Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
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 one year after the notice is accepted. Click here for more information...

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

 the following general criteria are established in state statute:
• 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.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is currently evaluating a 17-mile section of the Nehalem River for possible inclusion in the State Scenic Waterways Program.

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) has formed an advisory committee of private landowners, community members, public land owners and others to help develop a draft management plan. The advisory committee will meet May 24th, 5:30- 7:30 at the meeting room in Nehalem Bay State Park. The public is invited to attend, however no public comment will be accepted during the meeting. A public comment period will open later in this year.

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.

No decisions have been made yet about whether or not to recommend this part of the river as a scenic waterway. 

Meeting Announcements for Nehalem scenic waterway study

May 24th Advisory Committee Meeting Announcement

May 24th Advisory Committee Meeting Agenda

May 24th Meeting materials:

Presentation (program overview, notice of intent, flow determination and forest practices act)

Past Meetings

September 12, 2017 Public Meeting Seeking feedback on proposal to segment of Nehalem River to Program Announcement

January 23, 2017 public meeting announcement to help identify waterways for study

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.