WRC Blog

We Did It! Success on a beloved Oregon wild and scenic river

Nov 7th, 2019  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

We Did It! Success on a beloved Oregon wild and scenic river
Photo by Tom and Pat Leeson

Great news! Western Rivers Conservancy successfully delivered permanent public access to the John Day River at Thirtymile Creek, at the heart of the John Day Wild and Scenic River canyon! Most importantly, the effort conserved the lower nine miles of Thirtymile Creek and 10 miles of the John Day River.

WRC crossed the finish line on this project this summer when we successfully conveyed the former Rattray and Campbell ranches to the BLM. Now, the critical lower reach of Thirtymile Creek, along with 22,032 acres of sagebrush country along the John Day are forever conserved. These lands are open to all and provide new overland access to 78,000 acres of surrounding public lands in a spectacular region of eastern Oregon.

Anglers, boaters, hunters, hikers and others are now free to explore this little-known slice of Oregon that previously required a multi-day float or a use-fee through private land. For boaters, the project safeguards the only river access on a remote, 70-mile stretch of the John Day.

This is a major conservation milestone for fish and wildlife of the John Day River basin. Thirtymile Creek is the largest tributary to the lower John Day and a critical spawning and rearing stream for lower-river steelhead, which are some of the biggest, strongest fish in the system. The creek is also vital to Chinook salmon, which depend on the stream’s cold water. The former ranches provide excellent habitat for a wealth of wildlife, including upland game birds, pronghorn, elk and Oregon’s largest herd of bighorn sheep.

This project was made possible with funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and thanks to the steadfast support of WRC donors like you. Thank you!

Funding for this project was made possible through generous contributions from multiple sources, including: Autzen Foundation, The Conservation Alliance, The Cabana Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation, The Collins Foundation, Cecil Drinkward, Evermine, Flyfisher's Club of Oregon/The Flyfisher Foundation, Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, A. Ted and Doris E. Nelson Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation, Carol and Velma Saling Foundation and Wy'East Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation.