The Squaw Creek roadless area, Idaho

This is a fairly large roadless area (96,000 acres) on the southeastern edge of the Salmon River Mountains. It lies just to the west of the town of Challis, Idaho. The roadless area is penetrated by several roads of developments going to near what would be its center, giving the area an irregular boundary.

A person could ascend into this roadless area by beginning on the bank of the Salmon River at about 5200 feet and climb upward through colorful cliffs of brown and red Challis volcanics onto open grass and sagebrush mountain slope. After about 1500 feet more climbing, the hiker would enter a Douglas fir forest and finally sub-alpine fir and Engelmann spruce. At the highest elevation there are small areas of tundra. The high point is Bald Mountain at 10,314 feet.

Here is a photo of the roadless area. The transition shows nicely -- the brown country with just a skiff of snow is the Challis volcanics near the Salmon River. The photo was taken from the Bradbury Flat area to the southeast of the roadless area in January 1997.

The area has mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, cougar, and an occasional bear and since 1997 a number of successive wolf packs. It is especially important winter range in the lower portions near the Salmon River.

The primitive, roadless aspect of the area is gradually being worn away by nearby mining, and off-road vehicles. Some portions are overgrazed by livestock.

This roadless area was never strongly considered for wilderness designation because it is close to the vast Frank Church Wilderness, yet separated from it by a good major mining haul road, and further up Squaw Creek by a dirt road.

Beginning in 2002, and continuing today, this roadless area became much of the summer range of the Buffalo Ridge wolf pack, one that has been easily visible in the springtime.

View of central Idaho uplands in the Squaw Creek roadless
area. Photo taken in late May. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Squaw Creek roadless area in central Idaho/ rev. Feb. 13, 2005 /text and photo © Ralph Maughan