The Inyo National Forest in California features some of the most iconic wild places in the eastern Sierra Nevada. In late 2019, the Forest Service released a final plan for these 1.9 million acres of public lands, including which wild places are recommended as wilderness and which streams are eligible for wild and scenic river protection. Many of these wild places will provide refuge and critical migration corridors for plants and animals to survive climate change. CalWild advocated for – and won – the protection of the following wild places in the Inyo Forest Plan:
Glass Mountain (17,444+ acres) – Located in Mono County, this potential wilderness forms the northeastern rampart of the Long Valley Caldera. The spring-fed creeks, abundant meadows, and aspen groves in this desert region is sustained by Pacific moisture that streams through a low point in the high Sierra crest. The area supports part of the largest Jeffrey pine forest in the world, uniquely mixed with pinyon, mountain mahogany, lodgepole, limber, and whitebark pine. Sagebrush steppes, steep-walled canyons, and high volcanic ridges add to the area’s ecological diversity, which includes ecosystems underrepresented in the Wilderness System. The entire area is an important migratory corridor for wildlife and plants between the Sierra Nevada, White Mountains, and Great Basin Desert. The threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout was recently established in O’Harrel Canyon and the area supports the sensitive sage grouse. Steep topography provides outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. Most of the area is trail-less, but a user-created trail from Sawmill Meadow provides access to Glass Mountain’s scenic summit.
Ansel Adams Wilderness Northeast Addition (7,212+ acres) – Located in Mono County, this potential addition to the Ansel Adams Wilderness encompasses the eastern Sierra Nevada escarpment between Lee Vining and Glass Mountain Ansel Adams Northeast June Lake. The area supports diverse forests of Jeffrey and limber pine, red and white fir, mountain mahogany, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and meadow-side aspens. Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and sage grouse inhabit the area. Parker, Walker, and Gibbs Creeks flow through the addition, offering wildlife migration routes between the high country and the Mono Lake Basin. The entire addition offers excellent opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation, including hiking on existing trails, cross-country exploration, and hunting.
Dexter Canyon (13,014+ acres) – Located in Mono County, this potential wilderness is dominated by the deeply incised canyons of Dexter and its tributary canyons. These perennial streams rise from large meadows and flow through a landscape of eroded granite knobs, rolling uplands, and flat volcanic mesas. Diverse conifer species, snowbank aspen groves, sagebrush steppes, and streamside willows and meadows support a wide variety of wildlife. The area supports ecosystems under-represented in the Wilderness System and provides important migratory routes for wildlife and plants between the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin. Most of the area is trail-less, providing excellent opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, including hiking and hunting.
White Mountains Wilderness Additions (10,329 acres) – When the White Mountains Wilderness was established by Congress in 2009, its southern section in Inyo County was left out. This addition corrects that mistake and adds wild lands that include ecosystems under-represented in the Wilderness System and that provide an important wildlife migration corridor between the White and Inyo Mountains. The area supports sage grouse, ancient bristlecone pines, and the rare Booth’s evening primrose. It also provides excellent opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation.
Deep Springs North (34,164 acres) – A primitive road separates this area from the White Mountains potential wilderness additions to the north. As such, this wild place is part of the critical wildlife migration connection between the White and Inyo Mountains. It also includes ecosystems unrepresented in the Wilderness System The area is home to one of the few black toad populations outside of Deep Springs Valley and it also supports ancient bristlecone pines and the sensitive Townsend’s big-eared bat. A unique feature is the Birch Creek granite batholith, which is surrounded by sedimentary formations. The area provides primitive and unconfined recreation opportunities.
Piper Mountain Wilderness Addition (14,518 acres) – Separated from the potential White Mountains additions and Deep Springs North by the Highway 168 corridor, this area also includes under-represented ecosystems and an important migration corridor between the White and Inyo Mountains. The area also supports several rare and endemic plants. Sensitive cultural resources are found in the area, which would add significant acreage to the BLM’s existing Piper Mountain Wilderness.
Inyo Mountains Addition (4,840 acres) – Separated from the Piper Mountain Addition by the Eureka Valley Road, this potential addition to the Inyo Wilderness will provide critical connectivity for migrating wildlife between the White and Inyo Mountains. It also includes ecosystems under-represented in the Wilderness and supports several rare and endemic plants. Marble Canyon is a unique geological feature in the area. This wild place offers primitive and unconfined recreation.
South Sierra Wilderness Addition (17,622 acres) – This eastern addition to the South Sierra Wilderness includes rich riparian habitat in scenic Haiwee Canyon. The addition includes ecosystems under-represented in the Wilderness System and is home to Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, Kern slender salamander, and rare plants. It also provides an important wildlife migration corridor between the Sierra Nevada and Mojave Desert and offers opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation.
Wild and Scenic Rivers
The Inyo Forest plan revision process began in 2012 with 129 miles of eligible streams previously identified in the 1990s. In response to extensive public comments and an objection filed by CalWild and its allies, the Forest Service in the 2019 final plan identified an additional 111.9 miles of eligible rivers and streams.
Pending future legislation, eligible National Wild & Scenic Rivers are managed by the Forest Service to protect their free flowing character, outstanding value(s), and tentative wild, scenic, or recreational classification. These eligible streams may be considered for future public lands legislation to protect wild places in the eastern Sierra Nevada and White Mountains.
MONO LAKE TRIBUTARIES
Lee Vining Creek (17 miles), Mono County – Lee Vining Creek from its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada to Mono Lake terminus is eligible for Wild & Scenic River protection due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, and geology values. The second largest tributary to Mono Lake, Lee Vining Creek is fed by melting ice from the Conness Glacier, flowing south and east to Mono Lake through a spectacularly glaciated canyon rimmed by dramatic granite peaks and dotted with meadows and waterfalls. Much of the creek is paralleled by Highway 120 and the entire canyon is a popular gateway for national and international visitors to Yosemite National Park and the Mono Basin National Scenic Area. Popular backcountry trails provide access to the stream’s upper reaches, while numerous campgrounds are found in its middle section. Flows in the lower 4.3 miles of the creek were restored due to the historic Mono Lake legal decision, which required the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power to end diversions that formerly de-watered the lower segment of the creek. The lower segment of the creek was found eligible in response to an objection filed by CalWild and its allies, which successfully argued that the lower creek from Lee Vining to its confluence with Mono Lake, with its restored flows and popular hiking trail, possessed outstanding scenery and recreation values associated with the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area.
Rush Creek (18 miles), Parker Creek (10.4 miles), Walker Creek (9.3 miles), Crest Creek (3.3 miles), Mono County – Rush Creek is the largest tributary to Mono Lake. From its headwaters in the Sierra Nevada to its confluence with Mono Lake, the creek is eligible for Wild and Scenic River protection (except where four existing reservoirs impede natural flows). The stream segments between the reservoirs are considered free flowing and possess outstanding scenery, recreation, wildlife, geology, history, and pre-history (cultural). Rush Creek tributaries – Crest, Parker, and Walker Creeks – were also found eligible due to outstanding scenery, recreation, and history values. Flows in the lower segments of the creek were restored due to the historic Mono Lake legal decision, which required the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power to end diversions that formerly de-watered the creek segments. These lower segments were originally not determined eligible by the Forest Service. They were added as eligible segments in response to an objection filed by CalWild and allies in recognition of outstanding scenic and recreation values associated with the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area.
Mill Creek (14.7 miles) & South Fork Mill Creek (2.9 miles), Mono County – Mill Creek from its headwaters to its confluence with Mono Lake is eligible for Wild and Scenic River protection (except for the short segment inundated by Lundy Reservoir). The third largest tributary to Mono Lake, the creek’s outstanding values include scenery, recreation, and geology. The geology value is associated with the upper canyon’s extensive glaciation and the volcanic geology of the lower segment flowing into Mono Lake. The creek also provides outstanding views of high peaks and numerous opportunities for hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing. The 2.3 mile lower segment was determined eligible in response to a protest by CalWild and its allies, which pointed out that lower Mill Creek has benefitted from restored flows from the upstream hydroelectric project.
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER WATERSHED (Western Sierra Nevada)
Middle Fork San Joaquin River (3.5 miles), Mono County – The very upper segment of the Middle Fork from its headwaters to Thousand Island Lake is eligible due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, and geology. A popular destination for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, rock climbers, and anglers, the eligible segment includes scenic Thousand Island Lake.  The eligibility finding complements the Forest Service recommendation from the 1990’s to add the Middle, North, and mainstem of the San Joaquin River on the Sierra National Forest to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
Fish Creek (20.4 miles), Fresno and Tulare Counties – A major tributary to the Middle Fork San Joaquin River, Fish Creek possesses outstanding scenery, recreation, geology, and wildlife values. The creek flows through a highly scenic corridor with waterfalls, granite cascades, and soda springs and is the route of a popular trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Endangered Yosemite toad breed in creek-side meadows and uplands.
OWENS RIVER WATERSHED (Eastern Sierra Nevada)
Hot Creek (12.9 miles) & Mammoth Creek (10.5 miles), Mono County – Hot Creek and its major tributary, Mammoth Creek, are eligible due to outstanding scenery, recreation, geology, fish, history, prehistory, and botanical values. A state designated Wild Trout Stream, Hot Creek is a popular destination for tourists to view boiling hot springs (a remnant of the Long Valley Caldera) and fish for wild trout. Recreation on the creek occurs in a wild setting framed by the magnificent Sierra escarpment to the west and Glass Mountain to the east. Hot Creek and Mammoth Creek also possess a high number of documented historic and prehistoric sites. The eligible National Forest segment of Hot Creek is complemented by a one mile segment downstream found eligible by the Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s. Comments from CalWild and its allies convinced the Forest Service to find Mammoth Creek eligible.
Little Hot Creek (3.9 miles), Mono County – Little Hot Creek is eligible due to its outstanding geology, prehistory, and botanical values. Fed by hot springs, Little Hot Creek is also rich in prehistory. The extensive alkali flats along the stream support the Inyo phacelia, a rare plant. Although inexplicably not recognized as an outstanding fish value by the Forest Service, Little Hot Creek is also home to the endangered Owens tui chub. Comments from CalWild and its allies convinced the Forest Service to find Little Hot Creek to be eligible.
Laurel Creek (3.8 miles), Mono County – Laurel Creek is eligible due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, and geology values. Opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing (for native Golden Trout) attract visitors from beyond the region. Drivers on Highway 395 can appreciate Laurel Creek’s outstanding scenery, as the stream zig-zags down a massive glacial moraine.
Convict Creek (7 miles), Mono County – Convict Creek from its headwaters to Convict Lake is eligible due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, geology, and botanical values. Convict Creek flows through rock formations that provide evidence of 150 million years of geological processes. A popular recreation destination, the creek’s riparian corridor supports unique plant communities that include numerous rare plants.
McGee Creek (10.5 miles), Mono County – McGee Creek is eligible due to outstanding scenery, recreation, and geology values. The popular McGee Creek Trail accesses a highly scenic wilderness canyon with unique geology, including old Sierra rocks and roof pendants.
Rock Creek (23.2 miles), Mono and Inyo Counties – Rock Creek is eligible due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, geology, and prehistory values. Rock Creek’s majestic canyon and its dramatic geology and glaciation attracts large numbers of hikers, campers, anglers, and autumn leaf peepers. A popular mountain bike trail parallels lower Rock Creek, which has carved a deep canyon through the edge of the Volcanic Tablelands. Rock Creek is the east end of a trans-Sierra trail used by Native Americans for trade purposes. The National Forest segments of Rock Creek are complemented by a 1.5 mile segment downstream found eligible by the Bureau of Land Management.
O’Harrel Canyon Creek (5.3 miles), Inyo County – Flowing from the steep slopes of Glass Mountain, O’Harrel Canyon Creek is eligible due to its outstanding fish and prehistory values. Threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout have been restored to the creek. Prehistory sites eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places are found along the creek. Comments from CalWild and its allies convinced the Forest Service that the creek is eligible and a subsequent objection filed by CalWild and its allies ensured that the upper 2.3 miles of the creek within the Glass Mountain roadless area is classified as wild.
Middle Fork Bishop Creek (4 miles), Inyo County – Middle Fork Bishop Creek from its headwaters to Lake Sabrina Reservoir is eligible due to its outstanding scenery. The upper segment of the Middle Fork offers classic Eastern Sierra scenery, including high peaks and lakes.
South Fork Bishop Creek (8.8 miles), Inyo County – South Fork Bishop Creek from its headwaters to the private land at Habeggers RV Park (except for the short segment beneath Lake Sabrina Reservoir) is eligible due to outstanding scenery, recreation, geology, and history. The South Fork canyon is a popular recreation destination for hikers, campers, anglers, and autumn leaf peepers. Early recreation cabins and the Bishop Creek Hydroelectric District are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The sole cobalt deposit in the United States is located in the South Fork watershed.
North Fork Big Pine Creek & Pine Creek (9.1 miles) Inyo County – All of the North Fork Big Pine Creek and about 2.5 miles of the main stem Pine Creek are eligible due scenery, recreation, geology, and history. Classic high Sierra scenery is uniquely underscored by the Palisade Glacier. Opportunities to rent summer cabins, ride pack horses, camp, hike, and fish attract visitors from beyond the region. The historic Lon Chaney cabin is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Division Creek (3.4 miles) Inyo County – Division Creek from the John Muir Wilderness boundary to the Inyo National Forest boundary is eligible due to its outstanding history value. The creek is rich in the history of water development and extraction by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
South Fork Oak Creek (7.5 miles) Inyo County – South Fork Oak Creek is eligible due to outstanding scenery, geology, and botany values. The South Fork’s high scenic stream corridor boasts views of Kearsarge Peak, Sardine Meadows, and Parker Lakes. The upper South Fork canyon includes some of the southern-most rock glaciers and permanent snow fields in the Sierra Nevada.  The lower canyon supports one of the largest black oak stands on the Inyo Forest and supports water birch riparian communities and Frog’s big buttercup (a rare plant).
Lone Pine Creek & North Fork Lone Pine Creek (8.6 miles) Inyo County – Lone Pine Creek and its North Fork, from their headwaters to the National Forest boundary are eligible due to their outstanding scenery, recreation, and geology values. The creek flows through a highly scenic canyon with views of Mt. Whitney and other towering peaks. The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail and the classic hike to the top of Mt. Whitney attract large numbers of visitors from outside the region. After leaving the National Forest, Lone Pine Creek flows through more than six miles of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.
Cottonwood Creek (12.7 miles), Inyo & Tulare Counties – From its headwaters in the Cottonwood Creek Lakes Basin in the Sierra Nevada to the Los Angeles Aqueduct diversion, Cottonwood Creek is eligible due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, fish, geology, and history values. Many visitors from outside the region come to enjoy Cottonwood Creek’s exemplary high Sierra scenery and opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. Little evidence of glaciation despite the creek’s high elevation contributes to the stream’s unique geology. History values includes one of the earliest recreation resorts in the Sierra, several sites associated with logging in the 1800s to supply the Cerro Gordo Mine charcoal kilns, and the history surrounding the development of the LA Aqueduct. The creek provides pristine habitat for naturally reproducing golden trout.
NORTH FORK KERN RIVER WATERSHED
Golden Trout Creek (19 miles) & Volcanic Creek (2.3 miles), Tulare County – Golden Trout Creek from its headwaters to its confluence with the North Fork Kern Wild & Scenic River is eligible due to outstanding scenery, recreation, fish, geology, and history values. Its tributary, Volcanic Creek, was also found to possess outstanding geology values. Golden Trout Creek provides high quality habitat that supports the least-compromised population of native Golden Trout in the state. With a backdrop of the Sierra crest, the creeks flow through a diverse landscape of alpine meadows, chinquapin and manzanita chaparral, woodlands, and unique geological formations, including 100-foot high Volcano Falls. The stream attracts many visitors from outside the region. The creek’s history value is associated with Tunnel Meadow, site of one of the first water wars in California. Volcanic Creek flows through malpais lava formations past a unique cinder cone.
WHITE MOUNTAINS – GREAT BASIN WATERSHED
Cottonwood Creek (1.7 miles), South Fork Cottonwood Creek (3.7 miles), & Poison Creek (3.4 miles), Mono County – Flowing east into the Great Basin from the White Mountains, 21.5 miles of Cottonwood Creek were protected as a National Wild & Scenic River by Congress in 2009. But the designation did not include the upper segment of the creek. In the revised Inyo Forest Plan, the Forest Service found the upper 1.7 miles of Cottonwood Creek to be eligible due to its outstanding fish and prehistory values. The creek harbors the endangered Paiute cutthroat trout and flows through one of the highest elevation prehistoric habitation areas in the country. The South Fork Cottonwood Creek from its headwaters to its confluence with Cottonwood Creek, and its tributary Poison Creek, are eligible due to the same unique prehistory values.
North Fork Crooked Creek (4.6 miles), Mono County – From its headwaters to its confluence with the South Fork Crooked Creek, the North Fork is eligible due to its nationally significant high elevation prehistoric habitation sites, many of which are eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places.
 The National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act defines “river” as a flowing body of water, “including rivers, streams, creeks, runs, kills, and small lakes.”
 Rock glaciers are distinctive geomorphological landforms consisting of rock debris frozen in ice or true glaciers overlain by a layer of talus.