(a)  In addition to the criteria listed in G.S. 143B-135.150, the following criteria for a river to qualify as either natural or scenic shall apply to this Subchapter:

(1)           A river segment should be long enough to provide a rewarding experience and to encompass a sufficient portion of those features and processes that make the segment worthy of consideration.  Generally, in urban areas, any segment included in the rivers system should be at least two and one‑half miles long.  In non‑urban areas, a segment should be at least five miles in length.

(2)           Boundaries.  The natural features and forces necessary for the maintenance of a high quality riverine resource must be identified, and boundaries should be established to provide for adequate protection of these features.

(b)  In addition to the criterion set out in Subsection (a) of this Rule, a river shall meet the following criteria for designation as a natural river:

(1)           Water Flow

(A)          The river (or segment) must be free from impoundments including dams, diversion works, artificial constrictions of the river, rock rip‑rap, concrete blocks, retaining walls, rock filled gabions, or pilings.  Future dam construction within the river (or segment) shall be prohibited.

(B)          The infiltration capacity should approximate that of an undisturbed watershed.

(2)           Public Access

(A)          Public access shall be limited to trails and must be by foot or non‑powered water craft, except in certain instances, primarily on coastal waters, where access may be by motorized watercraft.

(B)          Motorized vehicles shall not be visible from the river and no roads or other provisions for overland motorized travel are permitted within a narrow incised river valley, or if the river valley is broad, within one‑fourth mile of, and parallel to, the river bank.  The presence, however, of inconspicuous roads leading to the river area may be permissible.

(3)           Environmental Quality

(A)          Natural rivers and adjacent land areas present natural features and processes essentially undisturbed by man.  Shorelines are free of habitation and other substantial evidence of man's intrusion, except that inconspicuous dwellings may be permitted.  Watersheds are natural‑like in appearance and all conservation methods employed must be in keeping with the natural river environment.

(B)          Abandoned pasture, old field succession areas (including early stages), old burns, and relatively unobtrusive forest management activity areas can be permitted.

(C)          Natural river area designation is enhanced by the existence of climax species or extremely well developed vegetational communities, visible indigenous animal species, high water quality, and unique natural features.

(c)  In addition to the criteria set out in Subsection (a) of this Rule, a river shall meet the following criteria for designation as a scenic river:

(1)           Water Flow.  The river (or segment) shall be largely free of impoundments.  If an impoundment is present, water should not have the characteristics of impoundment for any significant distance.  Future dam construction within the segment shall be prohibited.

(2)           Public access to scenic rivers may be by roads which occasionally bridge the river.  Short stretches of conspicuous or longer stretches of inconspicuous and well‑screened roads or railroads paralleling the river area may be permitted.

(3)           Environmental Quality

(A)          Scenic river areas are more amenable to multiple use than natural river areas.  They are more suited for active and intensive recreational uses.  However, these uses must be kept within the restraints imposed by the ability of the resources to support use without degradation.

(B)          Scenic river shorelines and adjacent lands shall be largely free of structures.  Forested landscapes mixed with dispersed agricultural uses and rural dwellings or settlements, including low density vacation homes, are characteristic of scenic river areas.  Small communities or any concentration of habitation should be limited to relatively short stretches.  Indigenous construction materials are preferred.  Farming, timber harvest, and similar resource use is permissible if accomplished without a substantially adverse effect on natural appearance.

(C)          Acceptable erosion control devices, in accordance with the Sedimentation and Pollution Control Act, must be installed.

(D)          Occasional utility easements, perpendicular to the river course, may be permitted.


History Note:        Authority G.S. 143B-135.142; 143B-135.150; 143B-135.156;

Eff. April 4, 1979;

Amended Eff. August 1, 1988; January 1, 1985; October 1, 1984;

Transferred from 15A NCAC 12F .0202 Eff. April 1, 2017.