Still Wild at 50: Celebrating the Wild Rogue!
With one smooth motion, our guide Kate navigated us into the calm of an eddy in the middle of the Wild Rogue’s iconic Blossom Bar. Under Kate’s careful eye, we gently bobbed up and down as three other rafts made their way through the famous rapid. With cascading green water above and below, it felt like forever and yet we never wanted to leave.
The Wild Rogue is like that. A study in contrasts, the bright blue-green waters swirl through a dry landscape of madrone, chinquapin, and tanoak. Gentle eddies sit quietly in the middle of the most challenging rapids.
Much of what makes the Wild Rogue special wouldn’t be protected today without the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. On my trip, I was lucky enough to be joined by fellow advocates at River Network, Pacific Rivers Council, Hispanic Access Foundation, American Rivers, and Native Fish Society who are fighting hard to support protections for our wild rivers.
In fact, the Rogue was one of the eight original rivers designated as Wild & Scenic when the law was enacted by Congress on October 2nd, 1968. A total of 84.5 miles of the lower Rogue, from where the Applegate River flows into the Rogue downstream to the Lobster Creek Bridge, was designated as a Wild & Scenic River 50 years ago. Thanks to the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, my first trip down the 33.6 miles of the “wild” section of the Rogue probably wasn’t too different from floating the Rogue these 50 years ago.
In the 1950s, brothers John and Frank Craighead envisioned a national system of protected wild rivers. Just like the National Park System, a National Wild & Scenic Rivers System would protect the outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values of the nation’s free-flowing rivers for current and future generations. After decades of big dam construction, the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act emerged as a way to protect our nation’s rivers.
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act protects rivers like the Rogue by:
· Safeguarding clean water;
· Prohibiting activities and projects that would harm the character of the river and the benefits it provides;
· Protecting a quarter-mile buffer along each side of the river through publicly-owned lands; and
· Requiring a management plan with input from local landowners and other stakeholders.
As we floated down the Rogue, we passed many smaller streams that flow into the main stem of the Rogue. From Whiskey Creek to Kelsey Creek to Dulog Creek, we stopped to gaze at or even hike up some of these important, cold water streams. Streams like Dulog Creek provide cold, clean water to the Rogue and are important habitat for iconic salmon. However, Wild & Scenic protections apply only to a quarter-mile buffer around the river, leaving the headwaters of many of these small streams unprotected.
What happens upstream, impacts downstream waters. That’s why we’re working with partners such as American Rivers, Native Fish Society, and Rogue River outfitters to increase protections for small streams that flow into the Wild Rogue under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Learn more about the Oregon Wildlands bill and how you can help protect the Wild Rogue!
For the Rogue,
Stacey Detwiler, Conservation Director