Core Stories

Marcus The Public Lands Llama : The River of No Return

A New Challenge

Hunting season is right around the corner for most of us, but the packing season for Marcus The Public Land Llama and his team started months ago. From stargazing in the desert to trekking through mudslides and catching trout in the backcountry, there has been no shortage of excitement for the team and their guests exploring the surrounding public lands.

One of these recent trips, however, presented a new challenge for Beau Batty, owner of Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas.

“It has always been my dream to take a llama deep into the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho,” Baty said. “The only way to really do it is by means of a jet boat up the main fork of the Salmon River.”

Beau had never attempted to take one of his highly trained backcountry llamas onto a boat before. He had no idea how a llama would respond. Despite friends telling him it couldn’t be done, he put his faith in Marcus’ abilities and training and was optimistic they could make it happen.

The plan worked. Marcus loaded up on a jet boat and made voyage up the Salmon River. Like a dog with his head out a car window, his fur and face flapped in the breeze as the splash of river water occasionally sprayed from the sides of the boat.

With Marcus along to carry more supplies, the team was able to navigate and explore the deep canyons and rugged mountains of the Wilderness like never before.

“We got to see country I never thought possible because of Marcus. It was such a cool experience, and he really did great.”

This is Your Land

Welcome to some of the most rugged and remote mountains and rivers in America. The Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness is listed as the largest contiguous National Forest Wilderness in the Lower 48. Few places in the United States provide a wilderness experience of this sheer magnitude.

Encompassing a total of 2,366,757 acres of deep canyons, steep mountainous peaks, and wild, whitewater rivers, the Wilderness was designated by the United States Congress in 1980. It is home to the Salmon River Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in North America - deeper even than that of the famous Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona and second to only Hells Canyon on the Snake River.

Despite the deep canyons and whitewater rivers, wildlife abounds in the forests of conifers, scattered meadows, and dry mountain slopes that dominate the Wilderness. Two hundred and fifty-eight (258) wildlife species occupy this land, including eight big game animals: mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black bear, mountain lion, and moose. It’s a paradise for sportsman and outdoorsman alike.

Hunting and fishing are allowed under State regulations and a network of 296 maintained trails and 66 trailheads (approximately 2,616 miles worth) provide access to this seemingly endless landscape. Despite this extensive trail system, an amazing 1.5 million acres remains trail-free and waiting to be explored.

Public Land Facts

  • The main Salmon River was nicknamed “The River of No Return” back when boats could navigate down the river but could not get back up through the fast water and numerous rapids. The name lives on today, even though jet boats can now navigate upstream.
  • General backcountry visitation is allowed with a maximum party size of 20 and a length of stay up to 14 days.
  • Caves and rock shelters along the Middle Fork and its tributaries hold artifacts that show Native Americans used this area for over 12,000 years.
  • Unlike other western mountains, the Salmon River Mountains do not separate into distinct ranges, are not arranged in lines, and have no trend or dominating crest.
  • Permits are not required for using horses, mules, or other riding or pack stock in the Wilderness. But motorized or mechanized transport of any kind, including motorcycles, mountain bicycles, 4x4’s, game carts, jetskis, and hang gliders are not allowed.

Where the pavement ends, onX begins. View detailed maps of Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness, and more.

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Where the pavement ends, onX begins. View detailed maps of Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness, and more.
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