Ohio pioneered the river conservation movement when it passed the nation’s first Scenic River Act in February 1968. The National Scenic River Act followed in October of the same year. Fifty years later, 14 rivers have been officially designated as Ohio state wild, scenic and recreational rivers. Three of these rivers have also been named national scenic and recreational rivers.
With more than 60,000 miles of rivers and streams in Ohio, this select group represents some of the state’s highest quality streams. Most are home to rare or endangered species and an exceptional diversity of fish and other animals. With outstanding water quality, an abundance of aquatic life and naturally wooded corridors, it’s no coincidence they are also recreational gems.
Hope Taft, Former Ohio First Lady, is a long-time advocate of scenic rivers. “The Little Miami River has gotten a lot cleaner in the last 50 years, but we can’t forget about it,” said Taft. “The river plays a big part in our health, safety, recreational enjoyment and our quality of life.”
Paddle one of Ohio’ s wild, scenic or recreational rivers and you’ll quickly notice the abundance of trees. Wooded stream banks are critical to protecting the river’s water quality and natural character as well as providing habitat for fish and other wildlife. Conserving these areas, known as riparian forests, is a focal point of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program, which currently protects more than 6,000 acres of riparian corridor across the state.
Healthy forested river banks, outstanding water quality and diverse aquatic life are all criteria for wild, scenic and recreational river designation. Equally important, is local community support for the protection of a river system since only local interest can initiate the designation process.
On April 23, 1969, the Little Miami River earned the distinction of becoming Ohio’s first designated state scenic river. From its headwaters in Clark County, the Little Miami flows southwesterly for 105 miles, traversing five counties before arriving at its confluence with the Ohio River. The Little Miami River was also the first Ohio stream to be designated as a national scenic and recreational river.
Noted for breathtaking vistas and scenery, the Little Miami River supports rich and abundant aquatic life. More than 87 species of fish have been recorded from the system. Thirty-six species of mussels, including one federally endangered, one federally threatened, and five state endangered species also have been found in the system. In addition to this rich aquatic life, numerous species of breeding birds reside within the river valley.
Scenic Rivers staff joins local communities in conservation initiatives and on-the-water public programming. More than 30,000 people participate in Ohio Scenic Rivers programming annually, including hundreds of volunteers who assist with stream quality monitoring. A growing number of public access sites are making it easier for citizens to enjoy fishing, paddling and hunting on riparian lands protected through the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program.
Join the Ohio Department of Natural Resources this year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Ohio’s State Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Program and 50 years of river conservation success stories.
To learn more about 50th anniversary programming, in your area and across the state of Ohio visit: watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/scenicrivers
-Article contributed by: Ohio Department of Natural Resources