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Idaho's Newest Wilderness: Boulder-White Clouds

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On Aug 7, 2015, Pres. Barack Obama signed the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act, sponsored by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch.

Castle and Merriam Peaks
Castle and Merriam Peaks from Little Boulder Meadows. Ed Cannady photo.

The Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness is the crown jewel of Central Idaho. This is where the headwaters of four major river systems originate, where unique critters such as bighorn sheep and the elusive wolverine are found, where there are the highest-elevation salmon runs in North America, as well as rare plants found nowhere else on earth. The Boulder-White Clouds are more than stunning 10,000-foot peaks, they span into rolling sagebrush and sensitive volcanic soils. Collectively, the area represents critical, diverse wildlife habitat during both summer and winter.

The Boulder-White Clouds offer world-class backcountry experiences for the public, including hunting and fishing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, horseback riding and off-road motorized use. As a whole, the Boulder-White Clouds form a large connected drainage that delivers clean water to wildlife, fisheries and human communities nearby.

Boulder-White Clouds Protected Once and For All!
Final BWC wilderness map in jpeg

Land managers and conservationists have recognized the wilderness values of the Boulder-White Clouds since the late 1960s. The recently passed legislation (H.R. 1138/S.583) established more than 275,000 acres of wilderness in three units:

  • The Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,000 acres)
  • The White Clouds Wilderness (91,000 acres)
  • The Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,000 acres)

These names honor former Idaho Sen. James McClure (1924-2011) and the Nobel-prize winning author Ernest Hemingway, who is often associated with nearby Ketchum, Idaho.

Conservation History

The conservation history of the Boulder-White Clouds dates back more than four decades. In the early 1970s, an international mining firm proposed an open-pit mine at the base of iconic Castle Peak. Campaigning against that mine helped propel a young Cecil Andrus to his first term as Idaho governor. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Boulder White-Clouds were included in versions of Idaho wilderness bills, but none of them passed Congress.

The new law comes more than 10 years after Rep. Mike Simpson first introduced stand-alone legislation to conserve the Boulder-White Clouds.

Get Out and Explore the Boulder-White Clouds!

Wild country is the backdrop against which we build lifelong memories. When you take your family into Idaho's backcountry, you become part of the larger landscape, the historical journey. So get out there—it's yours to explore! Find great hikes in the Boulder-White Clouds.


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