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State Scenic Waterway Program Current Events


Scenic Waterways Program

Oregon's diversity of river systems contribute richly to our quality of life. Oregonians decided to protect special waterways in 1970 when they voted two-to-one to establish the Oregon Scenic Waterways Program. The program seeks to balance protection and use through cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies as well as individual property owners and those who recreate along a waterway. Scenic Waterway Brochure


Potential Scenic Waterway Study

Under direction from the Oregon Legislature (ORS 390.855), OPRD is required to periodically study new waterways for potential inclusion in the program.

Purpose of Act


The Scenic Waterways Act was created to strike a balance between protecting the natural resources, scenic value, and recreational uses of Oregon's rivers by designating them. The state program, which is administered by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), currently includes approximately 1,200 miles on 22 waterways.

Recent Designations
In 2013-2014, OPRD conducted studies that evaluated three waterways to determine their eligibility for inclusion in the program. Issues and concerns regarding the potential designation were also evaluated to assess the feasibility of designating the waterways. OPRD worked with local advisory committees to develop draft management plans to describe in more detail how portions of the Chetco and Molalla Rivers would be managed if they were designated as State Scenic Waterway. Click here for more information...


Scenic Waterways Rules and Regulations

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department must be notified of certain activities proposed within a quarter mile of the banks of Oregon's designated scenic waterways.  Such activities may include certain logging, mining, and construction actions. The proposed uses or activities may not be started until the written notification is approved, or until on year after the notice is accepted. Click here for more information...

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is asking for feedback on an important study evaluating a 17-mile section of the Nehalem River for possible inclusion in the State Scenic Waterways Program. The feedback will be used to write a report that will either recommend for or against designating a portion of the river as a state scenic waterway.

The Nehalem River study area starts at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground and ends at the boundary of Cougar Valley State Park, near Cook Creek Road. A scenic waterway designation would help protect the scenic, natural and recreation value of this section of river by subjecting some activities within a 1/4 mile of the bank to a review.


The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is seeking volunteers to serve on an advisory committee that will help plan for possible inclusion of a 17-mile segment of the Nehalem River in the State Scenic Waterway Program.

OPRD invites public and private landowners, community members and other interested parties to join the committee. Members will assist OPRD in developing a draft management plan that would go into effect only if the Governor approves designation.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission and Oregon Water Resources Commission will review the draft plan prior to making a scenic waterway designation recommendation. If both commissions recommend this segment for inclusion in the Scenic Waterway program, the recommendation would move forward to the Governor, likely in fall 2018.


If you are interested in serving on the advisory committee please fill out and return this interest form by March 27, 2018.

No decisions have been made yet about whether or not to recommend this part of the river as a scenic waterway. As part of the designation process, scenic waterways staff involve the local community, evaluate public support, and objectively study the river to determine if it meets following specific criteria from state statute:

(1) The segment of river is relatively free-flowing and the scene as viewed from the river and related adjacent land is pleasing, whether primitive or rural-pastoral, or these conditions are restorable.
(2) The segment of river and its setting possess natural and recreation values of outstanding quality.
(3) The segment of river and its setting are large enough to sustain substantial recreation use and to accommodate existing uses without undue impairment of the natural values of the resource or quality of the recreation experience.


Molalla and Chetco Rivers Designated 

Governor Kate Brown designated two new State Scenic Waterways. Portions of the Chetco and Molalla Rivers were chosen as rivers that meet the Scenic Waterways Act criteria for outstanding scenic, fish, wildlife, geological, botanical, cultural, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The designations are now effective following the adjournment sine die of the Legislative Assembly on March 3, 2016.