National Park Service

River Projects

More About Rivers

Publications/Online Resources

Federal Partners

Nonprofit Partners

Rivers Home




More About Rivers: Designations programs of NPS rivers with examples

The National Park Service (NPS) protects, conserves, recognizes, or manages rivers with various government agencies and private groups in a number of ways. Hundreds of rivers are located in the national parks and other NPS sites, protecting both the river and land areas surrounding them. Battlefield parks, seashores, parkways, and trails are other designations to preserve and interpret America's heritage. In fact, the Park Service has 20 classifications of its 379 sites, several of which are specific to rivers. The authority and legislation for each designation indicates the protection and uses specific to that river. Sometimes protections overlap (e.g.: designated Wild and Scenic Rivers may be within the National Park units). Examples of National Parks with rivers.

Below is a list of river designation, protection, and recognition types with examples:

River Centered Park:

Certain national park areas which protect and maintain rivers or river segments as their central features; for example, the Colorado River is a main element in the Grand Canyon National Park. Examples of river centered parks.

National Recreation Area:

Is designated by Congress and provides opportunities for visitors to partake in recreational activities such as swimming, boating, hiking, and camping. Of the 19 NRA's, several have rivers as their central features. NRA's designations are established in naturally outstanding areas. Most emphasize both water based and non water based recreational opportunities (this list includes only free-flowing river valleys, not rivers impounded as reservoirs). Examples of National Recreation Areas.

National River:

Is designated by Congress and is a river preserved with its surrounding environments, essentially as a park. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the Nation's first and only scenic waterway, protecting 134 miles of Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, it includes 19 historic or archaeological sites. Examples of National Rivers.

National River and Recreation Area:

Combines the attributes of National Rivers and National Recreation Areas. Examples of NRRA.

Wild & Scenic River:

Designated by Congress, these rivers are free flowing and protected from damaging development and use. They must contain outstandingly remarkable scenic, geologic, fish and wildlife, cultural or similar qualities. A total of 156 rivers have wild and scenic status, with the National Park Service managing 32. Five of the rivers-The Farmington, SuAsCo, Lamprey, Maurice and Wolf Rivers-are cooperatively managed, by states, localities, and the National Park Service. Examples of Wild & Scenic Rivers.

National Natural Landmark:

Recognizes and encourages the protection of extraordinary and nationally significant natural areas. While maintaining outstanding features in their physiographic region, these landmarks must represent and maintain a biotic community or geologic feature. A number provide protection to significant river features. Examples of National Natural Landmark.

Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI):

Is a listing, maintained by the National Park Service, of more than 3400 free flowing rivers segments believed to have outstanding and remarkable values (including scenic, recreational, geologic, fish, wildlife, prehistoric/historic and other values), making them potentially eligible for a Wild and Scenic designation. Federal Agencies evaluate potential eligibility of NRI segments on lands that they manage. Private land rivers have not gone through the potential eligibility study process. Examples of NRI rivers.

American Heritage River:

A designation established by President Clinton in 1998. The primary objectives of the American Heritage River designation are economic revitalization, natural resources & environmental protection, and cultural & historic preservation. These rivers, as a group serve to represent the natural, cultural, historic, social and economic diversity of America. The goal is to demonstrate that people and nature can live together in productive harmony. Some 20 federal agencies are partnering to assist these rivers. The National Park Service is involved in some way with all 14 American Heritage Rivers. Examples of American Heritage Rivers.


National Parks

° Katmai NP (Brooks R)(AK)
° Mammoth Cave NP (Green & Nolin R) (KY)
° Theodore Roosevelt NP (Little Missouri R) (ND)
° Great Smokies NP (Pigeon R) (TN, NC)
° North Cascades NP (Stehekin R) (WA)

River Centered National Parks

° Grand Canyon NP (Colorado R) (AZ)
° Black Canyon NP (Gunnison R) (CO)
° Dinosaur NP (Yampa R, Green R) (CO,UT)
° Big Bend NP (Rio Grande R) (TX)
° Arches NP (Colorado R) (UT)
° Canyonlands NP (Colorado R, Green R) (UT)
° Cuyahoga Valley NP (Cuyahoga R) (OH)

National Recreation Areas

° Chattahoochee NRA (Chattahoochee R)
° Delaware Water Gap NRA (Delaware R)
° Gauley River NRA (Gauley & Medow R)

National Rivers

°Buffalo River NR (AR)
° New River Gorge NR (WV)
° Ozark National Scenic Riverways (MO)

National River and Recreation Area

° Big South Fork NRRA (KY)
° Mississippi NRRA (MN)

Wild & Scenic Rivers

° Alagnak R (AK)
° Alatna R (AK)
° Aniakchak R (AK)
° Charley R (AK)
° Chilikadrotna R (AK)
° John R (AK)
° Kobuk R (AK)
° Mulchatna R(AK)
° N.Fork Koyukuk R(AK)
° Noatak R(AK)
° Salmon R (AK)
° Tinayguk R (AK)
° Tlikakila R (AK)
° Kings R (CA)
° Kern R (CA)
° Klamath R (CA)
° Merced R (CA)
° Tuolumne R (CA)
° Cache la Poudre R (CO)
° Farmington (W. Branch) R (CT)
° Sudbury, Concord, Assabet R (MA)
° Missouri R (NE,SD)
° Niobara R (NE)
° Lamprey R (NH)
° Great Egg Harbor R (NJ)
° Maurice R (NJ)
° Delaware R (NY,PA)
° Obed R (TN)
° Rio Grande R (TX)
° Saint Croix R (WI)
° Wolf R (WI)
° Bluestone R (WV)

National Natural Landmarks

°Aniakchak Caldera (Aniakchak R) (AK)
° Lake George (Knik R) (AK)
° Sheep Rock (Snake R) (ID)
° Big Springs (Henrys Fork R) (ID)
° Green Ash-Overcup Oak-Sweetgum Research Natural Areas (Mississippi R) (MS)
° Fort Randall Eagle Roost (Missouri R) (SD)
° Bose Lake Hemlock Hardwoods (Eagle R) (WI)
° Kickapoo River Natural Area (Kickapoo R) (WI)

American Heritage Rivers

°Connecticut R (CT,VT,NH, MA)
° Potomac R (DC, VA, MD, PA,WV)
° St. Johns R ( FL)
° Hanalei R (HI)
° Upper Mississippi R (IA,IL,MN,MO)
° Lower Mississippi R (LA,TN)
° Blackstone & Woonasquatucket R (MA/RI)
° Detroit R (MI)
° New River (NC,VA,WV)
° Hudson R (NY)
° Cuyahoga R ( OH)
° Willamette R (OR)
° Upper Susquehanna & Lackawanna R (PA)
° Rio Grande R (TX)


  Back to top

Challenge Cost Share Program | Federal Lands to Parks | Hydropower Relicensing Program
Land and Water Conservation Fund | Conservation and Outdoor Recreation | National Trails System
Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers | Rivers and Trails Program | Urban Park and Recreation Recovery
Webmaster Last Modified 12-12-05 U.S. Department of the Interior FOIA Privacy Disclaimer

U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service National Park Service