Trails and rivers acts celebrate 50th anniversary

July 16, 2018

Kids clambered into a giant blue salmon tent and read books with rangers, or tried their hand at cross-cut sawing or the more tame rock painting on Saturday at the Susan Creek Day Area.

The event, organized the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act. The acts were signed in 1968 to preserve specific free-flowing rivers and protect them from being diverted or dammed while recognizing potential for appropriate use and development. Similar events are happening at wild and scenic river sites around the country all year to celebrate.

“From the minute I came, driving down this highway, I was bedazzled by the beauty of this river,” said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Sherri Chambers. “Now, like a lot of our public, I use it for swimming, I live on the river, I kayak and I’ve hiked all the segments of the North Umpqua trail. It’s a gift I enjoy every day. I’m grateful for our predecessors who set up the legislature to protect our rivers and let us manage and enjoy them.”

Oregon has 110,994 miles of river, of which 1,916.7 miles are designated as wild and scenic according to rivers.gov. The section of the North Umpqua River at Susan Creek is classified as both wild and scenic, but some are one or the other. Susanne Shelp is the acting supervisor and outdoor recreational planner at BLM, so she is familiar with the value of the river.

“For this one, the main outstanding values are water quantity and water quality and outstanding recreational values like hiking, rafting, fishing, fly-casting — all that stuff,” Shelp said. “The main attention is the celebration of those acts that have helped maintain wild and scenic river corridors throughout the united States and put together a national system of trails for the American people. I would say it’s something to be proud of that someone had the foresight to enact these legislations to preserve these great values for the American people.”

Some of the other events including fly-casting demonstrations, interpretive hikes, displays of the ecosystems surrounding rivers and booths for attendees to learn about what activities take place on the river, such as rafting which Abby McEnroe does on the North Umpqua with her family often.

“It’s such an amazing experience to raft the river that looks just like it did 100 years ago,” Abby McEnroe said. “It’s beautiful. If we didn’t have these acts, it wouldn’t be as pristine and I don’t think my five year would be able to experience it.”

The McEnroe family brought their kids to enjoy the nature-focused activities. Most of the attendees were campers whose camp hosts told them about the events, some coming from as far as Delaware. Shena, 11, lives in the area but was camping with her family when they heard about the event.

“We like to do arts and crafts and nature things,” Shena said. “It’s very cool because there are many options and they are cool options.”

The North Umpqua trails that closed due to forest fires in August are open again but the BLM encourages people to be cautious of narrow trails, debris, and windy days when using them. They are still looking for volunteers to help with clean up.