The South Umpqua River is home to outstanding wildlife, recreational, and scenic values. There are two potential paths forward for increased protections for the river, a State Scenic Waterway designation and a congressional Wild and Scenic River designation (see below). Such a designations would ensure that the river would remain undammed and that there would be increased efforts to better balance conservation, wildlife, scenic values, private property rights, recreation, and development. And no dams!
The South Umpqua River is home to a variety of wildlife both in and out of the river. Elk, deer, river otter, and beaver can be found near the river. Birds in the area include northern spotted owl, osprey, golden eagles, and many more. The river has also been designated by the State as "Essential Salmon Habitat", showing how important it is for fish in the river. Coho, winter steelhead, fall Chinook, spring Chinook, lamprey, and other fish call the South Umpqua River home.
The South Umpqua River corridor supports recreational opportunities ranging from hiking, camping, kayaking/rafting, to bird watching and more. There are several scenic campgrounds along the river including South Umpqua Falls. Ideally long term planning within the State Scenic Waterway corridor would include improved access and road maintenance in appropriate locations.
Unfortunately due to logging, road building and other causes only 60 spring Chinook salmon returned to spawn in 2019. The old-growth forests that provide shade, and key riparian habitat, have long been targets for the timber industry. Protecting the intact portions of the river corridor and restoring the rest is urgently needed. .
Proposed State Scenic Waterway Option
Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is studying the potential for designation as a State Scenic Waterway. Similar to a Wild and Scenic River designation this would include a protective buffer along the river corridor. The OPRD vetting process will take two years and if successful end with designation by the Governor around the end of 2020 or early 2021. Map of proposed State Scenic Waterway.
Congressional Wild and Scenic River Option
Senator Ron Wyden has asked the Oregonians to nomimate rivers they believe should be designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The nomination period closes on January 20, 2020. Some rivers in Oregon are designated by both congress and the state. The congressional designation has more influence on the management of the federal lands in the river corridor. Take action to nominate the South Umpqua for protection.