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Celebrating 20 Years of Wilderness in the Southern Los Padres

Landmark Legislation Protected Wilderness Areas and Wild & Scenic Rivers

Photo Raphael Mazor

Signed into law twenty years ago today, the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act formally protected four new wilderness areas (encompassing more than 400,00 acres) in the Los Padres National Forest – more than doubling the wilderness acreage of the forest and adding to the forest’s rich wilderness legacy.Some of our favorite areas of the Los Padres were granted permanent protection by this wilderness bill, including the Sespe, Matilija, and Chumash wilderness areas in the Ventura County backcountry, and the Garcia Wilderness in San Luis Obispo County, along with expanding the size of three other existing wilderness areas, the San Rafael Wilderness in Santa Barbara County and the Silver Peak and Ventana wildernesses near Big Sur. The Act also added the the Sisquoc, Sespe, and Big Sur Rivers to the nation’s wild and scenic rivers system, forever preserving their wild free-flowing condition.  Even the popular Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail (which runs from the Piedra Blanca Trailhead off of Rose Valley Road to the Reyes Creek Trailhead off of Lockwood Valley Road) was officially recognized by this legislation.

As President George H.W. Bush said while signing this bill into law, “Wilderness designation of these areas means that they will be managed to preserve their unique and natural character. By signing this bill into law, we enhance the diversity and beauty of the Nation’s lands set aside for the enjoyment of both present and future generations of Americans.”

Read on for some ideas on how to get out in the wild and celebrate our public lands!

WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS
(84 miles designated by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act)

>>L.A. Times article about the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs along the Big Sur River
(this area is heavily used and we implore all visitors to implement Leave No Trace ethics. Heck, pack out MORE than you pack in!)

>>Songs of the Wilderness blog entry about hiking to Manzana Schoolhouse overlooking the Sisquoc River

MATILIJA WILDERNESS
29,600 acres designated by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act

>> Detailed hike description for Matilija Falls as published by the Santa Barbara Independent

SESPE WILDERNESS
219,700 acres, including the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, designated by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act

>> Join ForestWatch on an 11 mile hike into the Sespe Wilderness Saturday, June 23

CHUMASH WILDERNESS
38,150 acres designated by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act

>>Write-up from Backpacker.com about hiking the Tumamait Trail off of Mt. Pinos

THE GENE MARSHALL – PIEDRA BLANCA NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL
17.9 miles designated by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act

>> Blog post about hiking the National Recreation Trail  by a father and his 8-year-old son

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