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WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS

Early in August the Wasatch Cache National Forest released the forest s final Wild and Scenic River eligibility report (see HUPC Review, 8/98 and HUPC Alert, 2/99). The final report added the Main Fork of the Weber River in the Lakes Backcountry and Thompson Creek on the Uintas North Slope, both roadless rivers, and altered a few classifications on some river segments. The inventory is, again, to be commended for the changes and clarifications. The report celebrates the value of wild and scenic rivers and the Wasatch deserves credit for this report! But it falls a bit short from truly distinguishing itself. The continued exclusion of the Middle Fork of the Blacks Fork on the North Slope of the Uintas is a meaningful error. We simply can t understand the failure to include the river as eligible. This 10 mile stretch of river harbors obviously outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geological, fish, wildlife and ecological values. Many users of the Uintas, from hunters, fishers, to backpackers and wilderness enthusiasts, consider the Middle Fork of the Blacks Fork one of the most wild rivers and drainages on the Uintas. About two miles is within the High Uintas Wilderness and the rest is adjacent roadless country. It is a large meandering river from its inception. Working up the drainage it is a river dominated by huge forested slopes with portions of the river forested to its banks. Other portions open into wide expansive meadows where the river meanders and flows quietly and deeply. Beaver are noticeable. Pine marten are seen. The great gray owl is tucked in these deep old growth forests. Moose wander throughout the drainage.Coyotes, black bear and even cougar are seen here. At least two species of woodpeckers are found in these forests. There are a couple of huge rock slides. Like the West Fork Blacks Fork, a hiker is in touch with this river as you must cross it back and forth, working your way up through lodgepole pine forests to classic subalpine parklands and spruce fir forests. The river circles in and about these meadows at the base of 13,000 foot Tokewana Peak. Literally the Middle Fork starts on the shoulder of this massif. Early in the summer sandhill cranes are seen and heard. This omission is mysterious because in every aspect, in every category, the values are concomitant with the East Fork and the West Fork of the Blacks Fork, maybe more so. The drainage is certainly wilder. It is habitat for Colorado Cutthroat trout. Even simply looking at a topographic map tells that it is not a river buried in a forest--it meanders and slithers through wet meadows and dry parklands as well as ancient pine and spruce forests. Why not outstanding? Missing from the list one very wild, important river!

Dick Carter


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