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Celebrating 50 Years of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act

Photo: The Upper Delaware River flowing past lush forested landscapes. Credit: David B. Soete

BEACH LAKE, PA – In the days of fur trappers and pioneers, free-flowing rivers were the lifeblood of commerce, transportation and fisheries across America. Today, they are critical yet often-overlooked sources of clean water, critical habitat, and rejuvenating recreation for Americans seeking a break from the frenetic world of technology and reconnection with the deep flow of time and nature.

Across the nation, river enthusiasts, communities and government agencies are preparing to celebrate wild rivers with the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

Congress passed this landmark legislation on Oct. 2, 1968, to preserve selected rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

Of the approximately 3.6 million miles of streams in the U.S., less than one quarter of one percent – 12,734 miles – are protected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. These miles include some of the most primitive and breathtaking landscapes in North America.

The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing for the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries, and promotes public participation to develop goals for protecting streams.

With the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act many of the country’s pristine and special rivers were preserved in order to protect the beauty and free-flowing nature of these our most precious waterways. Among them, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, designated in 1978 as a National Wild and Scenic River and a unit of the national park system to preserve its “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural…and other similar values…”

The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River begins at the confluence of the East and West Branches of the Upper Delaware River at Hancock, NY and extends 73.4 miles downstream to Railroad Bridge No.2, near Mill Rift, PA. This section of the Delaware has extraordinary ecological integrity and excellent water quality, providing outstanding habitat for aquatic, riparian, and adjacent terrestrial life. The River is free-flowing without any dams on the entire length of the mainstem, allowing connectivity to and from the Atlantic Ocean. This is essential for sea-run migratory species such as American shad and American eel.

Upper Delaware is a beautiful place to fish, boat, hike, and bird watching. Touring the area by car, motorcycle or bicycle offers beautiful views, and a step back to ‘a simpler place and time’ in our small towns. For those with an eye for history the Zane Grey Museum tells the story of famed western writer Zane Grey. The park also maintains and preserves the historic Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct built by engineer John A. Roebling for the Delaware and Hudson Canal in 1848.

For more information about the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, please visit and to learn more about Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River go to

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for 417 of America’s national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at



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