Happy Birthday Sipsey Wilderness!

IMG 8742 Happy Birthday Sipsey Wilderness!
Quillan Creek, Sipsey Wilderness – Photo by Sam Calhoun

One of Alabama’s most cherished natural wonders, the Sipsey Wilderness, was established today, forty-two years ago, when President Gerald Ford signed the Eastern Wilderness Act into law on January 3rd, 1975.

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Sipsey Fork from Sipsey Recreation Area bridge – Photo by Sam Calhoun

A little Alabama history.

Did you know that citizens and legislators from Alabama started the Eastern Wilderness movement?

In 1969-197o, conservationists primarily from the Birmingham area launched a campaign to preserve forever a special area in the Bankhead National Forest, we call “Sipsey,” as wilderness.  By 1971, both Alabama U.S. Senators John Sparkman and Jim Allen introduced legislation designating the Sipsey Wilderness as a national wilderness area. The bill, which was the first proposed eastern wilderness legislation of its kind in the U.S. (meaning the first bill proposing a wilderness area east of the Mississippi River), helped launch the national Eastern Wilderness movement.

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faceinrock–Around the bend from Fall Creek Falls, Sipsey Wilderness – Photo by Sam Calhoun-

Following Alabama’s lead, legislation proposing additional eastern wilderness areas from all over the East and South were filed. After 4 1/2 years, in December 1974, Congress passed the Eastern Wilderness Act; legislation containing 16 newly designated wilderness areas in 13 states . The bill was then signed by President Ford into law.

Today, because of an incredibly dedicated group of Alabamians, who cared deeply about nature and the environment, we celebrate not only the birth of the Sipsey Wilderness, but wilderness areas throughout the East.

Alabama truly is the “birthplace” of eastern wilderness.

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Photo of the original Sipsey Wilderness marker dedicated in May of 1975

Want to know more about wilderness in the East?

Here is a list of just a few of the wilderness areas in the east:

Link to: Eastern Wilderness Areas

  • Also: Want to really “give the Sipsey Wilderness a birthday present?” Become a “guardian” of the Sipsey Wilderness.  Checkout Wild South’s Wilderness Ranger program or volunteer on a workday.



Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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