What are the differences, if any, between wild and scenic rivers and wilderness?

Differences include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  1. Motorized boats and other motors may be allowed in wild and scenic rivers classified as wild, whereas the administering Secretary has the discretion to continue the use of motorized boats and airplane landings in wilderness where such uses are traditionally established. In areas that are both a wild and scenic river and wilderness, the most restrictive provisions of the two acts apply, subject to any area-specific legislative language.

  2. New dams are prohibited in wild and scenic rivers. The President may authorize water resource and energy projects in wilderness.

  3. Road, trail, recreational facilities (e.g., campgrounds), and other infrastructure on federal lands may be allowed in wild and scenic river corridors, consistent with classification and protection of river values. Roads and recreational facilities are generally prohibited in wilderness. However, trail, trail bridges and other accommodations to allow recreation use and protect wilderness resources may be allowed.

  4. Only the mineral estate (not the land) may be patented in wild and scenic river corridors. In wilderness, mineral claims had to be in existence prior to December 31, 1983, to be considered for development and disposal.
Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council