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Great Bear Wilderness

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Area Management

The Great Bear Wilderness is part of the 109 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Great Bear Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

General Wilderness Prohibitions

Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited on all federal lands designated as wilderness. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters, unless provided for in specific legislation.

In a few areas some exceptions allowing the use of motorized equipment or mechanical transport are described in the special regulations in effect for a specific area. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information.

These general prohibitions have been implemented for all national forest wildernesses in order to implement the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act requires management of human-caused impacts and protection of the area's wilderness character to insure that it is "unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as wilderness." Use of the equipment listed as prohibited in wilderness is inconsistent with the provision in the Wilderness Act which mandates opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation and that wilderness is a place that is in contrast with areas where people and their works are dominant.

Wilderness-Specific Regulations

Wilderness managers often need to take action to limit the impacts caused by visitor activities in order to protect the natural conditions of wilderness as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Managers typically implement 'indirect' types of actions such as information and education measures before selecting more restrictive measures. When regulations are necessary, they are implemented with the specific intent of balancing the need to preserve the character of the wilderness while providing for the use and enjoyment of wilderness.

The following wilderness regulations are in effect for this area. Not all regulations are in effect for every wilderness. Contact the Forest Service office or visit the websites listed for more specific information about the regulations listed.


The following are prohibited in the Great Bear Wilderness and apply to all visitors:

* Use of the wilderness by parties or groups consisting of over 15 persons.

* Shortcutting a switchback on any trail.

* Possessing or using a wagon, cart, bicycle or other vehicle (including game carts).

* Caching or storing any equipment, personal property, hay, feed, or supplies.

* Disposing of any debris or garbage, including excess livestock salt. This does not prohibit the destruction of combustible material by burning or the disposal of human or livestock waste.

* Storing attractants (food, beverages, garbage, etc) in a manner not in compliance with the Food Storage Special Order. (See Food Storage Information below) FOOD STORAGE INFORMATION The entire Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and surrounding lands within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem are subject to a special order designed to minimize grizzly bear-human conflicts and thereby provide for visitor safety and recovery of the grizzly bear. The following information is a general summary only; for specific information and definitions please see the special order. This order requires that between April 1 and December 1 in the Great Bear Wilderness the following applies: All attractants, defined as food and beverages (including canned food, pop and beer), grease, garbage, livestock and pet food (except hay without additives and water), must be stored in an approved bear resistant manner when your camp or picnic area is unattended. All wildlife carcasses, birds, fish or other animal parts that are within 0.5 mile of any camp must be stored in an approved bear resistant manner during the nighttime hours or when your camp or picnic area is unattended during the daytime hours. Attractants cannot be burned in an open campfire, buried or discarded. Death of livestock and its location must be reported to the Forest Service within 24 hours of discovery by the responsible party. What is approved bear resistant manner? It means any attractants must be stored by one of the following methods:

* Secured in a hard-sided camper, vehicle trunk, cab or trailer cab

* Secured in a hard-sided dwelling or storage building

* Suspended at least 10 feet up and 4 feet out from any upright support (like a tree or pole)

* Stored within an approved and operating electric fence

* Stored within a approved bear-resistant container

* Stored in any combination of these methods Electric fences and bear-resistant containers must meet specific requirements. Coolers, pop-up campers, tents, backpacks and plastic boxes are NOT considered bear resistant. An equipment loan program offers a limited number of bear resistant panniers, backpacker food tubes and rope/pulley hoisting systems. Contact one of the Ranger District offices that manage these Wilderness Areas for more information about fence and container requirements, the loan program, and other special order requirements.


The following are prohibited in the Great Bear Wilderness and apply to all stock users:

* The possession or storage of hay, grain, straw, cubes, pelletized feed or mulch that is not certified as being noxious weed free or noxious seed free by an authorized State of Department of Agriculture official or designated county official. Each individual bale or container must be tagged or marked as weed free and reference the written certification.

* Use of wilderness by parties possessing Saddle, pack or draft animals exceeding 35 in number.

* Loose or "free" trailing stock. All saddle, pack or draft animals must be ridden or led in single file on the trail.

* Possessing livestock salt in forms other than block or in quantities that exceed what is sufficient for the trip.

* Containment of stock which is defined as; grazing, herding, tying, picketing, tethering, hobbling or hitching animals to trees or rails by any means available such as rope, nylon, twine or plastic straps within 200' of the following lakeshores is prohibited: Almeda Lake, Dickey Lake, Elk Lake, Flotilla Lake, Scott Lake, Stanton Lake, Tranquil Basin Lakes.

* Containment of livestock is prohibited in the entire area defined as the Castle Creek River campsite, please contact the local ranger district for more information.


The following is prohibited in the Great Bear Wilderness and applies to all overnight visitors:

* A person or group may not occupy a single location for a period longer than 16 consecutive days. o An occupied day is considered any part of a calendar day. o Location means the occupied undeveloped or developed campsite and lands within a 5 air mile radius.

* After leaving the location, that was occupied for 16 consecutive days, a minimum of 7 days is required before any group or persons from that group may reoccupy the original locations.

* A person/group may not leave camping equipment and/or related supplies at any location for more than 16 consecutive days. o Camping equipment and/or related supplies includes, but not limited to, tents, cook-stoves, electrical fence material, bear resistant containers and other personal effects; certified hay, cubes, and other supplies. This does not include camps under special use permit. All Forest Service employees, including Law Enforcement Officers and Forest Protection Officers, may use discretion in circumstances requiring enforcement of camping restrictions.

* Castle Creek River campsite stay limits:

1 night stay permitted during the period between April 1 - July 31

2 nights stay permitted during the period between Aug 1 - Oct 31

Please be aware the Flathead National Forest has different stay limits for lands outside the Wilderness area, please check with the local ranger district offices for more information.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

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