A Network of Iconic Rivers
The rivers of the Klamath-Siskiyou provide a refuge for wild salmon, clean water for communities and extraordinary recreational opportunities. Largely defined by the Rogue River watershed in the north (where our Rogue Riverkeeper program works) and the Klamath River watershed in the south, the Klamath-Siskiyou region also includes the Trinity, Upper Sacramento, Smith and Chetco Rivers. These rivers support populations of Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, green sturgeon and Pacific lamprey.
The region’s rivers are fondly memorialized in literature and movies and many are federally recognized as “Wild and Scenic Rivers,” including portions or the Trinity, Klamath, North Fork Smith, Chetco, Illinois, Elk and Rogue Rivers. These rivers offer world-class fishing, boating, rafting and hiking opportunities. The western Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon contain more Wild and Scenic Rivers than any other National Forest in the lower 48 states. In addition, there are several candidates for Wild and Scenic designations, including Rough and Ready, Baldface and Whisky Creeks.
A Decline in Habitat
Many of these rivers and their tributaries have been severely degraded over the last 150 years by dams, dredging for gold, toxic runoff from mining operations, destruction of riparian and floodplain habitat, water withdrawals, urban development, and sedimentation and associated impacts from logging and road-building. While salmon and steelhead are iconic representatives of the wild rivers of the Pacific Northwest, these living icons are increasingly threatened today. Throughout the region, once-thriving salmon populations are crashing.
In southern Oregon, Coho salmon and green sturgeon are listed on the Endangered Species Act while Chinook, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout are listed as species of concern. In Northern California, Chinook and Coho salmon, Lost River and shortnose suckers and steelhead are listed on the Endangered Species Act. In addition, hundreds of miles of the streams in the region violate water quality standards as defined in the Clean Water Act, such as temperature violations that harm fish in the Rogue Basin and toxic algae that threatens public health on the Klamath.
Few things are more evocative of the Pacific Northwest than the sight of a Chinook salmon leaping a waterfall as it makes its way to ancestral spawning grounds as they do each year at Rainie on the Rogue or the mouth of Wooley Creek on the Salmon. The rivers of the Klamath-Siskiyou are both a stronghold for wild salmon and an opportunity to restore this iconic piece of natural history.
KS Wild protects rivers and their fish by monitoring activities on public lands to both stop projects that harm salmon and water quality and advocate for projects that help restore these values. KS Wild has an impressive track record as an effective friend of public waters and salmon: 1) We save old-growth forests that stabilize soils and provide critical habitat for salmon; 2) We encourage road removal and maintenance to minimize sedimentation from a pervasive logging road system; 3) We monitor mining operations to ensure they are complying with laws meant to protect public resources; 4) We work legislatively and administratively to gain protections for rivers and fish; 5) We are working in a broad coalition to stop a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas import facility and pipeline that would harm southern Oregon’s rivers and aquatic communities; and 6) We launched the Rogue Riverkeeper program in 2009 to watchdog Clean Water Act implementation in this southern Oregon salmon stronghold.