Rivers Of The National Conservation Lands

“The Conservation Lands Foundation seeks to restore, protect and expand the National Conservation Lands… and rivers. We know that a beautiful river or stream is precisely what draws many people to these lands in the first place—and keeps them coming back.”

Rafting on the Dolores River (Photo courtesy of Kate Thompson, Dolores River Boating Advocates)

Rafting on the Dolores River, CO (Photo courtesy of Kate Thompson, Dolores River Boating Advocates)

As part of the National Conservation Lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages:

  • 69 Wild and Scenic rivers in 7 states
  • adding up to more than 2,400 river miles
  • covering approximately 1,165,000 acres, or 19 percent of all the National Conservation Lands.

Chart of Wild and Scenic Rivers

Oregon Utah Alaska California Idaho Montana New Mexico Wild And Scenic Rivers

“Wild & Scenic,” a special designation established in 1968 when Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, created three categories for rivers: wild, scenic, and recreational. Wild rivers are free of dams, generally inaccessible except by trail, and represent vestiges of primitive America. Scenic rivers are free of dams, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads. Recreational rivers are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have been dammed in the past.

View a comprehensive list of all Wild and Scenic rivers managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument (Photo courtesy of Rick and Suzie Graetz)

Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument (Photo courtesy of Rick and Suzie Graetz)

The Conservation Lands Foundation has created a 17-page Executive Summary of the BLM’s recently revised Policy and Program Direction for Identification, Evaluation, Planning, and Management for the Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR). It is intended to help river advocates understand the BLM’s basic management principles and responsibilities for these rivers.  This summary contains much of the same language from the original manual, however it is compiled and organized in shorter formats.


Download the Conservation Lands Foundation’s Executive Summary-Wild and Scenic Rivers Policy and Program Direction (17 pages)

Download the BLM’s  6400 – Wild and Scenic Rivers – Policy and Program Direction for Identification, Evaluation, Planning and Management (87 pages)


Wild and Scenic Rivers… and many, many more

There are many more waterways within National Monuments, Wilderness Study Areas, and National Conservation Areas that Congress has yet to designate as Wild & Scenic, even though they may have all the characteristics, and many that need protection through stronger management and advocacy. For example, here are four tributaries of the Colorado River and organizations working to protect them:

Dolores River, Colorado

Southwest Colorado’s wildly rugged, 230-mile long river flows through three BLM Wilderness Study Areas. Beloved by paddlers and people who study Native American history alike, this watershed is the focus of restoration work and a 12-year campaign to create the Dolores River National Conservation Area. Read and see more…

Escalante River, Utah

The major artery of the 2 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, the nation’s largest and first area established as part of the National Conservation Lands. This river is undergoing one of the largest restoration projects on the National Conservation Lands, conducted by a watershed partnership that is quickly becoming a model for other such work around the West. Learn more…

San Pedro River, Arizona

Southern Arizona’s desert river oasis, migratory bird paradise and a designated Riparian National Conservation Area. The San Pedro River has been recognized by many conservation organizations as globally significant. Long stretches of Sonoran cottonwoods and willows, several rare cienegas (a type of wetland), sacaton grasslands, and mesquite bosques are just a few of the reasons why. Read more…

Gunnison River, Colorado

One of Colorado’s prized Gold Medal Trout areas, important water source for agriculture, and a favorite destination for boaters from around the world. The Gunnison River flows through the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and carves one of the longest, narrowest, and deepest gorges in the world. Read more…

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