Little Beaver Creek celebrates 50 years of Wild & Scenic River designation

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Little Beaver Creek
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Little Beaver Creek being designated as a Wild River. (Submitted photo)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Little Beaver Creek designated as a Wild River. The area surrounding Little Beaver Creek is rich in history and exciting natural features. The river itself is diverse, with some areas strewn with large boulders, rapids, pools and tributaries. With the support of the community, nonprofits and other government agencies the health of Little Beaver Creek continues to improve.

History

Ohio was the first state to create and implement a Scenic Rivers Program in March 1968, just before President Lydon B. Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act on Oct. 2, 1968. A few years later, on Jan. 15, 1974, Little Beaver Creek was the first in Ohio to be designated as a wild river and, in 1975, it received its national scenic river designation — making it one of the few with current state and national designations.

Soon after, Little Beaver Creek was appointed an advisory council. The council was composed of incredibly dedicated community members, landowners, local officials and conservation organizations. So dedicated in fact, that the original chair, Jack Vodrey, served for 40 years until 2014.

If we look back in time even further, the Little Beaver Creek Valley in East Liverpool was where Thomas Hutchins began the first U.S. Public Land Survey in 1785 on the then-greatest subdivision of land. This is commemorated by a marker dedicated in 1960, but it’s not the only historical significance to the area.

The Sandy Beaver Canal — which linked the Ohio River to the Ohio-Erie Canal, and ran along LBC — was completed in 1848. Unfortunately, it was not as successful in generating commerce as hoped since the railroad soon came along. Fortunately for us, you can still find remnants of the different locks in the area state parks — Guilford Lake State Park and Beaver Creek State Park — and surrounding towns.

Wild and scenic rivers

The Ohio Scenic Rivers Program was established in 1968 through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. At that time, criteria for wild and scenic rivers were established which said that a river value “is a rare, unique or exemplary feature at a regional or national scale (scenic, recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural)” must be protected. But how is it determined which designation a river will receive? It comes down to how much the natural structure and ecology have been altered.

Key factors include:

Wild rivers: free of impoundments and are generally only accessible by trail, watersheds or shorelines are primitive and unpolluted.

Scenic rivers: free from impoundments with shorelines or watersheds largely primitive and undeveloped but accessible by roads

Recreational rivers: are accessible by roads or railroads and have some development along their shorelines that may have undergone impoundment

Accomplishments

The benefits of receiving such a designation do not go unnoticed throughout Little Beaver Creek. Since 1974, about 5,150 acres have been protected and made accessible by the local county park district and various divisions of ODNR. Private and public landowners themselves protected an additional 2,700 acres through conservation easements.

These conservation easements along with other practices have done wonders for the local wildlife. Presently, there are 63 fish species, 49 mammals, 140 birds and 46 reptile and amphibian species that have been documented. A point of pride for Little Beaver Creek is that we are home to the largest population of the endangered Eastern hellbender in Ohio.

Looking ahead

Though the wild and scenic river designation has aided in the good health of Little Beaver Creek, increasingly mild winters and scorching summers highlight the need for continued conservation practices both on an individual and group scale. It’s hard to know where to start, but the easiest way to learn how you can protect your area’s waterways is to get outdoors. Visit your area’s natural preserves, parks, and waterways.

Throughout Little Beaver Creek there are numerous opportunities to get outdoors: hiking, kayaking and fishing. If you don’t want to go alone, the ODNR, Beaver Creek State Park and Guilford Lake State Park host family-friendly educational outdoor events throughout the year. If you want to help monitor our watershed, more information can be found on ODNR’s website where they provide information on training and equipment.

As always, your local soil and water conservation district is here to provide information and guidance. If you live in Columbiana County and have questions or concerns about what you can do to help the Little Beaver Creek Watershed, please visit our office, located at 1834-B S. Lincoln Ave. Salem, Ohio, or give us a call at 330-277-2976.

Here in Columbiana County, we celebrate our community for championing watershed conservation for 50 years. We are grateful for all the ways you continue to value Little Beaver Creek and we look forward to the next 50.

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