1. The Great Burn (approximately 98,500 acres in MT, 248,927 acres total)
Thirty miles west of Missoula, the flames stormed across the Bitterroot Range, devouring forests and searing the soil. After the great fire of 1910, the land was never again the same. Three-quarters of a century later, the land still carries the awesome signature of the Great Burn.
The Great Burn in Montana and Idaho represents one of the largest unprotected roadless areas left in the lower 48 states. Hoodoo and Lolo passes mark the north and southern extent of this unique wild area. Elevations range from 3200 to 7900 feet along the Bitterroot Divide.
More than 30 mountain lakes, many of them strikingly beautiful are located in glacial basins along the rugged crest. Here annual precipitation can reach 110 inches with lush growth and some startling remnants of ancient forests in the lower-elevation drainages. Subalpine tundra covers much of the high country with gnarled Whitebark pine on the ridges.
Odd formations in the Williams Peak- Shale Mountain area resemble the sawtooth backs of prehistoric dinosaurs. Pre-cambrian rocks of the Wallace Formation form the backbone of the Great Burn.
On the east slope, tributaries feed the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. To the west in Idaho, Kelly and Cayuse creeks are tributaries of the N. Fork of the Clearwater River, where native fisheries of Westslope Cutthroat and Bull trout remain to this day. Excellent backcountry fishing for westslope cutthroat trout is possible in many of the Great Burn’s lakes and streams. In addition to trout, native runs of Chinook salmon still travel up Crooked Fork Creek on the north side of the Great Burn to spawn. Moose, wolves, black bear, mountain goat, mountain lion, pine marten, wolverine, osprey and golden eagles inhabit the area. The Great Burn provides calving grounds, plus spring, summer and fall habitat for thriving elk herds.
2. Sheep Mountain (approx. 35,100 acres in MT, approx. 59,600 acres total)
Straddling the crest of the Bitterroot Range, Sheep Mountain includes a string of pristine mountain lakes, peaks and wildlife habitat surrounded by heavily logged and roaded national forest lands. Sheep Mountain provides habitat for pine marten, lynx, golden eagle, wolverine, elk, deer, moose and black bear. The lower slopes include elk winter range. Missoula, Bonanza, Cliff, Diamond and Lost lakes provide excellent trout fishing.
The stateline trail weaves in and out of sparse stands of Mountain hemlock, Subalpine fir and Whitebark pine. Grinding tools and other artifacts up to 6,000 years old have been found along the Bitterroot Divide, evidence of ancient hunters.
Hiking, fishing, backcountry hunting, camping, wildlife and berry-picking are the primary traditional uses.
Sheep Mountain has been included in several bills introduced or passed by Congress, as either wilderness or wilderness study area.
3. Other Key Areas
Marble Point (approx. 11,200 acres)
Ward – Eagle (approx. 9,600 acres)
Gilt Edge – Silver (approx. 9,000 acres)
Stevens Peak (approx. 2,900 acres in MT)
Illinois Peak (approx. 8,800 acres in MT)
Burdette (approx. 19,000 acres, over half in Mineral)
Stark Mountain (approx. 14,600 acres, half in Mineral)
Cascade Falls (small section in Mineral)
Mount Bushnell (one-third in Mineral)
Cherry Peak (one-third in Mineral)