A caribou poses in the National Petroleum Reserve, a massive 22.8 million-acre wilderness along Alaska's north slope.
A golden eagle glides just above the surface of the South Fork of the Snake River, home to 21 species of raptor.
The McCullough Peaks are located in Park County, Wyoming. The McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) supports about 100 wild horses.
Arizona’s Eagletail Mountains Wilderness encompasses nearly 100,000 acres of sawtooth ridges, monoliths, spires, natural arches, and colorful rock strata.
A thread of lightning flickers beyond Colorado’s Alpine Loop. In the late 1800s, miners laid a network of roads here that remains as a National Backcountry Byway.
Pronghorn antelope and sage grouse share the frame in California’s Bodie Hills. The area lies in the Eastern Sierra Region, a geographic transition between the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin.
East of Las Cruces, New Mexico, a brilliant moon rises beyond the Organ Mountains, blue in the dusk. The range peaks at 9,000 feet above the Chihuahuan Desert.
The Arkansas River flows through Browns Canyon National Monument—21,500 acres ideal for hunting, fishing, and grazing livestock, in Chaffee County, Colorado.
South of Alaska’s Denali Highway, the Delta River is the habitat of grayling, whitefish, lake trout, burbot, and longnose suckers, as well as more than 100 species of migrating birds.
As evidenced in the BLM photo archives, Wyoming boasts some of the best encounters with wildlife in the country.
Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located just 17 miles outside the Las Vegas strip.
Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon. This stretch of backcountry byway runs 40 miles and features the best-preserved rock art in the West—dating back 1,000 years—and is often referred to as “the world’s longest art gallery.”
Just outside Missoula—the setting of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It—Garnet is Montana’s best-preserved ghost town. This mining community dissipated by 1912 and is now managed by the BLM, who offers guided tours of the old hotels, drug stores, and saloons.
Bighorn sheep traverse a hillside in the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.
In the San Juan Mountains, Red Cloud Peak rises over 14,000 feet. Wildflowers, bare mountainsides, and a deep green river valley highlight the diversity of Western landscapes, as epitomized by Colorado public lands.
The Basin and Range Province is a rugged, sunbaked, 704,000-acre expanse at the corner of the Great Basin. It features rock art, natural arches, limestone cliffs, and hunting opportunities for bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, and Rocky Mountain elk.
The South Fork of the Snake River runs 66 miles through southeastern Idaho. It boasts the largest native cutthroat fishery outside Yellowstone National Park.
The Rio Grande—pictured here in northern New Mexico—is an iconic American landscape. The 1,900-mile-long river flows out of the Colorado Rockies and empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and its gorge descends to depths of 800 feet.
The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse desert in North America. Here, a saguaro cactus forest illuminates and mystifies in the golden Arizona sunset.
A bald eagle alights from snowy branches near Lake Coeur d’Alene, in Idaho.
The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, in central Montana, comprises about 375,000 acres of public land and is home to boundless world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.
The Table Rocks, in Oregon, are volcanic plateaus formed by lava and sculpted by erosion. Steep hiking trails lead to the top of Upper and Lower Table Rocks, with vistas of lava formations and lush Oregon forestland.
Oregon’s mystic Elkhorn Mountain Range.
Sunset at the Juniper Dunes Wilderness, in Washington. The area is harried by high winds and hot summers, and not easily accessible except via old Jeep trails. But wildlife is abundant, and the gnarled juniper trees and 130-foot sand dunes make for some truly unique backcountry roaming.
An adventurer camps in California’s King Range, where mountains meet the sea, with views of ocean mist beneath the Milky Way.
BLM Oregon manages around 100 Roosevelt elk in the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. This bull stands graceful and solemn on a pasture shared with red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets, and osprey.
California’s Bodie Hills. Backroads, wildflowers, mountain vistas, and a bevy of antelope, mule deer, and the occasional sage grouse. Also, it features one of the nation’s best-preserved ghost towns.
Just a half-day drive outside Fairbanks, the Steese National Conservation Area conveys the essence of why Alaska is so prized among outdoor enthusiasts.
Cadiz Dunes, in Southern California. Nearly 20,000 acres of pristine golden wilderness in the Mojave.
The Cimarron River flows like a crystal ribbon out of an alpine tundra, in Colorado’s Uncompahgre Wilderness. The area features 36 peaks that rise over 13,000 feet.
Wyoming’s big game hunting and trout fishing are legendary, but opportunities for viewing small wildlife is also second to none in the Cowboy State.
The Salmon River runs 425 miles, one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the lower 48. It’s a world-class fishery for steelhead and Chinook salmon.
On the South Fork of the Salmon River, autumn reds and golds glow like jewels at the feet of bare, pine-dotted hillsides, iconic of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
The Milky Way looms above silhouetted cacti in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.
Craters of the Moon National Monument, in Idaho. There’s no shortage of public lands accessible to modern day sportsmen and adventurers. Get on the road, because it doesn’t end.
These 35 photographs, from the the Bureau of Land Management’s archives, document the fauna, flora, mountains, sunsets, and the star-dusted skies of the American wilderness. The images illuminate the staggering vastness of the U.S. Deserts, mesas, and mesquite render the Southwest as an entirely different world than the lush Oregon coast. Likewise, Montana and Wyoming’s sagebrush-dotted plains and snowy mountains are distinct yet tantamount in beauty to the golden seas of the Great Plains and the brick-red spires of Utah. Collectively, however, the photographs convey a singular theme: the opportunity to explore uncharted territory is available to any American who wants to escape the grind, get outside, and behold the country’s wonders—one of the truest American experiences of all.
Created in 1946 by President Truman, BLM oversees more than 250 million acres of public land, chiefly in the American West. As a division of the Department of the Interior, it focuses on sustaining the wildlife, and the environmental and cultural value of the properties it manages. These lands are an important part of our nation’s sporting heritage and remain an essential resource for many hunters, anglers, and outdoorsmen.
Photographs 2-4, 10, 12, 17, 20-22, 24, 28, and 31-34 courtesy of BLM, Flickr
Photographs 1, 5, 8-9, 11, 13-15,18, 19, 23, 25, 27, 29-30, and 35 courtesy of Bob Wick, BLM, Flickr
Photograph 7 courtesy of Patrick Alexander, BLM, Flickr
Photograph 16 courtesy of Tyler Roemer, BLM, Flickr
Photograph 26 courtesy of Stephen Baker, BLM, Flickr