Big Deer Creek roadless area

Big Deer Creek tumbles out of the heights of the Big Horn Crags in Idaho's Salmon River Mountains to blend its waters with Panther Creek, a major tributary to the Salmon River.

Photo: the confluence of Panther Creek (left) and Big Deer Creek (center).
 Confluence of Panther Creek and Big Deer Creek. Central Idaho.
Photo taken June 2005
© Ralph Maughan

Panther Creek itself is a long and scenic river, paralleled by a dirt road. It used to be an important salmon stream, but acid mine drainage from an abandoned cobalt mine-- the Blackbird Mine-- ran (and still runs) down Blackbird Creek, a tributary upstream from Big Deer Creek. Below the confluence with Blackbird Creek, there is a  poison zone in Panther Creek through which anadromous fish will not pass, although the situation is slowly improving.  The old mining are on top of the mountain is being rehabilitated. Photos.

Big Deer Creek is a large nearly pristine tributary to Panther Creek, although a little bit of the mine drainage makes it into Big Deer too. Its lower reaches are particular scenic, but portions have been greatly modified by the huge Clear Creek fire of 2000. Getting across Panther Creek to access Big Deer isn't easy, as you see.

The Big Deer Creek/Panther Creek has been part of the territory of several past and present Idaho wolf packs. The area has many deer, elk, bighorn sheep, some mountain goats, and cougar.

In the past the most serious threat to the area was logging, but the great wildfire of 2000 changed that. T here was a strong effort to add this roadless area to the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. It failed, but perhaps that does not matter so much now. On the ground, it is essential part of the great Frank Church/RNR Wilderness.

The major threat to the integrity of the roadless area will always be cobalt exploraton and mining.

Big Deer Creek roadless area
Dec. 23, 2008.