July 27, 2018

Expanding Our Efforts on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic John Day River

Photography | Photo by Tom and Pat Leeson

On Oregon’s lower John Day River, between two spectacular BLM wilderness study areas, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a second ranch on Thirtymile Creek. The purchase complements our ongoing effort to conserve Thirtymile Creek and ten miles of the lower John Day, while creating new recreational access to over 75,000 acres of public BLM lands surrounding the ranches.

Thirtymile Creek is the largest tributary to the lower John Day and one of the most important spawning streams for the river’s critical run of wild summer steelhead. It’s also a vital source of cold water for the John Day. The 2,939 acres we purchased in June, part of the Campbell Ranch, span five miles of the creek, immediately upstream of the Rattray Ranch. Combined, these projects will enable restoration and protection of nine crucial miles of Thirtymile Creek. 

What makes our effort at Thirtymile especially exciting is the access we’re delivering for anglers, boaters, hunters, hikers and other recreationists. The ranches lie directly between the Thirtymile and North Pole Ridge Wilderness Study Areas, which are in turn adjacent to tens of thousands of acres of additional BLM lands—all of it cut off from the public by private land, until now. The project also lies at the midway point between the Clarno Bridge boating access site, upstream, and Cottonwood Canyon State Park, downstream.

WRC is now working to transfer the ranches to the BLM, creating the only public access to a 70-mile stretch of the Wild and Scenic John Day River corridor. This means people will be able to float a stretch of the wild and scenic river in two to three days, rather than the much longer float required before.

Restoration efforts have already begun on Thirtymile Creek and will continue as WRC transfers the ranchlands to the BLM. While we are proud to deliver public access to this great Oregon river, what matters most of all is the biological integrity of Thirtymile Creek. Protecting and restoring this stream is key to the long-term vitality of one of the Pacific Northwest’s healthiest runs of wild summer steelhead. It’s only with vibrant riverbanks, strong runs of fish and healthy wildlife that people can truly enjoy a river—especially one as important as the John Day.

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