The future of America’s wild rivers depends on community support, grassroots activism, and engaged retailers like you. Here’s how you can get involved.

With federal budgets in flux and environmental agencies under attack, agencies that monitor and manage these river segments are likely to become understaffed and underfunded.

America’s protected rivers are a deep source of inspiration and sustenance to countless individuals and communities—and yet current protections may not do enough to safeguard these ecological refuges and sources of well-being for long. Our waters need help. Retailers, like other community leaders, can help by celebrating Wild and Scenic Rivers this year and envisioning a future of wild rivers for generations to come.

One of the cornerstones of American conservation, the Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSR) Act turns 50 this October. It’s a milestone that will be widely celebrated by national agencies, nonprofits, grassroots conservation groups, and communities across the country. Four federal agencies and four nonprofit groups are coordinating nationwide events to celebrate and envision the future of wild rivers in the U.S., including the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service, along with American Rivers, American Whitewater, River Network, and River Management Society.

About the Act

Passed by congress on October 2, 1968, the Act protects over 12,000 miles of 200+ rivers designated in 40 states and Puerto Rico critical to indigenous communities and beloved by millions of anglers, hikers, paddlers, and water-sport enthusiasts. Wild and Scenic Rivers are by definition free flowing and have at least one unique and remarkable value (scenic beauty, cultural significance, wilderness surroundings, etc.), like sections of these rivers:

  • Alatna, Noatak, and Salmon in Alaska
  • Owyhee, Rogue, Skagit, and Willamette in the Northwest
  • American, Kern, and Tuolumne in California
  • Virgin, Verde, and Fossil Creek in the Southwest
  • Snake, Cache la Poudre, and Rio Grande in the Intermountain West
  • Croix, Missouri, and Vermillion in the Midwest
  • Allagash, Wildcat, and Delaware in the Northeast
  • Chattooga, New, and Wilson Creek in the Southeast

Free-flowing rivers don’t just offer exceptional white-water paddling: They support wildlife and healthy riparian landscapes, bring significant dollars to local communities, are often sources of clean water for downstream communities, and contribute to local economies and national outdoor recreation dollars.

River segments protected under the Act represent less than one-quarter of one percent of the total rivers in the U.S. Grassroots groups and national nonprofits like American Rivers want to change that stat. American Rivers’ 5,000 Miles of Wild campaign aims to add 5,000 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside lands to those numbers.

And designated stretches still face threats to water quality and ecosystem health. Encroaching activities like mining and energy development, pollution from coal ash, sewage contamination from unprotected tributaries, and fish farming which harms wild fish populations, are just a few. But the larger threat may be the crumbling infrastructures of government. With federal budgets in flux and environmental agencies under attack, agencies that monitor and manage these river segments are likely to become understaffed and underfunded.

How You Can Help

The National Park Service depends on local partnerships to manage Wild and Scenic Rivers, and grassroots activism is critical to current and new designations. Later this month, agency and NGO leaders and citizen advocates will meet to discuss how to protect wild rivers for the next 50 years during River Rally (Olympic Valley, California, April 29–May 2, 2018)—a national conference dedicated to river and water conservation hosted annually by the nonprofit River Network.

Local conservation groups across the U.S. have begun planning community events. With support from Patagonia, River Network will be administering small grants to grassroots organizations for community events. Retailers are encouraged to reach out to local groups—or to plan events of their own. Here’s how.

  1. Explore Wild & Scenic Rivers here.
  2. Find local river groups. River Network can put you in touch with groups in your area. Contact Zak Lance, Community Engagement Manager, at
  3. Access the 50th Anniversary Toolkit for plug-and-play event ideas and materials.
  4. Add your event to this map.
  5. Share your event on social media with hashtags #WSR50 and #makeyoursplash.


River Network is the foremost nonprofit connecting water-focused organizations, agencies, businesses, and communities for greater local impact and healthier rivers across the U.S.

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