Top Place: Clearwater Basin

Clearwater Basin
Flikr: Northwest Power and Conservation Council
One of the most dynamic, healthy and natural landscapes in the lower 48 states, Idaho’s Clearwater Basin includes millions of acres of rugged forests, rivers and mountains.

Experience the Clearwater Basin

Idaho’s Clearwater Basin includes a 6 million-acre landscape that rises from Idaho’s Palouse prairie into a craggy, moss-draped wilderness. The area known as Clearwater Basin is the native land of the Nez Perce Native American tribe and is one of the wildlands that Lewis and Clark explored.

The Basin gets its name from the Clearwater River, which drains the majestic 1.3 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Selway-Bitterroot is the third largest wilderness area in the continental United States.

What the one best thing about the Clearwater Basin?

It’s a rare inland oasis.

Located in the heart of Idaho, Clearwater Basin’s 2,000 miles of wilderness trails weave along emerald rivers and streams.

What’s one activity the Clearwater Basin is known for?


Steelhead and Chinook salmon migrate inland from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in pristine streams, like Meadow Creek and Kelly Creek.

For the threatened cutthroat trout, Kelly Creek is an important habitat. It was an original “catch-and-release” test stream. Kelly Creek is still catch-and-release, which has allowed the native trout population to thrive.

Interested in fishing and camping in the Clearwater Basin? Get insider tips.

What’s one way The Wilderness Society is working to protect the Clearwater Basin?

The Wilderness Society continues to help secure important funding for forest stewardship. This work includes:

  • Decommissioning old roads to improve habitat and water quality
  • Prescribed burns to reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfires

The Wilderness Society also hopes to win new wilderness protection in Idaho — specifically to link the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness with the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Learn more about our work in the Clearwater Basin.

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