About the wonder

Name: Sawtooths, including the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Location: Central Idaho, about 130 miles northeast of Boise.

Size: The SNRA is 756,000 acres, roughly equivalent to Rhode Island.

Mountain ranges: Four (Boulder, Sawtooth, Smoky, White Cloud). The highest peak is Castle Peak at 11,815 feet.

Major river headwaters: Four (Big Wood, Boise, Payette, Salmon).

Lakes: More than 500.

Fish and wildlife: Hundreds of species, including fox, coyote, mule deer, elk and black bear. The recreation area is also home to several native fish species, as well as spawning grounds for steelhead, and chinook and sockeye salmon.

History: The recreation area and the 217,000-acre Sawtooth Wilderness (formerly the Sawtooth Primitive Area) were established in 1972 by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Act. Two threats to the land spurred their creation: a proposed molybdenum mine on Castle Peak and subdivision development throughout the area. Idaho’s U.S. Sen. Frank Church, Sen. James McClure, Rep. Orval Hansen and Gov. Cecil Andrus were instrumental in drafting the legislation. National recreation area designation was unique for its time, permitting more uses than a national park, such as hunting and private land ownership. The intent of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area was to preserve the land while keeping it accessible, restricting development and respecting private property rights. “It was designed to be a showcase within the national forest system,” said Robert Hayes, Sawtooth Society president and executive director.

Getting there: From the Treasure Valley, there are two main routes — Idaho 21 to Stanley and Idaho 75 through Sun Valley. Note that Idaho 21 between Lowman and Stanley is periodically closed in the winter.

Operating season: Open year-round, although some facilities have limited access in winter.

Fees and reservations: Vary depending on the activity.

What to do: Activities include hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, whitewater rafting, skiing (Nordic and backcountry), horseback riding, rock climbing, backpacking, boating, picnicking, wildlife viewing and snowmobiling.

Lodging: Several options — campsites, motels and lodges, cabins, bed and breakfasts, guest ranches, vacation houses — are available in and around the SNRA. Check for seasonal availability.

For more information: Contact the Sawtooth National Recreation Area at 727-5013 or online at www.fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth/snra or the Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce at (800) 878-7950 or online at www.stanleycc.org.

Did you know?

* The SNRA includes 25,000 acres of private land. Development within its boundaries is regulated by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Act of 1972.

* Chinook salmon and steelhead born in the Salmon River return to their birthplace from the Pacific Ocean, an 800-mile trek, to spawn and die in their native waters.

* The mining of existing claims is permitted in the SNRA. It’s closed to new mineral entry.

* The adjacent Sawtooth National Forest, originally known as the Sawtooth Forest Reserve, was created in 1905 by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt. The forest is 2.1 million acres.

Sources: www.fs.fed.us; www.recreation.gov; www.sawtoothsociety.org