The year of the lava lamp and the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the $1.50 movie ticket, 1968 in America was—like years before and since—a time of dissonance and division.
But one thing came out of 1968 that plenty of people still agree on. Signed into law fifty years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act preserves waterways across the country (including Puerto Rico) which have “outstandingly remarkable” intrinsic value. Five federal agencies, including the National Parks Service, manage protected areas to ensure their waters continue flowing freely, unaffected by development.
Today, sections of over 200 rivers enjoy Wild and Scenic status. But there’s still a long way to go: If the 600,000 miles of river affected by large dams were shrunk down to the length of a football field, wild and scenic rivers would only stretch just over two yards.
To celebrate half a century of protected waters—and prepare for many more—here are ten of our favorite Wild and Scenic rivers.