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Potential Scenic Waterways

Scenic Waterway Studies

The Oregon Legislature directed OPRD to periodically study new waterways for potential inclusion in the scenic waterway program (ORS 390.855). OPRD analyzes potential waterway segments, which includes an assessment to determine eligibility, as well as evaluating issues and concerns regarding the potential designation. 

To assess the eligibility of waterways, the following general criteria are established in state statute:

  • Free-flowing nature of the waterway
  • Scenic quality, as viewed from the river
  • Natural and recreational resources, including the ability of the waterway and its setting to sustain recreational use
An eligibility study follows, which includes: 
  • Consulting with and involving key stakeholders and the local community, 
  • Gathering existing river data,
  • Conducting a field evaluation of the segment of river being studied
  • Drafting a report for public comment 
OPRD works with a varied of groups to evaluate waterway segments, including
  • state and federal agencies 
  • tribes, 
  • local governments, 
  • landowners, 
  • natural resource groups, 
  • other stakeholders  
The study process requires careful analysis and evaluation of the river, discussions with stakeholders and local communities, and a public comment period. For candidate rivers to be designated as State Scenic Waterways, the governor must formally designate them after a recommendation from Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission and concurrence from Oregon Water Resources Commission.

Nehalem River

Over the last two years, OPRD  has worked with federal and state agencies and stakeholders to study 17.5-mile section of the Nehalem River to determine its suitability as a potential 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 ensure future stewardship of the unique scenic, natural and recreation values of this section of river.

OPRD worked closely with an advisory committee to develop a draft management plan to accompany the Nehalem River study – this combined report is the Nehalem River Proposed Scenic Waterway Study and Draft Management Plan (6 MB PDF).

OPRD staff presented the study/draft management plan to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in February 2019. The commission voted unanimously to approve the study/draft management plan and recommend designating the study area of the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway. The Oregon Water Resources Commission concurred with designating the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway. 
OPRD forwarded the study/draft management plan to the governor with a recommendation to designate the Nehalem River study area as a State Scenic Waterway in April 2019. Governor Brown designated a 17.5-mile section of the Nehalem River as a state Scenic Waterway in June 2019. OPRD is currently working with a Rules Advisory Committee to finalize river specific rules for the designated stretch of river.

South Umpqua River

July 2019

The South Umpqua River study has been delayed. Due to an unexpected staff vacancy in the unit that manages scenic waterway reviews, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department executives have directed staff to delay study of the South Umpqua River as a candidate for potential inclusion in the state scenic waterway system.

The study will resume in either late 2019 or early 2020 and deliver findings to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission and Oregon Water Resources Commission in late 2020 at the earliest. We will post an update when we have new lead staff assigned to the South Umpqua study.  

May 2019

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is initiating a study of approximately 27 miles of the upper portion of the South Umpqua River to determine whether it meets the criteria for a potential state Scenic Waterway. We anticipate the study will take approximately 18 months to complete. We will update this website periodically as the study progresses to publish the draft study report, announce public hearings/comment periods, and keep you apprised of other important milestones.

Additional Scenic Waterways Information

Scenic Waterway Notifications

List of Scenic Waterways


For specific information on scenic waterways contact the specialists listed on the scenic waterway notification page.