The Savage Soul of the Scotchmans

Savage Mountain and its Basins – the Heart and Soul of the Scotchmans

Savage Mountain. The name alone evokes images of nature’s wild and rugged side, of real Wilderness! This stunning mountain and the wild basins surrounding it lie at the heart of the Scotchman Peaks area; indeed, they are the very soul of the Scotchmans. The terrain is as tough as it comes and travelling there is a huge challenge, but the rewards of quiet stillness and solitude are just as large. Visiting this area is a trip back in time for a glimpse of the way these mountains were before man came to occupy their edges.

The ridgelines above the basin are prime winter habitat for mountain goats.  Billies, nannies and kids dot the steep south and west facing cliffs of Savage Mountain and Drift Peak throughout the year; but come snowfall, these “beasts the color of winter” thrive! In this seemingly harsh environment they find protection from predators and are well adapted, going into semi-hibernation even as the winds howl and scour the slopes clean of snow.  The lesson these wild lands teach is simple: some species thrive where others may struggle.

East Fork Creek and Thunder Creek drain isolated headwater basins just to the north of Savage Peak. Built of fractured rock piled precariously high and full of waterfalls, bull trout, beaver ponds, meandering moose and enough tag alder to keep out all but the hardiest hiker, these are some of the most remarkable and inspiring places I have ever personally visited anywhere.

The sheltered basin hanging directly to the north and east of Savage Peak holds snow well into May and has several high pockets of ancient trees; these are prime habitats for bear, lynx and wolverine dens.  Elk wallows abound and in the fall the sounds of bugling go on all day and through the night.

Down the same slope, just below the edge of this basin, lies Little Spar Creek Valley, one of the preferred locations to release grizzly bears intended to bolster the Cabinent-Yaak population.  Out of their transfer cages they burst to run up the valley slopes and into their new wilderness home!

Flowing “gin clear” this same creek drains Little Spar Lake, where undeveloped campsites, sheer cliffs, sunny rocks and fishing offer lasting memories to children of all ages.  Rain falls heavy in this cliff lined valley creating some of the most southern reaches of the interior rain forest. Spring and summer wildflowers abound in the open spaces between pockets of old growth Cedar and Hemlocks.  The alert scans the cliffs for Peregrine Falcon and Mountain Goats and watches for Northern Goshawk, Marten, Fisher and other species that are drawn to the deep dark woods.

Above Little Spar Lake, the saddle between Savage Mountain and Scotchman II is pocketed with un-named ponds and provides what one biologist has called the “best black bear habitat” in the region. We simply know the place for awe inspiring camps beneath these two behemoths and feel that there is no other world outside these mountain walls.

Still deeper are the mysteries of upper canyon of Savage creek. Just a the few hundred feet wide, and yet over 2,000 foot deep, the dark depths of this chasm are almost never visited, holding mysteries that can only be explored by imagination and wonder. Does it get any more wild than that?!?!

Savage Mountain and its surrounding basins, the heart and soul of the Scotchmans, are important places very deserving of lasting protection. We hope you will join us in thanking the forest service for including them as “Recommended Wilderness”   in the draft forest plan. Speak up about this special area and other locations of specific concern to you!

See the Take Action sheet elsewhere in this newsletter or visit our Take Action webpage at:

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. After reading this I must go!!!Tell
    I need to get trail head maps!!!please

  2. Directions to various trailheads and a downloadable map of the area is available on the hiking tab of our website:

    Hard copies of the map can be found at about 70 businesses throughout the region including REI in Spokane, Outdoor Experience in Sandpoint and the Hope Market Cafe.

    Or come out on one of our organized hikes, winter or summer!

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