Wild and Scenic Rivers

View of North Fork John Day RiverRivers have what man most respects and longs for in his own life—a capacity for renewal and replenishment, continual energy, creativity, cleansing. — John Kauffman, author


Established by Congress from 1975 to 1988 these rivers were selected for their outstandingly remarkable values such as recreational, wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values.

The Umatilla National Forest has three designated wild and scenic rivers for your  floating, fishing or hiking activities. 


The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection. The 1988 Oregon Omnibus Rivers Act (P.L. 100-557) amended the 1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and designated all of the wild and scenic rivers on the Forest.

River Classifications

According to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Acts, rivers are classified as wild, scenic, or recreational.

  • Wild river — Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.
  • Scenic river — Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
  • Recreational river — Those rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.

River Values

Wild and scenic rivers have two main values which were used to designate them under the act. The first value is 'free-flowing'. Free-flowing is defined as existing or flowing in a natural condition without impoundments (e.g. dams, streamside riprap, diversions, etc). The second value is a river's outstandingly remarkable values (ORV). ORVs are a river's unique set of characteristics like physical, cultural, botanical, scenic, historical and recreational.

For More Information about the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program

More information about the national wild and scenic rivers program can be found at the national wild and scenic river website.