In 1970, the Louisiana Legislature created the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System. The System was developed for the purpose of preserving, protecting, developing, reclaiming, and enhancing the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties, and ecological regimes of certain free-flowing Louisiana streams.
Today, there are approximately 3000 miles of Louisiana designated Natural and Scenic Rivers. These rivers, streams and bayous, and segments thereof, are located throughout the state and offer a unique opportunity for individuals and communities to become involved in the protection, conservation and preservation of two of Louisiana's greatest natural resources; its wilderness and its water.
Certain activities are prohibited on designated Natural and Scenic Rivers because of their detrimental ecological impacts on the streams. These include channelization, clearing and snagging, channel realignment, reservoir construction, and the commercial cutting of trees within 100 feet of the ordinary low water mark.
Scenic River Permits are required for all activities on or near System Rivers that may detrimentally impact the ecological integrity, scenic beauty or wilderness qualities of those rivers. These permits, when granted, contain specific conditions aimed at preserving the stream's natural character and quality.
Over the last ten years, eight new streams have been added to the System. Two others have been nominated and are presently awaiting approval by the Legislature. If these two are included, this will amount to an average of one stream per year being added to the System in that time frame. In that same period of time, though several streams have been nominated for declassification, none have ultimately been removed. The Department views this as an indication of appreciation of this Program and of the importance of the streams, rivers and bayous it protects. Louisiana's Scenic Rivers System is one of the largest, if not the largest, systems like it in the world and we are proud of the role we play in this considerable and worthwhile effort.
At present, a great diversity of stream types, habitats and geographic areas are represented in the System. From large, first order rivers like the Ouachita River in north central Louisiana to small, spring-fed creeks like the Pushepatappa in Washington Parish; from fast running, upland streams (complete with waterfalls) like Kisatchie Bayou in Natchitoches Parish to beautiful, cypress-filled bottomland bayous like Bayou Dorcheat in Webster Parish (pictured above); and from sluggish, coastal marsh bayous like Bayou Chaperon in St. Bernard Parish to whole watersheds like the Tchefuncte River and its tributaries which meander through St. Tammany Parish's savannahs, forests, and swamps, all are unique and worth preserving for the benefit of future generations of Louisianians.
Rivers, streams and bayous can be nominated for inclusion in the Scenic Rivers System by your local legislators. Once nominated, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will conduct a study on the stream and decide whether or not it meets the minimum qualifying criteria. If it does, it will be recommended for inclusion by the Secretary.
Landowners with property adjacent to designated Scenic Rivers may wish to enter into scenic and/or surface servitude agreements with the Scenic Rivers Program. Scenic servitudes are cooperative agreements designed to afford system streams some additional protection on and adjacent to private lands. Surface servitudes are designed to allow or provide public access to streams on private property while relieving the private landowner of liabilities.
Additionally, whether a person owns land adjacent to a Scenic River or not, he or she may wish to contribute to the effort by making a donation to the Scenic Rivers Fund. The money in this fund can only be used for the acquisition of servitudes, education, and the monitoring and enforcement of the provisions of the Scenic Rivers Act.
If these rivers are to be adequately protected, public involvement and support are crucial. Individuals and communities can help by using these rivers and their adjacent lands in responsible ways, initiating river cleanup projects, and by reporting conditions or activities that threaten these rivers to the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers Program at (318) 343-4045.
Perhaps the greatest contribution that any of us can make is to simply spend time on these beautiful streams, rivers and bayous so that we can develop a genuine appreciation for their integral roles in our way of life and quality of life in Louisiana.