Experiencing Wild Places

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Did you know there are 806 Wilderness areas and 228 Wild & Scenic Rivers across 44 states? These special places offer solitude, serenity, breathtaking landscapes, and the rare opportunity to truly disconnect from our hectic lives.

With their wild nature comes more preparation and responsibility when experiencing these unique public lands. Read on to learn what makes these lands and waters so special, and how you can enjoy their unparalleled beauty and solitude while protecting these places for generations to come.

Get inspired to plan a visit to these special lands and waters

The National Wilderness Preservation System was created by Congress with the Wilderness Act of 1964 “for the permanent good of the whole people.” The Act directs wilderness areas “be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” When you hike or camp in a wilderness area, you get to experience nature for what it truly is, and always has been.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. When you’re planning a visit near or on a river, check  for one of these three designations: Wild River, Scenic River, or Recreational River. You’ll know you’re in a special place that has remained largely free from development over time.

A blue raft carrying six adults navigates rapids on a river

Lower Deschutes Wild and Scenic River (Jeanine Gibeaut, Share the Experience)

Opportunities for exploring wilderness are as diverse as the landscapes and people who visit them. From walking, hiking, climbing, and paddling to horseback riding, fishing, hunting, skiing, and snowshoeing, wilderness is a place to make unforgettable memories with family and friends or find solitude for yourself. In these activities, wilderness provides space to seek personal fulfillment like mental and physical health, artistic inspiration, and adventure.

Keep in mind, many agencies require wilderness permits to protect these fragile, unique ecosystems from overuse. Do your part to arrive ready and recreate responsibly to steward these lands for generations to come.

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