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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...

Spring 2017 Update

The State Parks and Recreation Department is making progress in the study of three river segment candidates for possible recommendation for inclusion in the State Scenic Waterway program. These river segments are:

• Nehalem River (Spruce Run Campground to Nehalem Falls, approximately 15 miles, within Clatsop and Tillamook Counties) Map
• South Umpqua River (Castle Rock Fork to Tiller, approximately 27 miles, within Douglas County)
• North Santiam River (Wilderness boundary to Bruno Mountain Road, approximately 20 miles, within Marion and Linn Counties)
(Each segment is approximate and will be refined as study progresses)

The studies include an assessment of eligibility to meet the following general criteria: 
• Free-flowing nature of the waterway;
• Scenic quality, as viewed from the river; and
• Natural and recreational resources, including the ability of the waterway and its setting to sustain recreational use.

This assessment process includes consultation with the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, the State Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Quality Commission, the Department of State Lands, and the Water Resources Department.

Each of the three river segments being studied have unique characteristics causing them to work through the process with different timelines. The State Parks and Recreation Department will provide updates as we progress through the eligibility assessments and field visits of each river segment. After each assessment is complete the Department will hold public meetings and stakeholder group meetings.

Nehalem River
An extensive field visit has been scheduled for early May. Once the field visit is completed the department can begin writing the Study report, a draft of which will be presented at future public meetings for input and feedback. The recommendation for this river segment is tentatively planned for the fall of 2018.

South Umpqua River
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department staff will be conducting an initial field visit this spring to the South Umpqua River to continue to study the segment Castle Rock Fork to Tiller, approximately 27 miles, within Douglas County.  There are portions of this segment that are challenging to study because they are not readily floatable and therefore difficult to assess. 

North Santiam River
Evaluation of eligibility requirements continue.  A field visit has not been scheduled at this time.

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.

Advisory Committee and Public Meetings

Meeting Materials are available online from previous meetings for the Chetco and Molalla River scenic waterway study areas.