Wilderness

North Fork Umatilla Wilderness One of our nation's greatest treasures is the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Wilderness Act of 1964. This year, that monumental piece of legislation celebrates it's 50th anniversary!

On September 3, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act. This historic bill established the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and set aside an initial 9.1 million acres of wildlands for the use and benefit of the American people. Over the past 50 years, and as a result of America's support for wilderness, Congress has added over 100 million acres to this unique land preservation system. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines "Wilderness" as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain.Three unique designated wildernesses exist on the Umatilla National Forest. These areas radiate down into steep gorges and canyons from high plateaus. This unusual terrain offers a unique wilderness experience.

It is increasingly important to protect these areas and keep them healthy. Please review regulations associated with Wilderness areas and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.

 

What is a Wilderness?

Rough-legged HawkGenerally, a wilderness has no roads, and all motorized or mechanized equipment is prohibited. Small, battery-powered, hand-held devices such as cameras and shavers are the only exceptions. Wheelchairs are allowed on a few trails wide enough for them because the chair is considered an extension of the disabled person's body.

Recreationists entering a wilderness should expect a different type of experience. It is a primitive type of recreation and, as a result, conveniences such as tables, fire pits, and toilets are not appropriate. Trails within a wilderness are maintained to provide challenge.

Wilderness travel involves an element of risk. Visitors may be a long way from outside help if faced with an accident, illness, or other emergency. Recreationists should be prepared to be self-reliant by having the proper clothing and equipment and basic first-aid knowledge. Wilderness visitors should stay aware of changing weather conditions and other natural hazards.

Wilderness is a place where we can examine the many complexities of our world. It serves as a research base to study unmodified ecosystems and the natural gene pool of plant and animal species. Each individual wilderness carries its own variety and breadth of diverse values.

Maps are available for each wilderness on the Umatilla National Forest. Maps are presented in topographical format and show major trail heads. Wilderness permits are not required, but visitors should leave their itinerary with a close friend or relative. During the summer and fall, wilderness rangers patrol on foot or horseback to provide information and ensure wilderness values are maintained.

The Wilderness Act

The Wilderness Act of 1964 not only governs the management activities within wilderness, but also governs our activities as visitors. 

Wilderness Ethics

With increased leisure time and advances in lightweight gear, people are visiting wilderness in unprecedented numbers. Each wilderness visitor must practice minimum impact techniques in respect for the land and in consideration of those who follow.