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Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

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Area Management

The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is part of the 110 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 Selway-Bitterroot 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 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 for more specific information about the regulations listed.


-- Party size is limited to no more than 20 people for the general Wilderness, 10 for Seven Lakes on the Clearwater national Forest.

-- Do not shortcut switchbacks.

-- Do not dispose of debris or garbage (including excess livestock salt) in the Wilderness. This does not prohibit the destruction of combustible material by burning or the disposal of human or livestock waste.

-- Mechanical transportation (including wagons, game carts, or other vehicles) is prohibited.


-- Overnight visitors cannot occupy a single location for a period longer than 14 consecutive days within a 45-day period. This applies to people, equipment, personal property, and supplies. The term "location" means the occupied undeveloped campsite and lands within a five mile radius of the campsite.


-- Using more than 20 head of pack or saddle stock in any group is prohibited.

-- All pack or saddle stock feed must be certified weed seed free. Weed seed free products must be certified as being noxious weed 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.

-- Pack or saddle stock must be ridden or led in single file on any trail.

-- Pack and saddle salt must be in block form and contained off the ground of other surfaces.

-- At Wind Lakes on the Clearwater National Forest there is no grazing or stock containment within 200' of lakes. Containment is defined as grazing, herding, tying, picketing, tethering, hobbling, or hitching.

-- At Seven Lakes on the Clearwater National Forest, party size is limited to 10 head of stock, grazing is prohibited from June 1 through September 15, and camping with pack and saddle stock is only allowed at designated sites and must be contained at these designated sites.


-- Maximum group is limited to 16 people for boating and/or floating parties on the Selway National Wild and Scenic River from May 15 through July 31.

-- A permit is required for boating and/or floating on the Selway River from May 15 through July 31.

Learn more about why regulations may be necessary in wilderness.

Wilderness Permit System

A wilderness permit system has been implemented for this wilderness. This involves a use-limiting permit system with quotas and reservations. Wilderness permit systems are implemented to collect information on use levels and patterns and as an education and information tool. Use-limiting systems are implemented after monitoring has determined that current use levels are resulting in unacceptable impacts to the resource and/or to the wilderness recreation experience. These systems help distribute visitor use throughout the season and help minimize crowded conditions at popular areas. People interested in visiting the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness should contact the Forest Service office for more information about this permit system, which may vary by location or time of the year.

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