Wild and Scenic Rivers

The Bureau of Land Management manages 38 National Wild and Scenic Rivers (WSRs) including more than 2,050 river miles and over 1 million acres. The Bureau’s National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) provides national level management and policy guidance for these rivers and represents the Bureau on the Interagency Wild and Scenic Rivers Coordinating Council.


Colorado River


Why are Wild and Scenic Rivers designated?

Congress created the National Wild and Scenic River System 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.


There are three categories of rivers in the WSR System:

  • 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 are largely undeveloped but accessible in places by roads.
  • Recreational rivers are readily accessible by road or railroad and may have been dammed in the past.

Congress further states that the river, with its immediate environments, must possess outstanding scenic, recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values.


What Wild and Scenic Rivers are in Utah?

Through the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11), Congress designated approximately 165.5 miles of the Virgin River and its tributaries across Federal land, within and adjacent to Zion National Park as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Eleven river segments totaling 19 miles of the Virgin River drainage are managed by BLM and all are classified as "wild". Each of the segments flows into or out of Zion National Park and a majority are within wilderness areas that were also designated in the 2009 legislation.


See a list of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Utah


What rivers or river segments are being considered for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers?

The evaluation of rivers on BLM lands takes place through the resource management planning process. In accordance with the provisions of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the evaluation is a sequential process: eligibility (inventory); tentative classification; and suitability for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 


See a list of suitable river segments (PDF) in Utah.

National Conservation Lands Watermark

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