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Jill Sanford | 11.06.2017

There’s more to federally managed land than an iconic national park, a remote wilderness area, or an epic backcountry campsite on BLM or Forest Service land. National Scenic Areas are federally protected landscapes that have already been partially developed and inhabited by humans, but are known for their outstanding scenic and natural value.

They are also some of the most fantastic places to get outside and play. Because a National Scenic Area designation encourages and promotes the economic growth of the region, you can usually find one not too far outside of an urban area and easily access comfortable amenities.

This unique land designation opens up doors by supporting people and communities who live and work in these areas while ensuring that the unique characteristics of the region are preserved for years to come. The land designation is applied when other federal land status don’t apply but the characteristics of a landscape or destination call for certain land management and preservation practices.

So what does this mean if you like to get outside and want to explore these areas? It means that these places have been set aside for our enjoyment without compromising the surrounding community’s infrastructure. One of the most prime examples of a National Scenic Area is the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland, Oregon.

It’s a region of breathtaking natural beauty already heavily used by travelers and people living and working in the area, and, of course, pursuing outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, boating, and other sports. When it was designated as a National Scenic Area in 1986, new funding and infrastructure to manage the 80-mile region became available, and this helps support about 75,000 people, resource dependent communities, farms and schools.

The first National Scenic Area ever designated was Mono Basin, pictured above. For more on National Scenic Areas, click here.

Here’s a list of National Scenic Areas and the years they were created. Enjoy these unique and beautiful landscapes, as well as the communities they support.

  • Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California, 1984
  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon and Washington, 1986
  • Beech Creek National Scenic Area, Oklahoma, 1988
  • Indian Nations National Wildlife and Scenic Area, Oklahoma, 1988
  • Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, Virginia, 1994
  • Coosa Bald National Scenic Area, Georgia, 1995
  • Saint Helena Island National Scenic Area, Michigan, 2000
  • Seng Mountain National Scenic Area, Virginia, 2009
  • Bear Creek National Scenic Area, Virginia, 2009

For a list of adventures you can embark on in the Columbia River Gorge, see below.

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