News & Updates

National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary

Susy Alkaitis - September 28, 2018

Wickes, AR: Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area is one of twenty Hot Spots the Subaru/Leave No Trace traveling trainers are visiting in 2018. Situated just south of Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, the park boasts a relatively unique distinction: it’s home to a twelve-mile stretch of the Cossatot River that is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. The system covers 12,754 miles of U.S. waterways across 209 rivers in 40 states protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Federal Act, signed by President Johnson “to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations”, celebrates its 50th birthday next week. In those 50 years, only .4% of the 3.6 million miles of waterways in the United States have been designated.

The Cossatot River, for its part, is home to an array of endangered plant life along its banks and provides miles of thrilling recreation for kayakers, canoers, swimmers, and fishermen/women. A visit to the park makes the effects of a Wild and Scenic Rivers designation abundantly clear; as clear as the crystalline waters that flow through the Cossatot. Untouched by dams or commercial use, the river is so clear in some places that spotting schools of fish, scurrying macro-invertebrates, or submerged boulders only requires you to glance beyond the surface. Because of its beauty, however, the river attracts thousands of visitors to its shores each year who can create heavy impacts. Not least of which is trash along the banks that threatens the cleanliness of the water and health of the riparian zone. The Act puts the onus on land managers to maintain the integrity of their rivers. Encouraging visitors to follow Leave No Trace principles is a great way to start.

Getting your favorite river designated can be difficult as it requires Congressional support and approval but don’t let that dishearten you. Like any democratic process, start by contacting your local legislature. In the meantime, organize a cleanup and drum up enthusiasm for the initiative. Doing so could help preserve our waterways for generations to come.

Images courtesy Arkansas State Parks

Leave No Trace's Joe and Joe are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Taxa, and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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