Rogue River Canyon Wilderness

Location Acres Ecological value Economic Value
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Southwestern Oregon 59,863 Healthy native salmon populations; rare plants; populations of elk, bears, mountain lions, osprey, and eagles Boating, whitewater rafting, fishing, clean water, wineries and breweries

The Rogue River starts high in the Cascade Range near Crater Lake and flows west for more than 200 miles through the rugged Klamath Basin before emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. The river passes through some of the most ecologically rich landscape in the United States.

The river lies in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region, where three mountain ranges converge to produce a unique mix of flora and fauna. More than 30 types of coniferous trees grace this landscape, including temperate rain-forest species such as spruce and hemlock, and dry-forest trees such as ponderosa pine and juniper—sometimes growing next to one another. There are also stands of coast redwoods, Alaskan yellow cedar, and the endangered Port Orford cedar.

Rocky, heavy-metal-rich soils, containing serpentine and peridotite rocks, are common in the area. Lifted from the seafloor and folded over and over for millions of years, these soils formed the Klamath Mountains. Plants have had to adapt to the mineral-deficient soil, resulting in uncommon plant association groups such as flesh-eating plants and rare orchids. Of the 3,500 varieties of plants found there, more than 250 occur nowhere else on Earth. These unusual plants support more than 200 butterfly species and almost 400 bird species. Incredibly, more than 2,000 kinds of moths have also been identified.  

The rugged terrain creates an important migration corridor and habitat for bears, elk, cougars, osprey, bald eagles, and hundreds of other species of flora and fauna.

The river and its tributaries support some of the best spawning habitat and healthiest populations of salmon and steelhead found on the West Coast. These fish runs alone generate about $20 million annually in commercial and recreational activity for the local economy.[1] The area may be remote and rugged, but visitors seeking the world-class whitewater, fishing, and other river recreation opportunities are not deterred.

The Rogue area’s economy was traditionally based on natural resource extractions, but more recently, with the protection of the river and its surrounding areas, a more varied economy has developed in the region, providing both a solid and an increasing economic base for the community.  Recreation on the river includes rafting, fishing, hiking, and jet-boat tours, and the beautiful surroundings and clean water have fueled a healthy local wine and beer industry.

The Rogue was one of the original rivers safeguarded by the Wild and Scenic River Act in 1968. Today, more than 125 miles of the river fall under this federal protection. In addition, a stretch of the river and its surrounding uplands constitute the protected Wild Rogue Wilderness.  But threats to the river and its cold, clear waters remain. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management proposed logging 500-year-old trees near the salmon-spawning habitats of Kelsey and Whiskey creeks. The proposal galvanized efforts by local citizens, river guides, anglers, and business owners to protect a portion of the river stretching from the small community of Galice to the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness.

To ensure the continued existence of clean water, healthy fish runs, and teeming wildlife, few wild places are as essential as the Rogue River and its surrounding landscape.

[1] EcoNorthwest, The Economic Value of Rogue River Salmon (January 2009).

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