Wild and Scenic Rivers – Keeping them Free

Leading the charge to protect the nation’s last, best rivers

Merced River

Merced River, CA, Yosemite | DJ Schulte

Only a fraction of one percent of rivers nationwide remain wild and free, unencumbered by dams and poorly planned development. Not surprisingly these rivers are home to the best fishing, paddling and hiking anywhere. Biologists find that the wildlife habitat provided by lands along their banks is among the most essential on the planet. Taken together these rivers, bound together by their pristine nature and the benefits they provide fish, wildlife and people, represent one of the most valuable unspoiled environments left in the United States.

American Rivers is dedicated to conserving these rivers while we still can through Wild and Scenic River designation, the strongest and most effective tool to protect rivers and the lands along their banks. We have launched a campaign to protect 1,500 miles of these rivers and 500,000 acres of riverside lands over the next 5 years. Once we have accomplished our goal we will have secured a significant portion of the last, best rivers and their environments.

A Wild and Scenic designation by Congress preserves a healthy, flowing river in its current condition. In the future, no new dams are allowed, inappropriate development is prohibited, and water quality is protected. A quarter-mile protective buffer is established for lands along rivers flowing through publicly owned lands. A management plan is also developed to guide protection of the special values of a river such as native fish or outstanding scenery.

Wild and Scenic Rivers map

Explore the map of all Wild and Scenic Rivers

American Rivers was founded 35 years ago to preserve more of the nation’s best rivers as Wild and Scenic. Since then we have helped protect over 100 rivers and thousands of miles of riverside land. It has been the best investment we have made to conserve rivers.

Explore all the protected Wild & Scenic rivers in our new interactive map »