Tahoe National Forest’s Wild & Scenic rivers | TheUnion.com

Tahoe National Forest’s Wild & Scenic rivers

George Garnett
Special to The Union
Wild River Areas, Scenic River Areas, and Recreational River Areas are the three classifications that Congress designated for the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. No matter the classification, the rivers are managed with the goal of protecting and enchancing river values.
Photo by Gary Moon

There’s nothing like being near water. A map of the world’s population shows the majority of humankind lives near water.

We vacation at beaches, find pleasure fishing on lakes, and live along coastlines, rivers and creeks. Nothing makes young ones happier than a chance to splash through puddles of water.

Throughout the United States, certain bodies of water — rivers — have received special protections. Nearly 5,000 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers cross 21 states and 56 National Forests.

This year is the 50 year anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act — President Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Oct. 2, 1968. This Act established a system of protected rivers which have grown to occupy a special place on the land, and in the hearts and culture, of America.

So, what is a Wild and Scenic River?

Wild and Scenic rivers are primarily designated by Congress and meet certain conditions. There are three classifications within this Act: wild, scenic or recreational. These classifications are either identified by Congress when a river is designated or are later classified by the administering agency (Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, etc.). These classifications are not based on a river’s values or uses, but instead reflect the level of development within the river corridor at the date of designation.

Future management of federal lands within these river corridors must be consistent with the classification/level of development at the date of designation.

The different types:

Wild River Areas — These rivers or sections of rivers are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.

Scenic River Areas — These rivers or sections of rivers are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.

Recreational River Areas — These rivers or sections of rivers are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.

Regardless of the classification, rivers are managed with the goal of protecting and enhancing river values: free-flowing conditions, water quality, and “outstandingly remarkable values.”

In the Tahoe National Forest, the North Fork of the American River has been designated as a free-flowing Wild River with no dams and is subject to the protections of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The North Fork of the American River carries snow melt from the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, including the back side of the Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley Ski areas, over towering waterfalls and through spectacular granite gorges.

Three trails off Foresthill Road, near Auburn, provide access to the North Fork of the American River. The easiest trail is the Mumford Bar trail.

The Mumford trail has a small, free campground at the trailhead with hitching posts for horses and a vault toilet. Along the trail is a historic cabin, named the Mumford Cabin, which was built in 1868 and housed gold miners up until 1970.

The second trail, Beacroft, is overgrown and not recommended. The third trail, Sailor Flat, is the steepest trail leading to the river from Foresthill Road and is approximately 3.25 miles down.

This trail has not been cleared since 2015.

With the increase in popularity of whitewater kayaking, the Wild and Scenic portion of the American River is also an exhilarating goal — for experienced, Class V boaters.

Besides being one of the most important ecosystems on the planet, rivers are fascinating.

People travel miles to experience the wildness of free-flowing rivers.

“There’s just something about the rush of clean free-flowing water that gives people a feeling of mental clarity which adds value to our lives,” said Teresa Benson Deputy Forest Supervisor at the Tahoe National Forest.

There’s nothing like being near water — especially if that water is flowing through a Wild and Scenic river.

This article came from the Adventure Nevada County Magazine.

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