Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
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. 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.




Current Waterway Studies


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.

The study process 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, and drafting a report for public comment. OPRD works closely with state and federal agency staff, tribes, local governments, landowners, natural resource groups, and other stakeholders to evaluate the river for potential inclusion in the State Scenic Waterway system using the criteria below:

  1. Is the river relatively free-flowing?
  2. Is the scene from the river pleasant and undisturbed?
  3. Does the river segment provide outstanding recreational and natural values?
  4. Is the river segment large enough so that recreation will not damage the natural settings?

The study process doesn't automatically result in Scenic Waterway designation. The 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.

For more information about current Scenic Waterways studies, please contact Kitty Weisman at Kitty.Weisman@oregon.gov or (503) 986-0631.

Upper South Umpqua River 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 its suitability as a potential Oregon 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.

Click here for South Umpqua River Study Area Map

Nehalem River Study:

Over the last two years, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department  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 potenital 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).

On February 20th 2019, OPRD staff presented the study/draft management plan to Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission, and 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.    

On February 22nd 2019, Oregon Water Resources Commission concurred with designating the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway.   

In April 2019, OPRD forwarded this study/draft management plan to the Governor along with a recommendation to designate the Nehalem River study area as a State Scenic Waterway.