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State Scenic Waterway Program Current Events

Oregon's 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

Purpose of the Oregon Scenic Waterways 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 Scenic Waterways 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. A similar process occured between 2017-2019 for the Nehalem River. 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 one year after the notice is accepted. Click here for more information...


News Announcement Subscription


Oregon Parks and Recreation Department now has a Listserv for interested parties to join in order to receive updates about any current and proposed scenic waterway designations. Click on the link here to subcribe.




Nehalem River Scenic Waterway:

August 2019

Following designation of the Nehalem River as State Scenic Waterway, OPRD will begin the process of rule-making. Stay tuned for updates on this process, including dates for public meetings and other opportunities for providing feedback. Until river specific rules are finalized, the general rules apply to the Nehalem (see Scenic Waterway Rules and Regulations).

June 2019

Governor Brown has designated a 17.5 mile section of the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway (Executive Order 19-05). The Nehalem River Scenic Waterway is located in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties, and includes all lands within a quarter mile of each riverbank, beginning at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground downstream and ending at the confluence with Cook Creek near Cougar Valley State Park. Designation of the Nehalem Scenic Waterway recognizes the outstanding scenic, natural, and recreational values of this segment of river. For more background information on the Nehalem study, see the "Scenic Waterway Assessments" page.

The goal of the Scenic Waterways Program is to celebrate the natural, scenic, and recreational values of certain unique Oregon waterways in the context of current and future land and resource uses. The Oregon Scenic Waterways Act directs Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to periodically study rivers for suitability as potential Scenic Waterways.

South Umpqua River Study:

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.