River of No Return

Deep in the heart of Idaho lies the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, part of the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 states. At 2.5 million acres, it is larger than Yellowstone, yet most people have never even heard of it. Designated a federally-protected wilderness in 1980 by Congress, the region is full of deep canyons and mountain forests, rivers and abundant wildlife. Otters and elk, deer and coyotes, blue birds and bighorn sheep, and newly-restored wolf populations all thrive there. Today, nine packs of wolves roam freely through the park, each pack dependent on family — raising their young and hunting together.

Watch a preview of the PBS Nature film, River of No Return.

Working with the Nez Perce Tribe in Central Idaho, wolf biologist Isaac Babcock spent 13 years participating in the wolf reintroduction program organized in the area. Wanting to share the raw beauty of the land and the wolves with his new wife, Bjornen, Isaac proposes spending a year there as an unconventional honeymoon, documenting their days as they go along. River of No Return tells their story, the story of a couple that took on the wilderness and all its challenges. The two have come to treasure their experience in an untamed place that, for a period of time, they called home. River of No Return premieres April 18, 2012.

  • Izzy

    Looks great! Looking forward to watching. There should be more programs (series) like this focusing on wild life in the US of A (example: My Life As A Turkey). It could go on indefinitely!

  • wolf man

    Looking forward to seeing this. glad to see the focus of filming not revolving around making $$$ but rather informing the public! Go Isaac and Bjornen

  • Aaron

    Looks very cool. I would however point out that the River of No Return wilderness is not a park, its national forest land administered by the USDA Forest Service. There’s a big difference.

  • John Smith

    Why is this called “River of No Return”? Reading about this previously, it’s about wolves, people tracking wolves, and is a film with a political bias. I can’t help but feel the name isn’t just a crafty choice to get a lot of folks watching who think it’s about whitewater, or wilderness, or whatever. They’ll probably stick around for the wolf story….

  • Bri Z.

    I’m so excited to see this! I was working with a crew of eight volunteers for the Student Conservation Association clearing mule-train trails in Payette National Forest in the summer of ’09, during the time that Isaac and Bjornen were filming. The couple hiked into our camp one evening while we were making dinner. They spent some time with us discussing our role in wilderness preservation, and they told us about their film. My crew-mates and I have been waiting since the end of that summer to hear about this. I can’t wait to see how it turned out! Congrats guys! I’m so glad you accomplished this!

  • jeff

    AMAZING!!! and i’m only 15 minutes in. what is wrong with this world with the senseless killing of them?

  • Scott

    We really need more programs of this quality. My family watches only these shows, so we don’t watch much. I enjoy sharing time with my children learning while being entertained. Thank you PBS.

  • Carolyn

    This is great. Love the otters!!! Reminds me I miss the sounds of nature.

  • Rita Haley

    I loved the program. I too suffer from Arthritis and Lupus and love the outdoors. I am so glad that you both are so couragous to follow through with your dream. I hope that in the future you can do more however be easier on your wife’s joints. I hope that you will keep up the good work I look forward to seeing more.

  • Cody

    This was a beautiful piece! I’d like to read it if it was turned into a book. I felt like just the surface of what they experienced was shown.

  • helmut

    I watched the program on public television. I just loved the scenery and want to say thanks. Helmut

  • george reale

    Saw the video on pbs 4/18/12 – great camera work – fantastic story of their yr in wilderness – made me want to travel to R of N R. Thank You.

  • ralph young

    You guys are proud – you should be. thank you both

  • Dave

    Just finished watching River of No Return and was thoughly rewarded for the expierence. It has always amazed me how much we have lost due to mans need to progress. Thank goodness there are those in and out of government that see the need to preserve our natural areas. 2.5 million acres survive intact because of their vision. Thanks to all for telling this important story.

  • Eric

    I just watched this and couldn’t turn away. The video was amazing and I liked how the two went back and forth with the narration. It actually made me want to live in the wild…..for just a minute. But not like these two – 10 months!! Good job on this – well done.

  • Brian G

    Just came home from work and caught this beautifully shot and thoughtfully narrated epic. I’ll be seeing it agian. Thanks for sharing it with us Bjornen and Isaac.

  • Esther Kay

    Wonderful adventure story, made me want to go there, but at 73 doubt I could go far into the mountains, thanks for sharing some of your honeynoon with us.

  • W. J. Wilson

    Extraordinary account …. much appreciated by this Science Educator / Consultant !
    Especially wonderful for a long time resident of primarily Florida, the Caribean and Central America.
    Can’t wait to share with students of all ages. Ciao (*_*)

  • Laura Wolf

    What a wonderful experience, and I hate that it had to be halted prematurely. Please update us on Isaac & Bjornen’s status!

  • Luann

    Just finished watching the program. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

  • Bill

    This is one of the most beautiful episodes I’ve ever watched. Beautiful photography, adventure, subjects, and film makers I heartily recommend it to anyone. Plus it deals with wolves, one of my favorite subjects.

  • joel christophersen

    This was an excellent program but I disagree with some of your comments/findings. I feel you had a much better chance of survival and calculated safety factor than any other animal portayed, including most humans. Also, I feel that wolves are probably no
    better than humans when it comes to being highest on the food chain (in this situation) and looking out for themselves. Wolves cannot edit what they do whether you catch on film or not, only humans . I am sure i will take a chewing on my opinion, but being being a native Idahoan that has never had the chance to take a one year “honeymoon” perhaps I am a bit jaded. All in all still a very good show and thanks for making it.

  • john

    Just finished watching the program. Wonderful photography!!!! Having spent a fair amount of time in the Frank Church however, I feel that the program was nothing more than a pro- wolf propaganda film. If I had not started watching from the beginning and just happened upon the show, I’d swear that it was put together by the Center for Biodiversity or some such environmental group!!!
    Really??? I admire the fortitude and perseverence of the hosts’ and the hardships that they endured, and they did a wonderful job with showing the diversity of the Frank through the seasons. I just wished that they would have been more objective in the portrayal of the wolves and their impact on the rest of the ecosystem. Seriously, the reintroduction goals of the initial wolf management program have been met for years,(and then some) and yet the environmental groups who sought reintroduction to begin with can’t grasp the concept the the original goals of reintroduction have been met far and away above what was sought. I do believe there is a place for the wolves in the grand scheme of things in the ecosystem, but I also think that they do need to be managed in accordance with realistic population goals just like every other big game animal in Idaho, and hence They should be under the juristiction of the IDFG as it currently is.

  • Dude, the bagman

    Just a point of pickiness –

    The Frank Church is not a park. It’s a wilderness area. It’s managed by the Forest Service, not the National Park Service. It’s not a matter of semantics when there’s a big difference.

  • Kristy

    That was the most beautiful nature show I’ve ever seen; wonderfully narrated; THANKYOU! oo

  • Mike K.

    Just watched the show…Thank you. I know how Bjornen feels. My health is going. Hope all is well with her. Again Thank you for sharing a part of your life. Great photography…wonderful place to be.

  • Esi Del

    wow wow, that was a great showing! Kudos to Isaac and Bjornen.

    Hope Bjornen feels better and soothed . I really envied the time you spent with nature, great risk, and great honeymoon indeed. Thanks for beinging this to those of us in the concrete jungle.

  • Bob Hale

    One word:


    What a way to start a life together. Superior TV presentation; excellent narration; so captivating is the entire saga. We who have been married over 50 years wish you well…and we applaud your mutual energy and compassion! Thank you for sharing your minds and hearts!

    I spent my career in broadcasting….I did NOTHING that comes even close to what you two have done and shared. You have an “M E” from me…and my Kathy!!!! Long life…and keep doing it!

    Bob Hale

  • Ron Stoecklein

    amazing footage!! Beyond me how they were able to carry all that equipment for so long!! It would be interesting to see how Bjornen is doing now! I wish her well!!!

    Would really be interested in hearing or reading more about the equipment and any problems they experienced!


  • Sherry Jones

    Fabulous show. I ran across it, and it immediately drew me in. I loved the beautiful scenery and intimate portraits of the wildlife. The wolves, of course, and the salmon! And the lame ewe — and her friend and protector — silhouetted on a ridge. Magnificent. And I like seeing who saw these things, and how they got these shots. I appreciated the urge to be there, to experience the wilderness, the epic patience and desire to witness. And the confession, that it is hard to be so footsore and weary. But oh, so precious. So moving. And so beautiful. Congratulations.

  • D.L. Wood

    I find your web site terrible to get the info. you want. I missed 90% of this show and would like to view the entire show. I tried to find when it would be shown again but I’ll be darned if I can find anything about when it might be on again.

    D.L. Wood

  • Snowbrushy

    Adventure, education and love of wildlife and a woman all in one wonderful show. Thank you!

  • scott

    Awesome – Wish it was 4 hours.

  • Siri

    An incredible program! It makes me long for my Northwest roots. Enjoyed it so much on TV, I’m back to watch it again via the Web!

  • Catherine

    I watched this new episode tonight–and thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife footage! Seeing the different animals–watching species act + interact–being able to imagine–even for one hour ( or less) being out in the wilderness..that is what “Nature” is all about. PBS does it best–and I am very appreciative of each and every episode that I am fortunate enough to view in the privacy of my home.LOVE the wolves footage..and the whitetail..and the bighorn..and the elk!!!of course the otters, birds, –you get the picture!

  • Jim

    Stunning! One hour was not enough. I hope there’s a book.

  • Angie

    I continue to watch and support PBS because of programming like this. Awe inspiring!

  • Mary


    Rheumatoid Arthritis can be easily reversed in a matter of weeks following the anti-inflammatory low-carb diet and lifestyle changes recommended by Art Ayers, PhD, a professor of microbiology and medical researcher blogging under the name Cooling Inflammation (google it). I had a severe case and have now been free of the disease for 5 years. There’s no need to suffer, become disabled or die from this disease.

  • NatureWatcher

    Every frame was composed so well – each frame could be a perfect photograph on its own. Truly great photography! Would love to see more from this duo – how do we find out when their next film will be aired? Their narration was a strong point as was the glimpse into their relationship, especially their shared humor. Would like to see more of that in the next film.

  • Karen Adams

    Loved this episode, great job, spectacular country.

  • Shane Moore

    I had the pleasure of going on a short (for Isaac and Bjornen) walk of about thirty miles through the wilderness and I’d like folks to know that what these two accomplished was even more extraordinary than what was shown in the film. They’re both very modest, but what they accomplished was certainly a herculean task. Hats of to them for fulfilling their dream and kudos to Nature for supporting them!

  • Dorene Grant

    Unfortunately I missed it. Will it be re-run and if so when?

  • Penelope Warnholtz

    I have roamed the Idaho and Montana mountains in my camper with my hound dog. It was so wonderful and wild that I did not want other people to go. I never made it to the subject mountains of this area in the film, but I read a book called One Winter In the Wilderness by Pat Cary Peek. That story was of an older couple who stayed and minded the camp and cabin at Taylor Ranch Field Station where Issac and Bjornen spent the winter. Their film was beautiful. I love the way the wolves blend into the rocks and grey weathered woods. Thankyou so very much!

  • rickporsche

    amazing what some ppl are will to do to get in touch with nature. Our forrests and parks must remain unspoiled future generations.

  • Rebecca Raplee

    I was told once that the Snake River was the River of No Return because long ago Indians would send young scouts up river to find the headwaters only they never returned.

  • Dorothy Peterson

    Amazing program. Thank you for all your hard work to bring the program to the public. And thank you PBS.
    Best of luck in the future.

  • Ann M.

    Wonderful show, loved every moment, (except for the RA news) and think they had the best honeymoon any couple could experience. Goo
    d luck to them both.

  • Barbara Jensen

    Awesome program. Wish i could go. What did you eat?

  • Karen Roach

    I was so touched by this program. What are Bjornen and Isaac doing now? I have a much younger friend who was diagnosed in her early 30’s with rheumatoid arthritis. With medicine, diet and exercise, she is now finishing her doctorate and holding down a full-time job — enjoys taking her bicycle to work and snow skiing. But when her disease flares up, the pain is great. That Bjornen was determined to finish their honeymoon adventure is a testament to her fortitude. I disagree with some of the responses that this was a “wolf promotion.” I enjoyed the rare opportunity to see how wolves hunt and nurture their young in a true wilderness. My fav? The otters! As a senior facing end-of-life issues, I hope to come back as one of these playful and beautiful creatures.

  • Claire Seminario

    This is a stunningly beautiful, subtly intellectual, quietly monumental laud to nature, to life, and the beauty and challenges that lie therein. Very moving. Thank you Isaac and Bjornen for making this film.

  • Steve Pauley

    Named the River of No Return by Lewis and Clark — first called
    “Lewis’ River”.

    Heading west in 1805 Lewis found the main Salmon River and knew
    they could not get back up the rapids & steep canyons to return home.
    And getting down would also have been a nightmare in their boats.

    If you have a chance, take a 6 day/5 night float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon.
    We’ve done it (guided) many times and will take our family this July to
    celebrate 50 yrs.. Hope to see and hear some wolves this time. Great cut
    throat fishing too. Have not seen the show yet but will look for a repeat..Thanks for the reviews.
    PS thanks to our late Sen. Franck Church (D -Idaho) for getting Congress
    to designate this part of Idaho a wilderness. We need more like him.

  • Steve Pauley

    Show will air on Direct TV
    PBS Nature Sun. April 22 10 PM

  • Bernadette and Haio

    Holy Smokes, we are SO impressed, Bjornen and Isaac! Way to go! This was an amazing film. We loved everything about it, and like many others said, we couldn’t stop watching. It’s clear you poured your hearts into it. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your work with us.

  • Christine L.

    I saw the show twice in 3 days, and was just as fascinated the second time. This program was beautifully filmed, with objective narration, not emotionally laden (although it is always hard to watch a kill). I also enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t continuous talking, but we were treated to the sounds of silence and nature. Thank you for a wonderful presentation!

  • Rose M.

    We saw this program this morning. I’ve never commented on a program before, but just had to say how much my husband & I enjoyed your program. The photography was gorgeous, & the animals & bird life so interesting! We can sympathize with Bjornen, as my husband has RA. He has good & bad days too, but medication makes it bearable. He has had it 20+ years, so don’t dipair! I really enjoyed the narrative you both put into the show. You made it clear how important untamed wilderness is, for humans as well as animals. Nature is a constant in our lives too. I wish everyone would get out there & live a truely natural life from time to time. We would all benefit remembering we are a part of nature! Take a break from electronics & cities!

  • Sherrie

    Loved this program. Wish I could have a similar adventure. What a wonderful honeymoon idea! I particularly loved seeing the wildlife, espec. the wolves.

  • Lee

    Just beautiful! I admire Bjornen for her strength and perseverance for all the walking, hiking, and carry a pack while dealing with RA. I, too, have RA and was inspired by her will to keep going. I wonder how she is now. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Bob West

    I stumbled on the film and couldn’t believe that such a great film was featured on TV. Thought it must have been a mistake. LOL The couple are very attractive and were perfect for this adventure!. Idaho has some of the last great wilderness in the lower 48 I spent some time on the Idaho-Montana border and learned how spending time in a wilderness is good for the soul.

  • Bev Garrison

    My husband and I watched this show last night – enlightening and awesome.

    My 27 yr old niece and 42 yr old sister-in-law both have RA. My niece can barely drive a car because of the pain in her ankles. This disease is tragic in its destruction.

    The attack on the wolf packs in Idaho & Wyoming is unbelievable – as said in this movie, let wolves do their thing – it is nature at its best. We just interfere and make things worse. Thank you.

  • Gary and Pat Nicholson

    We want to thank this young couple for the dedication they displayed in living and filming this amazing program. We are armchair travelers to these magnificent rustic areas but now wish to expand our Boundary Waters adventure this year to do more rustic exploring as our years of such times are ebbing. Do it while you can, youngsters!

  • Erubiel gonzalez

    Fantastic show

  • Vinny M

    Beautiful episode

  • Camerin Saleen

    As a child of a Forest Service employee and a former FS trail tech myself, this film brought back a lot of memories. My family goes back four generations working in/around the area. That part of Idaho is truely magical. Thanks for giving those who cannot experience the Frank Church themselves an opportunity to at least have a glimpse through your camera lense.
    I have searched for more information on your experience, but some of your websites no longer exist. Would encourage a book or blog on your journey; there is only so much you can show in an episode of Nature. I am sure there are plenty more stories to tell. And, there are those who would be happy to learn more.
    Good Job.
    Camerin Saleen
    Former McCall-ite

  • Virginia

    Frank and Bjornen, this was a fantastic film. The dedication and perseverance you both displayed in achieving your goals is very inspiring. The footage was magnificent and the story was absolutely beautiful. I hope you watch it when you are very old, still married, still happy and you see yourselves with awe and amazement at what you did. I wish you both the very best of health and many more journeys.

  • william

    Great show-I only wish I could have followed along on a map

  • Helen


    Thers wolfs in idaho?!

    Who knew?

  • M pena

    Wow .loved the program , sat done at work before clocking in and found this on . Really awesome program

  • Chris Sparks

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, it was very moving. As lovers of wilderness and rivers, we will visit this area ourselves someday. We were especially moved by the couples love for each other and saddened by Bjornen’s battle with RA. I hope that she continues to visit her rheumatologist and starts appropriate medical treatment for her condition soon. There are medicines available which can stop the progression of RA and allow her to continue to live the full life she obviously loves so much. I wish them both the best facing this challenge.

  • Roger Townsend

    I just watched your show about the wolves in the River of No Return wilderness area in Idaho, what a great show and what great work you are doing to educate people about wolves. I am looking forward to further programs about your work , thank you

  • jeff molyneaux

    The quote about the Tukadika is my favorite quote in a LONG time. “The Tukadika, a peaceful mountain dwelling tribe, did not have a word for wilderness because they never imagined nature as something separate from themselves, but we do. And now that our natural world is slipping away, we have had to create a place to call wilderness. A place managed to be wild”. Soooo beautifully said and so true. Great episode!! I bet your happy RED has a Scarlet now. A LOT lighter than the REDONE!

  • Pauline Tomlinson

    I love that young professionals like you bring this kind of nature to us at home. I am in my 70’s and if I had my life to live over I would become a nature biologist. I raised 5 children and all of them love nature. I have one son who loves bears. The others have favorites but he really loves bears. I confess I have watched a lot of nature programs, somehow your adventure made me cry. I think it is because I see how much destruction has been done in my lifetime… I know there are allways going to be people like you who see natures beauty and realize that we are all part of the same earth. I have artthritis , I do all I can and I walk every day. I have a new hip that is amazing, and will probably get another one soon. I’m still standing and very gratefull to see efforts like yours and others in your field.. It gives me hope for the future. God Bless and Keep You!

  • James Curry

    More shows like this please… Just watched this with my Grandson.. Totally Awesome..

  • Jim

    An amazing film priceless for those who appreciate the US and its natural beauty.

  • Richard Berquist

    Nice work! !

    … about your RA, Bjornen …my daughter suffered intensely with the same affliction for several years until we found LOW DOSE NALTREXONE. It stopped the progress of the disease completely in less than 30 days.

    It is a very low dose (3mg) of an off-label use of an FDA approved medication that is very inexpensive, $50/month.

    See the web site LOWDOSENALTREXONE.ORG …it’s all there! Your rheumatologist is not likely to be aware of it. But it WORKS! It’s very safe. We heard of it through Dr. Burt Berkson, MD, PhD Las Cruces, NM Google him.

    In a nutshell: it stimulates your own immune system into producing correct amounts of endorphins again.

    No side effects! My daughter became pregnant while using this drug and gave birth with no problems and is raising a baby girl.

  • Richard Berquist

    … again, this piece was inspiring! Thanks for the nice work.

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