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Ohio's Scenic Rivers Program
Ohio's Scenic Rivers Program

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 River, Big and Little Darby Creeks, and Little Beaver Creek — are also designated as National Scenic Rivers.

NEW DESIGNATION PROPOSED: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is proposing to designate portions of Paint Creek and its tributaries (North Fork, Rocky Fork and Rattlesnake Creek) as state scenic river in Highland and Ross counties. A total of 81.7 miles are being proposed for designation. Once designated, Paint Creek would be the 16th river with a state-designated wild, scenic or recreational status. 

List of Ohio's Scenic Rivers


The three different classifications  Wild, Scenic, and Recreational  are a means to recognize the unique characteristics of a stream so that river preservation activities among diverse state and local governments, organizations, and individuals can be coordinated. When combined with statutory authority to review and approve publicly funded projects on designated rivers, designation helps ensure that decisions and activities that may impact a river are conducted in an environmentally sensitive and responsible manner.

Wild: Wild rivers 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: Scenic river designation is representative of a waterway that 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: Recreational rivers do not possess the same degree of natural qualities 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.

Advisory Councils

Upon designation of a river as wild, scenic or recreational, the director of ODNR appoints a 10-member Scenic River Advisory Council that 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.

Stream Quality Monitoring

Rivers and streams in the Ohio Scenic Rivers program are monitored regularly to ensure that the water quality remains high. Learn more about stream quality monitoring (SQM) and how you can volunteer to become a SQM Monitor.