5,000 Miles. 5,000 Stories. One Unified Voice for Our Rivers

We are bringing together grassroots partners, individuals and businesses in a united campaign for wild rivers, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018.

Our goal is to protect 5,000 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside lands nationwide.

As part of this effort, we are sharing stories of America’s rivers and the people who love them. By collecting 5,000 personal stories from people across the country and presenting them in film, social media and other channels, we will celebrate how rivers connect us all.

We will send one clear and unified message to our elected leaders: Our rivers are worth saving.

Who are we?

American Rivers is a national non-profit river conservation organization. We are working closely with campaign partner American Whitewater and other local and regional river conservation organizations nationwide. We are supported by corporate partners NRS, O.A.R.S. and Yeti Coolers.

What are Wild and Scenic Rivers?

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

12,000 miles of rivers currently enjoy Wild and Scenic River protection – rivers like the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Rogue, Chattooga, Tuolumne, and New. But many rivers are still at risk. Today, less than one percent of America’s rivers are wild and free. We have more work to do to save our last, wild rivers.

Learn more about Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Why protect Wild and Scenic Rivers?

Healthy rivers are essential to the health and well-being of each and every American.

  • Clean water is essential to our health, and rivers provide more than two-thirds of our drinking water supplies.
  • Rivers tell the story of our nation’s history and they run through our culture – our music, literature, and art.
  • River-related recreation and tourism contribute more than $97 billion to the U.S. economy per year.
  • Wild rivers are pathways to adventure, allowing us to discover new places, connect with friends and family, and enjoy access to the best fishing, paddling, and hiking anywhere.
  • The wildlife habitat provided by lands along their banks is among the most essential on the planet.

What does a Wild and Scenic River designation do?

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects the free and natural flow of a river and its special features. In particular it:

  • Safeguards clean water
  • Prevents activities that would significantly harm the river’s character and benefits
  • Prohibits new dams or damaging water projects
  • Protects land along the river — a quarter-mile protective buffer is established along Wild and Scenic Rivers flowing through publicly-owned lands.
  • Requires a management plan with input from local landowners and other stakeholders

The Act recognizes that people and their needs change. The goal is to preserve the character of a river, and engage the local community in its management for the long-term.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System works with landowners around the country. In fact, landowners often want rivers that cross their land to be protected as Wild and Scenic. They realize the many benefits of a protected river, which include:

  • Preserving quality of life
  • Protecting property value
  • Boosting the local economy with recreation and tourism dollars

Where are the 5,000 Miles?

2,500 miles will come from grassroots legislative efforts in eleven states to protect new Wild and Scenic Rivers through federal legislation and 2,500 miles will come through federal administrative protections.

The legislative efforts supported by 5,000 Miles of Wild include:

  • Montana: Montanans For Healthy Rivers (700 river miles and 224,000 acres of land)
  • Washington: North Cascades (688 miles and 187,000 acres of land)
  • Wyoming: Upper Green River (41 river miles and 13,000 acres of land)
  • Colorado: Deep Creek and Crystal River (49 miles and 15,000 acres of land)
  • New Mexico: Gila River and San Francisco River (100 river miles and 32,000 acres of land)
  • Oregon: Salmon Strongholds (250 river miles and 250,000 acres of land)
  • Vermont: Green Mountains Wild and Scenic Campaign (125 miles and 40,000 acres of land)
  • Washington: Wild Olympics (454 miles of rivers 144,000 acres of land)
  • Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut: York, Nashua and Wood-Pawcatuck Rivers (134 river miles)

2,500 miles will come through federal administrative protections. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have launched or will be launching forest plan and management plan revisions for tens of millions of acres of federal lands. These plan revisions present an opportunity to administratively conserve thousands of new eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers. Including:

  • North Carolina: Nantahala Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
  • California: Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia National Forests
  • New Mexico: Carson and Farmington National Forests, New Mexico
  • Idaho: Nez Perce and Clearwater Rivers
  • Montana: Flathead, Helena, Custer Gallatin and Lewis and Clark National Forests
  • Oregon: Willamette, Rogue River-Siskiyou, Siuslaw, Mt. Hood National Forests
  • Washington State: Gifford-Pinchot, Olympic, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Wenatchee National Forests

Wild and Scenic Rivers Resource Center

Find information and tools you need to advocate for protections on your river

More Stories


I have seen the most beautiful river in the world and wish it could be that way here too. This was an unprotected and unheard of place to most and...

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Wild and Scenic Rivers

Each summer one of the highlights for me is to canoe on the Wild and Scenic Rivers in Oregon. My time on these rivers gives me a sensory and spiritual...

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Growing up with blisters

I grew up paddling a canoe in creeks, rivers and lakes within driving distance of our North Texas farm. I learned the importance of stewardship, respect, and conservation on these...

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$0 Years Ago

I was taken on my first Delaware River canoe trip more than 40 years ago and I was blown away by the natural beauty and all the nature we witnessed.

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Urban Misadventure

I remember when I first got a kayak here in Spokane. I remember shivering in an empty parking lot waiting with anticipation as each passing car gave me hope for...

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The Chicken Raper

Chris Raffin, seen here in a river kitchen, was a pioneering young river guide during the 1970’s. She logged miles on the Yampa, the North Platte, the Upper Colorado, Cataract,...

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When water runs deep

Well what I can remember when going to the lakes or rivers, which were very fun memories. Ones which makes every child and adult happy. But now the water runs...

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Rivers of Life

Rivers give life especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Native Americans have been sustained for centuries by our harvest of the salmon that must have rivers to come back to...

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