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HISTORY & PREHISTORY

Mission Mountains Wilderness

Mission Mountains Wilderness

The Mission Mountain Range is the gateway to the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area, a 73,877-acre paradise for hiking, camping and fishing. An area of outstanding scenic beauty --rugged, snowcapped peaks, several small glaciers, alpine lakes, meadows and clear cold streams. Popularly known as the American Alps, the overpowering western face of the Missions pierces the sky almost 7,000 feet above the valley floor. A dozen summits rise above 9,000 feet. Waterfalls are abundant, with the best known being the 1,000-foot plunges of Elizabeth and Mission Falls.

In 1979, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes designated 89,500 acres of privately owned tribal lands along the western slopes as Wilderness. This is the only Tribal Wilderness in the nation to be established by the actual tribe. "These mountains belong to our children, and when our children grow old they will belong to their children. In this way and for this reason these mountain are sacred."

Each summer grizzlies gather on the snowfields of McDonald Peak to feast on swarms of cutworm moths and ladybugs. Yummy! In order to avoid displacing these great bears, the tribe closes about 12,000 acres to all public use from mid-July to October, The closed area is part of a larger trailless region that serves to discourage humans from entering the grizzly's home during a critical time.

Along with the grizzly population, mountain goats, black bears, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer are also found in the Wilderness. Some mountain lions, martens, minks, bobcats, lynx, weasels and wolverines may be occasionally seen along with many birds, including bald and golden eagles, common loons, and woodpeckers.

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