Does 5,000 river miles sound like a lot? Well, that’s how many miles of waterways American Rivers, American Whitewater, and Pacific Rivers (powerhouses of river protection) are trying to protect as wild and scenic this year.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which allowed congress to “preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

In other words: to keep theses rivers clean, protected, and free flowing. Wild and Scenic status is the most protective designation an American river can get. But, even 50 years out, it only touches a small portion of our nation’s rivers. (Less than 1/4 of 1 percent of rivers – about 12,000 miles – in the U.S. are protected.)

“It isn’t enough to defend our public lands and waters from threats like oil and gas development and new dams,” says American Rivers’ Amy Kober. “We also need to keep setting the bar high and secure new protections. Quite simply, water is life. And protecting our last wild rivers is the best investment we can make for clean water, local economies, and our future.”

So this year, the groups are highlighting rivers worth protecting, and trying to get them designated through their 5000 miles campaign.

You can tell your story about why rivers are special to you on their site. Or you can simply check out some of these suggestions:

Deep Creek, Colorado

Despite the fact that Colorado is home to tons of beautiful, important rivers, the state only has 76 miles of Wild and Scenic water on the Cache la Poudre River. Deep Creek, a tributary of the Colorado that cuts through a deep, narrow canyon of limestone cliffs that hold the largest complex of caves in the western U.S., including Colorado’s largest and longest caves, would be its second.

Nooksack River, Washington

whitewater on the Nooksack. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Kober says the Nooksack is a quintessential Northwest river, full of whitewater and salmon. Some of those species of salmon, along with steelhead and local trout, were listed as endangered in the 1990s, so holding onto that pristine river ecosystem is imperative.

Nolichucky, North Carolina

North Carolina's Nolichucky, a roaring class V whitewater run though a stunning, steep-walled gorge – and it would become only the eighth wild and scenic river in the whole southeast.

It’s one of the few rivers in the region that isn’t dammed or diverted, so paddlers and other river lovers are working to make sure it stays that way.

East Rosebud Creek, Montana

Sparkling East Rosebud Creek, and the bright blue lake it feeds into form a popular zone for hiking, fishing and paddling.

In 2009, there was a proposal to put a hydro dam on the creek, and local advocates fired up a campaign to keep it off and keep the river protected. Legislation to protect it, which has good bi-partisan support has passed the Senate, and Kober says it should pass the House relatively soon. This one could be in the “win” column.

Rogue River, Oregon

The Rogue. Photo: BLM Oregon

The Rogue was one of the original eight Wild and Scenic rivers, designated in 1968, and the protected stretch is beautiful and pristine, with a few big rapids to keep you on our toes.

But Kober says that original designation didn’t quite go far enough, and they want to get tributaries protected, especially from future logging, so that the river’s integrity still holds.

More River Content From ASN

Fishing on a Million Acres of Wild Rivers in Argentine Patagonia

Get Involved: 5 Nonprofits advocating for the Preservation of Rivers

6 of the Sweetest Rivers in America to Visit Before You Die