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Siskiyou Wild Rivers: Wild and Scenic Rivers

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The Siskiyou Wild Rivers area is home to five designated Wild & Scenic Rivers, and twenty-two candidate rivers. So, there’s a good reason the western Siskiyou Mountains are known as the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area. The area contains more Wild and Scenic Rivers than any other National Forest in the lower 48 states. The Rogue, Illinois, Chetco, Elk and North Fork Smith Rivers all begin their journeys in the rugged mountains of the region, and their wild, clear waters are a haven for wildlife and humans alike.

These Rivers support viable populations of naturally reproducing coho salmon, fall Chinook salmon, winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, green sturgeon and Pacific lamprey. The watersheds surrounding these rivers nurture a stunning variety of wildlife species as well: northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, osprey, bald eagle, red tree vole, fisher, pine marten, and one of the most diverse salamander assemblages in North America.

Rogue Hiker

Wild & Scenic Rivers are for everyone to enjoy. No matter whether you enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, camping, or just spending some time sitting on the bank of the river listening to the wind in the treetops – the rivers of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area offer visitors a refreshing break from the hectic pace of modern life.


Despite the current Wild & Scenic designations, the rivers of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area are at risk. Recently, the Wild & Scenic Rogue River had the dubious distinction of being named the second most endangered river in the country in American Rivers’ 2008 edition of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. The report cites logging and road building activities associated with BLM’s proposed Kelsey Whisky Project as a major threat to salmon and steelhead habitat in the tributaries feeding the lower Rogue River. And if that weren’t enough, miners have suction-dredge operations on many of the pristine salmon-bearing streams throughout the area.

Illinois Rafting


  • The Rogue River (125 miles protected) was one of the first eight rivers in the nation to be designated under the 1968 Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. [LINK: Learn more about KS Wild’s efforts to expand protections of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.]
  • Most of the “wild” section of the Illinois River (50 miles protected) runs through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, an incredibly rugged and remote river, known for its challenging whitewater runs.
  • The Chetco River (45 miles protected) is renowned for its high-quality spawning beds and rearing pools for salmon and steelhead. [LINK: Learn more about KS Wild’s efforts to improve Wild and Scenic designations on the Chetco.]
  • The Elk River (19 miles protected) is one of the healthiest watersheds on the Pacific Coast. It is widely known as one of the most productive salmon and steelhead spawning streams in the lower 48 states.
  • The North Fork Smith River (13 miles protected) is known for its outstanding water quality and provides miles of near-pristine steelhead spawning and rearing habitat.