s up to wilderness advocates to ensure that this alarming trend doesn’t continue. If you’re tracking any wilderness legislation that contains harmful special provisions, contact your member of Congress and urge them to strip out the exceptions that run contrary to the Wilderness Act. Many special provisions are added to wilderness legislation at the behest of special interests, and it’s imperative that elected officials hear from concerned citizens.

 

You should also contact your local conservation group, and ask them if they support the legislation with the harmful exceptions. It’s equally important to hold your local conservation group up to the standards of the Wilderness Act.

 

I endured approximately fifteen motorboats racing up and down the main Salmon River on my three-day backpacking trip in the FC-RONRW. If we are to pass on an “enduring resource of wilderness” to future generations, then the wild character of the wilderness system must be preserved.

 

FCRONRW

 

Brett is Wilderness Watch's membership and development director.
 

Editor's note:

“Wilderness Experienced” is a platform to share stories of recent experiences in Wilderness. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Commenting guidelines:

We encourage readers to engage the authors and other commenters through the comment feature. Please be respectful and thoughtful in your response, and focus your comments on the issues/experiences. Please refrain from personal attacks and harassment, using rude or disruptive language, providing misinformation, or promoting violence or illegal activities. We reserve the right to reject comments. Thank you for your cooperation and support.

 

Wilderness for its own sake
Lost in the Winds
 

Comments 92

Guest - Pam Sohan on Thursday, 26 August 2021 14:42

Wilderness area only be buzzing with the sounds of the waters that run within them and the wildlife that frolics there. There are plenty of other places to deploy a boat. We need to protect these priceless dwindling areas of nature that we can escape to and leave behind the noise of life, both mechanical and digital. There should always be places where the silence s deafening.

Wilderness area only be buzzing with the sounds of the waters that run within them and the wildlife that frolics there. There are plenty of other places to deploy a boat. We need to protect these priceless dwindling areas of nature that we can escape to and leave behind the noise of life, both mechanical and digital. There should always be places where the silence s deafening.
Guest - Estero Bay on Thursday, 26 August 2021 14:25

The enabling legislation for The Wilderness Act of 1964 forbids any machines or noise from machines in or near designated Wilderness areas. This includes motor boats of all types, motor bikes of all types, and drones, helicopters, and airplanes of all types except for rescue operations.

The enabling legislation for The Wilderness Act of 1964 forbids any machines or noise from machines in or near designated Wilderness areas. This includes motor boats of all types, motor bikes of all types, and drones, helicopters, and airplanes of all types except for rescue operations.
Guest - Tony Barron on Thursday, 26 August 2021 14:24

Quietude is an ESSENTIAL aspect of wilderness; preserve it!

Quietude is an ESSENTIAL aspect of wilderness; preserve it!
Guest - Michelle S on Thursday, 26 August 2021 14:09

With the crazy busy lives some of us lead, it is nice to have a beautiful, quiet place away from it all to escape to. It's really a shame that there aren't more areas that are reserved for this exact purpose, where nature and humans (as long as they are respectful of nature) can live quietly together. There are plenty of places for boats, motorcycles and anything else that is a disrupt to the quietness of nature. Save some of these places for the people and animals that just want to blend together in peace. Every thing is just taken over by noise and pretty soon there will be no place for peace. Some people just don't care and they just want what they want with no regard to how they are disrupting nature.

With the crazy busy lives some of us lead, it is nice to have a beautiful, quiet place away from it all to escape to. It's really a shame that there aren't more areas that are reserved for this exact purpose, where nature and humans (as long as they are respectful of nature) can live quietly together. There are plenty of places for boats, motorcycles and anything else that is a disrupt to the quietness of nature. Save some of these places for the people and animals that just want to blend together in peace. Every thing is just taken over by noise and pretty soon there will be no place for peace. Some people just don't care and they just want what they want with no regard to how they are disrupting nature.
Guest - Thomas on Thursday, 26 August 2021 13:46

I definitely agree with the others, when your out camping you are in nature and that's is what its all about. You want to get away from motorized machines, which in turn destroys the trails, disrupts the animals that live and survive in those areas. We have enough lands that have been contaminated with noise and trash. We just want to enjoy nature with the atmosphere of the wild.

I definitely agree with the others, when your out camping you are in nature and that's is what its all about. You want to get away from motorized machines, which in turn destroys the trails, disrupts the animals that live and survive in those areas. We have enough lands that have been contaminated with noise and trash. We just want to enjoy nature with the atmosphere of the wild.
Guest - Leslie on Thursday, 26 August 2021 13:37

It's so disappointing to learn that the rafting experience my family treasured 20 years ago has been degraded by the actions of individuals we've entrusted to preserve our natural resources. Let's get rid of them and restore the tranquility we crave.

It's so disappointing to learn that the rafting experience my family treasured 20 years ago has been degraded by the actions of individuals we've entrusted to preserve our natural resources. Let's get rid of them and restore the tranquility we crave.
Guest - Carol Grady MacRae on Thursday, 26 August 2021 13:29

This creeping dishonor of the term "wilderness" is a violation of the Wilderness Act in and of itself. It means NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES PERIOD! No unwarranted noise of any kind should be permitted, and certainly not any that could ruin or degrade the wilderness experience. The definition was established in the law to make it a permanent requirement in the land so designated--no changes allowed!

This creeping dishonor of the term "wilderness" is a violation of the Wilderness Act in and of itself. It means NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES PERIOD! No unwarranted noise of any kind should be permitted, and certainly not any that could ruin or degrade the wilderness experience. The definition was established in the law to make it a permanent requirement in the land so designated--no changes allowed!
Guest - Charlie V. Weaver on Thursday, 26 August 2021 13:27

I rowed a raft with a small group 20 years ago for a week down the Salmon River. it was a wonderful experience. I don't recall encountering more than one or two motor boats. Commercialism in our capitalist society will ruin everything!

I rowed a raft with a small group 20 years ago for a week down the Salmon River. it was a wonderful experience. I don't recall encountering more than one or two motor boats. Commercialism in our capitalist society will ruin everything!
Guest - Danielle Schneider (website) on Thursday, 26 August 2021 13:06

There is increasing evidence and awareness that constant exposure to noise is detrimental to health and well being. And your hearing if loud enough.
Think of all the places you go that force unwanted, usually loud, and frequently nothing you would ever listen to, on your ears and brain.
Stores, gas stations, waiting rooms, medical and dental treatment rooms. I’m sure you can think of many more.
The cacophony in restaurants is often unbearable, coming from piped in “music” ,multiple televisions, the clatter of plates, etc.,unruly children, and patrons and servers trying to make themselves heard.
And now the intrusion of motors of all kinds, gunshots, and loud music are found in places where the only sound should be the “Sound of Silence”, or the music of soothing wind, streams, trees and resident wildlife.
I vote for having these loud, inappropriate, offenses banned in all National Parks, designated wilderness areas, protected areas, National Landmarks and sites, forests, sanctuaries, and anywhere else people go for relaxation and renewal of sprit and sense of wonder.
I love music: classical, oldies,( 40s, 50s, 60s), the Ethnic rhythms and songs of Africa, The Middle East, the Baltic countries , Ireland and Scotland. All of which can be loud and foreign to some ears. But I would never dream of playing any of them where they might intrude on another’s hearing.
I suppose it should be common courtesy, which is all to infrequent these days. Guess banning and enforcing it is the only answer until there is a re-awakening of respect, caring and consideration for everyone who shares our earth, humans and all living creatures.


East

There is increasing evidence and awareness that constant exposure to noise is detrimental to health and well being. And your hearing if loud enough. Think of all the places you go that force unwanted, usually loud, and frequently nothing you would ever listen to, on your ears and brain. Stores, gas stations, waiting rooms, medical and dental treatment rooms. I’m sure you can think of many more. The cacophony in restaurants is often unbearable, coming from piped in “music” ,multiple televisions, the clatter of plates, etc.,unruly children, and patrons and servers trying to make themselves heard. And now the intrusion of motors of all kinds, gunshots, and loud music are found in places where the only sound should be the “Sound of Silence”, or the music of soothing wind, streams, trees and resident wildlife. I vote for having these loud, inappropriate, offenses banned in all National Parks, designated wilderness areas, protected areas, National Landmarks and sites, forests, sanctuaries, and anywhere else people go for relaxation and renewal of sprit and sense of wonder. I love music: classical, oldies,( 40s, 50s, 60s), the Ethnic rhythms and songs of Africa, The Middle East, the Baltic countries , Ireland and Scotland. All of which can be loud and foreign to some ears. But I would never dream of playing any of them where they might intrude on another’s hearing. I suppose it should be common courtesy, which is all to infrequent these days. Guess banning and enforcing it is the only answer until there is a re-awakening of respect, caring and consideration for everyone who shares our earth, humans and all living creatures. East
Guest - Gertrude H Turley (website) on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:54

I will agree with the others,when your out camping you are in nature and thats is what its all about. You want to get away from motorized machines,which in turn destroys the trails, disrupts the animals that live and survive in those areas. We have enough lands that have been contaminated with noise and trash. We just want to enjoy nature with the atmosphere of the wild.

I will agree with the others,when your out camping you are in nature and thats is what its all about. You want to get away from motorized machines,which in turn destroys the trails, disrupts the animals that live and survive in those areas. We have enough lands that have been contaminated with noise and trash. We just want to enjoy nature with the atmosphere of the wild.
Guest - Paul J Malchiodi on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:50

When I was growing up in Chicago I visited my aunt in Fox Lake IL. At first the lake had a very clear water where you can see the fish where the water was about 7 feet deep. All that was allowed there was row boats. When they opened the lake to Motorized boats it did not take long to end the quiet atmosphere. The lake water turned very dark brown (the lake had a mud bottem)where you could not see anything that lived in that water. What a very depressing outcome for that very peaceful, pristine place. I have not been back there for many years now and was wondering if they had stopped the use of those motorized boats.

When I was growing up in Chicago I visited my aunt in Fox Lake IL. At first the lake had a very clear water where you can see the fish where the water was about 7 feet deep. All that was allowed there was row boats. When they opened the lake to Motorized boats it did not take long to end the quiet atmosphere. The lake water turned very dark brown (the lake had a mud bottem)where you could not see anything that lived in that water. What a very depressing outcome for that very peaceful, pristine place. I have not been back there for many years now and was wondering if they had stopped the use of those motorized boats.
Guest - Lanette Rapp on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:47

We need to preserve the beauty of our remaining wilderness without envasive equipment to disrupt its serenity. There are plenty of recreational places where speed boats are allowed.

We need to preserve the beauty of our remaining wilderness without envasive equipment to disrupt its serenity. There are plenty of recreational places where speed boats are allowed.
Guest - Shirley K Furnari on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:45

Mans intrusion to wild areas and waters disrupts the serene environment and wildlife that use the river for water which motorboats are also polluting with their emissions.

Mans intrusion to wild areas and waters disrupts the serene environment and wildlife that use the river for water which motorboats are also polluting with their emissions.
Guest - Stephanie Mory on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:45

Wilderness is disappearing everyday and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Our grandchildren will never be able to experience what we have and that is a tragedy. It is our obligation to protect as much of the wilderness as we can.

Wilderness is disappearing everyday and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Our grandchildren will never be able to experience what we have and that is a tragedy. It is our obligation to protect as much of the wilderness as we can.
Guest - Nançi Cox on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:41

Oh my God what we humans do to the peaceful environment. Leave it up to humans, we are so inconsiderate.

Oh my God what we humans do to the peaceful environment. Leave it up to humans, we are so inconsiderate.
Guest - Lucia Durand on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:34

I remember YEARS ago hiking into that wilderness -- at the time it was lovely -- no boat traffic at all & completely noise-free and a lovely hike. Sad that we humans think we have the "right" to go anywhere and do whatever we wish.....

I remember YEARS ago hiking into that wilderness -- at the time it was lovely -- no boat traffic at all & completely noise-free and a lovely hike. Sad that we humans think we have the "right" to go anywhere and do whatever we wish.....
Guest - Pat Mensing on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:33

There are plenty of other places for motorboats to travel. This place must be preserved for those who value the silence and solitude which it provides.

There are plenty of other places for motorboats to travel. This place must be preserved for those who value the silence and solitude which it provides.
Guest - Eric West on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:27

With the exception of rescue vessels, why would powerboats be allowed in a wilderness area at all? There are plenty of rivers across our nation where people can use their motorboats. They don't need to destroy the whole point of a wilderness.

With the exception of rescue vessels, why would powerboats be allowed in a wilderness area at all? There are plenty of rivers across our nation where people can use their motorboats. They don't need to destroy the whole point of a wilderness.
Guest - HK Khalsa on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:27

I support having wilderness areas where it's possible to have true peace and quiet - and communion with the sights, sounds and smells of nature rather than that of motor boats with their noise and fuel pollution...which also scares off wild-life.

I support having wilderness areas where it's possible to have true peace and quiet - and communion with the sights, sounds and smells of nature rather than that of motor boats with their noise and fuel pollution...which also scares off wild-life.
Guest - gerard kuehn on Thursday, 26 August 2021 12:20

no people would help the widerness. no guns no motors

no people would help the widerness. no guns no motors
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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

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