Salmon River (Middle Fork), Idaho
One of the eight rivers originally designated by the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Salmon River’s steep change in altitude—its 100-mile Middle Fork drops over 3,000 feet—takes it through a variety of habitats. Abundant wildlife includes bighorn sheep, elk, bears, cougars, and wolves, as well as one of the nation’s best fly fisheries, and advanced class white water rapids are popular with adventurers.
The year of the lava lamp and the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the $1.50 movie ticket, 1968 in America was—like years before and since—a time of dissonance and division.
But one thing came out of 1968 that plenty of people still agree on. Signed into law fifty years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act preserves waterways across the country (including Puerto Rico) which have “outstandingly remarkable” intrinsic value. Five federal agencies, including the National Parks Service, manage protected areas to ensure their waters continue flowing freely, unaffected by development.
Today, sections of over 200 rivers enjoy Wild and Scenic status. But there’s still a long way to go: If the 600,000 miles of river affected by large dams were shrunk down to the length of a football field, wild and scenic rivers would only stretch just over two yards.
To celebrate half a century of protected waters—and prepare for many more—here are ten of our favorite Wild and Scenic rivers.
- Nat Geo Expeditions