Wild & Scenic Rivers
This year, in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, we’ve teamed up with non-profit groups American Rivers and American Whitewater to help protect 5,000 new miles of wild rivers, and we’re working to foster the next generation of river advocates by donating trips to more than 500 under-served youth!
Learn more and share your river story today at 5000miles.org
By the 1960s, when OARS Founder and President George Wendt was just getting started in commercial whitewater rafting, it was becoming clear that our national policies and attitudes towards rivers were creating a crisis. Rivers were being polluted, dammed, dredged, diked, diverted and degraded at an alarming rate. However, in 1968, to lend balance to our history of physically altering our waterways, Congress created the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, pronouncing:
“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.”
Our Wild & Scenic Rafting Permits
OARS is honored to hold whitewater rafting permits on the following Wild & Scenic Rivers:
Middle Fork of the Salmon River, ID
One of the original eight rivers in the nation designated as Wild & Scenic on October 2, 1968, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River originates 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, with the merging of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks. The designated segment extends 100 miles from Dagger Falls to the confluence of the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon. The Middle Fork is one of the last free flowing tributaries of the Salmon River system. Because of its remote location, man’s presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today. Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches, and Forest Service stations are evidence of man’s intrusion.
Main Salmon River, ID
Designated as Wild & Scenic on July 23, 1980, “The River of No Return” is the longest free flowing river (425 miles) within one state in the lower 48. The upper section passes through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, while the lower section forms the southern boundary of the Gospel-Hump Wilderness. The designated reach of the Main Salmon River runs from the mouth of the North Fork of the Salmon River downstream to Long Tom Bar.
Snake River through Hells Canyon, ID
The section of the Snake River from Hells Canyon Dam running downstream 66.9 miles was designated as Wild & Scenic on December 1, 1975. Originally home to the Shoshone and Nez Perce tribes, the area was settled by homesteaders and ranchers in the late 19th century. Today, the massive, arid, and extremely stark and spectacular scenery of the canyon is mostly public land, much of which is designated wilderness.
Tuolumne River, CA
The Tuolumne River, from its source in Yosemite National Park to Don Pedro Reservoir 83 miles downstream was designated as Wild & Scenic on September 28, 1984. The Tuolumne originates from snowmelt off Mounts Dana and Lyell in Yosemite National Park and courses 54 miles before crossing into Stanislaus National Forest and Bureau of Land Management public land. Below the National Park boundary, the river contains some of the most noted whitewater in the high Sierra and is an extremely popular rafting stream. It also provides views of some of America’s most spectacular scenery.
North Fork of the American River, CA
This wild river is noted for its outstanding scenery, remote recreation, and historic gold mining values. About half of the river is accessible by steep historic trails. It was designated as Wild & Scenic on November 10, 1978 from a point .3 miles above Heath Springs downstream to a point 1,000 feet upstream of the Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge.
Merced River, CA
The Merced flows through exceptional scenery—glaciated peaks, lakes, alpine and subalpine meadows—in alternating pools and cascades. Wildflower displays are spectacular. From its source (including Red Peak Fork, Merced Peak Fork, Triple Peak Fork, and Lyle Fork) in Yosemite National Park to a point 300 feet upstream of the confluence with Bear Creek, the Merced was designated as Wild & Scenic on November 2, 1987.
Klamath River, CA
The Klamath River in northern California was designated as Wild & Scenic on January 19, 1981 from the mouth of the river to 3,600 feet below Iron Gate Dam. It is California’s second largest river and a major salmon producer, particularly for coho and chinook.
Rogue River, OR
The Rogue winds across farmlands and orchards before passing through a wilderness of forested mountains and rugged boulder and rock-lined banks of Oregon on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The river is nationally renowned for its moderate whitewater, steelhead trout and salmon fishery, and extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities. The segment of the river extending from the mouth of the Applegate River downstream to the Lobster Creek Bridge was designated as Wild & Scenic on October 2, 1968.
Owyhee River, OR
From Crooked Creek to the Owyhee Reservoir, the Owyhee flows through a remote, arid and almost unpopulated area. Much of the river cuts through deeply incised canyons that, along with canyon rims, are home to mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, California bighorn sheep, and a large variety of raptors. The designated reach of the Owyhee includes Three Forks downstream to China Gulch, crooked Creek to the Owyhee Reservoir and the South Fork from the Idaho-Oregon border downstream to Three Forks. It was designated on October 19, 1984.
Thanks to Rivers.gov for information on the Wild & Scenic Rivers on this page.