Wild And Scenic Rivers

Malheur River Wild and Scenic Management Plan, 1993 

 

History of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

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.

 

Malheur River

Designated Reach October 28, 1988 From its headwaters to the Malheur National Forest boundary
Classification/Mileage

Scenic = 6.0 miles

Wild = 6.0 miles

Total = 12.0 miles

 

The RiverPerson on Boulder Overlooking the Malheur River

The middle fork of the Malheur River was one of forty rivers originally designated in the Omnibus Oregon Wild and Scenic River Act of 1988. Residing completely on National Forest System lands, the entire wild and scenic river boundary encompasses 3,758 acres with 12.0 miles of river.

Being recognized for its outstanding remarkable values of scenery, geology, wildlife habitat, and history, the river corridor is a diverse display of a high elevation riparian ecosystem. The actual headwaters are not within the corridor, but are located 10 miles to the north in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area. This portion of the Malheur River flows through a low elevational ponderosa pine forest and eventually exits the Forest into a sagebrush/juniper desert. The upper end of the river is generally characterized by a rather broad valley carved by glacial activity. Open ponderosa pine forests intermingled with large native wet meadows dominate.

As the river approaches Malheur Ford (named for the lower ford crossing), the corridor becomes more rugged and narrow. Larger, old growth ponderosa pine and steep canyon walls begin to define the corridor, with the walls in many locations rising from 300 to 1000 feet. A parade of various rock outcrops, talus slopes, and cliffs created by erosion as the river cut through the many layers of volcanic material, is on display. These geologic features contribute to the rugged scenic beauty of the lower corridor and are all part of the Strawberry formation which was deposited between 12 and 15 million years ago.

Recreation Opportunities

Most recreationists seek the Malheur River for its abundance of scenic beauty, relaxation, fishing opportunities, and remoteness. Facilities such as campgrounds, and road access are limited. There is however one small camping facility along the river at the Malheur Ford. The facility has less than 5 parking spaces for daytime trailhead use, and only 2 camping spots. The sites are primitive with only tables, fire rings and a CXT, barrier free toilet. There is no potable water. The Ford also serves as the trailhead for the Malheur Trail (#303). This trail is 7.6 miles long and extends to the end of the Forest boundary as well as Wild and Scenic River boundary. The southern trailhead at Hog Flat offers very good access by vehicles with and without trailers.

General Location

The Malheur River is located approximately 27 miles south of Prairie City Oregon, in the Blue Mountains. To get to the Malheur Ford, travel south on County Road 62 for approximately 25 miles, turn west on Forest Road 16 for approximately 5 miles, turn south on Forest Road 1647 and follow signs south for 7 miles. Access to the river is limited with most vehicle use occurring along the northern part. Other areas are accessible by hiking and riding stock.

 

North Fork Malheur River

 

Designated Reach October 28, 1988 From its headwaters to the Malheur National Forest boundary
Classification/Mileage

Scenic = 22.9 miles

Total = 22.9 miles

 

The RiverNorth Fork Malheur River

This North Fork of the Malheur River was one of forty rivers originally designated in the Omnibus Oregon Wild and Scenic River Act of 1988. Residing completely on National Forest System lands, the entire wild and scenic river boundary encompasses 7,034 acres with 22.9 miles of river.

Being recognized for its outstanding remarkable values of scenery, fisheries, geology, and wildlife habitat, the river corridor is a diverse display of an upper "headwaters" riparian ecosystem. An ecosystem which originates in a mixed conifer forest, flows through ponderosa pine forests, and exits into a sagebrush/juniper desert. The upper end of the river is generally characterized by a rather broad valley carved by glacial activity. Lodgepole forests sprinkled with native wet meadows dominate, as the river slowly flows in this gentle upper valley. Views out from the river are impressive, with feelings of warmth and openness.

As the river approaches Crane Crossing (named for a ford near Crane Creek), the corridor becomes more rugged and narrow. Larger, old growth ponderosa pine and steep canyon walls begin to define the corridor, with the walls in many locations rising from 250 to 750 feet. The canyon geology also becomes quite evident for the last 9 miles. A parade of various rock outcrops, talus slopes, and cliffs created by erosion as the river cut through the many layers of volcanic material, is on display. These features are all part of the Strawberry formation which was deposited between 12 and 15 million years ago.

Fisheries habitat along the river is excellent with native stocks of bull trout (threatened) and redband trout (sensitive). The combination of exceptional water quality, minimal historic and current activities, and excellent habitat has retained these native stocks.

Recreation Opportunities

Most recreationists seek the North Fork for its abundance of scenic beauty, relaxation, fishing opportunities, and remoteness. There are two small camping facilities along the river. One is at the North Fork Campground and offers tent/trailer camping, and the second is at Crane Crossing. Access to Crane Crossing is more difficult, with trailer and RV use not recommended. Both sites are primitive with only camp spurs, tables, toilets and fire rings. There is no potable water. South of the North Fork Campground is the trailhead for the North Fork Malheur Trail (#381). This trail is 12.4 miles long and extends to the end of the Forest boundary as well as Wild and Scenic River boundary. Access to the southern end of the trail is very poor, and hikes originating and ending at the northern North Fork Trailhead are recommended.

General Location

The North Fork Malheur River is located approximately 16 miles southwest of Prairie City Oregon, in the Blue Mountains. To get to the headwaters of the river, travel south on County Road 62 for approximately 9 miles, turn east on Forest Road 13 for approximately 7 miles. Access to the northern portion of the river is excellent, however access to areas south of Crane Crossing are limited to hiking and riding stock.

 

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.

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