This year marks the 50thanniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which was passed in 1968. Almost 2,000 miles of river in Oregon is protected by the act, broken into 58 Nationally designated rivers. This makes up 2% of Oregon’s river miles protected, the most of any state. The purpose of the act was to recognize significance of the rivers and to create law that encourages proper management. It was implemented with the “goal of protecting and enhancing the values that caused it to be designated”.


Rivers can be classified as wild, scenic or recreational. Rivers that are “wild” are primitive and inaccessible except by trail. “Scenic” rivers are free of development, but may be near roads and have shorelines, while “recreational” are readily accessible and may have some development. A river with any of these classifications are protected through regulations from federal, state, local, and/or tribal governments.


Cliff jumping into the Wild & Scenic Chetco river near Brookings. Photo by Erik Urdahl


These rivers contain some of the most beautiful landscapes and wildlife in the state and are well worth visiting. People can hike, bike, swim and boat in or around these rivers. There are also companies that provide guided tours of these rivers, whether it be by kayak, raft or jet boat. These guides have intimate knowledge of the rivers and are excellent for learning more about the wildlife and how the act serves both the river environment and the people who use it.


For more information about Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, visit



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