The Minam Wild and Scenic River is located entirely within the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeast Oregon on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Originating out of Blue and Minam Lakes at around 7,700 feet, this 77-mile-long wild river (41.9 miles designated) can only be accessed by hiking or horseback riding the wilderness trails or flying into Reds Horse Ranch for almost its entire length.
The ranch is a key feature along the river and was acquired by the Forest Service in the mid-1990s. Once a locally famous dude ranch and lodge, it is now managed as a historic site and a wilderness backcountry facility. Although no longer available as an overnight facility, it is open to the public for viewing and visitation by volunteer staff in the summer months. The primitive airstrip at Reds Horse Ranch is also open for public landings and for limited commercial use (permit required).
October 28, 1988. From its headwaters at the south end of Minam Lake to the Eagle Cap Wilderness boundary, one-half mile downstream from Cougar Creek.
The river provides excellent quality habitat and clear, cold, highly oxygenated water which supports resident species—bull trout, whitefish, and rainbow trout—and runs of anadromous species—spring/summer chinook salmon and summer steelhead. The spring/summer chinook salmon which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The combination of glaciated-dominated geology in the headwaters, contrasting with the lower volcanic dominated landscape, provides a textbook example to study the formative processes of the Wallowa Mountains. The corridor also displays examples of a variety of geologic processes, including glaciation, volcanism, faulting, folding, and erosion.
The quality and diversity of recreational opportunities within the river corridor make it a popular area for backpacking, horsepacking, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, and high-quality hunting experiences in a semi-primitive and primitive wilderness setting. There are outstanding opportunities for experiencing solitude, freedom, closeness to nature, tranquility, self-reliance, challenge, and risk.
The variety in landscapes is dramatic and memorable, from the steep, glaciated upper drainage to the heavily forested U-shaped valley in the middle portion to the deeply dissected basalt canyons of the lower canyon. The entire drainage lies within the Eagle Cap Wilderness and is characterized as an area where natural processes dominate.
The diversity of unaltered habitat includes a wide range of solitude-dependent animals, such as wolverine, fisher, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, black bear, river otter, bald eagle, and cougar. The area is considered a premier reservoir for big game species.