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Scenic Rivers

The mission of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program is to work cooperatively with local governments, businesses, landowners, non-profit organizations and other state and federal agencies to protect the aquatic resources and terrestrial communities dependent on healthy riparian habitats. Ohio currently has 15 designated Wild, Scenic and/or Recreational rivers comprising 27 stream segments. More than 830 river miles are protected in the Ohio scenic river system. Three state designated streams, the Little Miami, Big and Little Darby Creek and Little Beaver Creek are also designated as National Scenic Rivers.

Ohio has 3 different classifications of state “scenic” rivers.

Wild Rivers

Wild rivers are those which are generally inaccessible, the flood plain is undeveloped, the river is free flowing and 75 percent of the adjacent corridor is forested to a depth of at least 300 feet.

Scenic Rivers

Scenic river designation is representative of a waterway which still retains much of its natural character for the majority of its length. Shorelines are for the most part undeveloped, but the river may exhibit signs of disturbance by human activities. The adjacent corridor must be forested to a minimum depth of 300 feet for 25 percent of the stream’s length.

Recreational Rivers

Recreational rivers are those rivers which do not possess the same degree of the natural quality found in wild or scenic rivers, yet warrant protection due to unique cultural and/or important historical attributes. The influence of human activities is much more apparent on rivers with this classification.

Upon designation of a river as wild, scenic or recreational, the director of ODNR appoints a 10-member Scenic River Advisory Council which represents local interests within the watershed. Members often include private citizens, local government officials, conservation organizations and property owners. Scenic River advisory councils advise ODNR on local attitudes, interests and areas of concern related to the preservation of a designated river.

Designation as a wild, scenic or recreational river is not a river restoration tool designed to successfully restore a degraded stream to an improved natural condition. It is much more effective as a means for recognizing the unique characteristics of a stream and coordinating river preservation activities among diverse state and local governments, organizations and individuals. When combined with statutory authority to review and approve publicly funded projects on designated rivers, designation helps ensure that decisions and activities which may impact a river are conducted in an environmentally sensitive and responsible manner.

To best understand the context of the information provided in this report, it is important to recognize that the role of Ohio’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Act is to identify and protect those rivers and streams possessing characteristics of state significance. The Division of Natural Areas & Preserves’ Scenic Rivers Program seeks to identify and designate the few remaining river systems which have retained their most natural characteristics and those that, due to their intact natural characteristics, possess uniquely important historical values.