Scenic and Wild Rivers

White Water RaftingThe State of Maryland created the Scenic and Wild Rivers System by an Act of the General Assembly in 1968. In passing the Act, the State recognized that many rivers of Maryland or portions of them and their related land areas possess outstanding scenic, geologic, ecologic, historic, recreational, agricultural, fish, wildlife, cultural and other similar resources values. Therefore, it should be the policy of the State to:

  • preserve and protect the natural values of these rivers,

  • enhance their water quality, and

  • fulfill vital conservation purposes by wise use of resources within their surrounding environment

The Act also created a Program to fulfill these policies and the Program was given two mandates:

  • inventory and assess all the rivers in the state to determine their eligibility for inclusion into Maryland’s Scenic and Wild Rivers System as either a scenic and/or wild river, and

  • to prepare river resource management plans for any river designated scenic and/or wild by the General Assembly. These plans identify river related resources, issues and existing conservation programs, and make recommendations on the recreational use of the river and the conservation and protection of special riverine features.

How and when was it established?

The State Scenic and Wild River System was created when the General Assembly passed the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act in 1968.

What is the difference between a Scenic River and a Wild River?

A Scenic River is a “free-flowing river whose shoreline and related land are predominantly forested, agricultural, grassland, marshland, or swampland with a minimum of development for at least 2 miles of the river length “ [Natural Resources Article, 8-402(d)(2)].

A Wild River is a “free-flowing river whose shoreline and related land are undeveloped, inaccessible except by trail, or predominantly primitive in a natural state for a least 4 miles of the river length” [Natural Resources Article, 8-402(d)(3)].

How is a river designated?

The designation process involves the following four steps: (1) an inventory of the river’s resources is conducted to determine its eligibility as a Scenic or Wild River, (2) local governments officially propose or endorse the designation of the river, (3) the Scenic and Wild River Review Board reviews and endorses the proposal, and (4) the Maryland General Assembly officially designates the River.

What are the implications of a designation?

The Scenic and Wild Rivers Act mandates the preservation and protection of natural values associated with rivers designated as Scenic and/or Wild. Each unit of State and local government, in recognizing the intent of the Act and the Scenic and Wild Rivers Program, is required to take whatever action is necessary to protect and enhance the qualities of a designated river.

How many rivers are in the System? Where are they located?

The following nine rivers have officially been designated “Scenic” by the Maryland General Assembly: Anacostia, Deer Creek, Monocacy, Patuxent , Pocomoke, Potomac (Frederick and Montgomery Counties), Severn, Wicomico-Zekiah, and Youghiogheny. The section of the Youghiogheny between Millers Run and the southern corporate limits of Friendsville has been officially designated a “Wild” river.

Click here for the Map of Maryland Scenic and Wild Rivers.

Is the Program a land acquisition program?

No. As with other identified open space needs, however, DNR or local governments may choose to utilize Program Open Space acquisition funding for lands along a designated Scenic or Wild River.

What is Scenic and/or Wild River Plan?

 Kyakers on the Yoch Land 
Acquisition and Planning staff prepare a plan for each designated river that provides for the preservation and management of river related resources. Activities through which the public can appreciate the value of these areas as scenic and wild rivers are featured in the plan to the extent these activities are compatible and do not impact the resources of value.

Scenic and Wild River Plans

Who approves the plan?

Upon completion of a scenic or wild river plan the Secretary of Natural Resources submits the plan with any additional recommendations to the governing body of every county through which the designated river flows for their approval and recommendations. The plan is then submitted to the Scenic and Wild Rivers Review Board for adoption.

What is the Scenic and Wild River Review Board?

The Scenic and Wild Rivers Review Board is responsible for reviewing inventories, plans and regulations proposed by the Department. It is also responsible for making recommendations for river management plans and for studies which recommend including additional rivers in the System. The Review Board consists of the Secretaries of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Environment, and the Office of Planning and a member of the Garrett County Commissioners, who only votes on matters pertaining to the wild portion of the Youghiogheny.

What are Local Scenic and Wild River Advisory Boards?

Each individually designated river also has its own Scenic and Wild River Advisory Board. These Boards are responsible for reviewing inventories, plans, studies, and regulations applicable to their jurisdictions and for making recommendations on such matters to the Scenic and Wild Rivers Review Board.

For More Information

For more information on the Maryland Scenic and Wild Rivers System, contact Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Land Acquisition and Planning, Tawes State Office Building E-4, Annapolis, Maryland 21401. 

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