Bookended by the mighty Rogue River watershed in the north (where our Rogue Riverkeeper program works) and the iconic Klamath River watershed in the south, the Klamath-Siskiyou is a region of wild rivers. The Illinois, Smith, Trinity, and Chetco Rivers are all world-class streams. These beloved rivers support Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, green sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey.
These wild rivers have long been fondly memorialized in literature (such as Rogue River Feud) and movies (like Rooster Cogburn) due to their stunning scenery accompanied by world-class fishing, boating, and rafting opportunities. The western Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon contain more federally recognized Wild and Scenic Rivers than any other area in the lower 48 states. There are also several worthy candidates for future Wild and Scenic designations, including Rough and Ready, Baldface, and Whisky Creeks.
What’s Happening to our Rivers?
Many of these rivers and their tributaries have been severely degraded by dams, toxic runoff from mining operations, water withdrawals, urban development, logging of streamside forests, road-building, reckless off-road vehicle use, and climate change. While salmon and steelhead are part of our cultural identity, these living river icons are increasingly threatened today. Throughout the region, once-thriving salmon populations are dwindling.
In southern Oregon, Coho salmon and green sturgeon are listed under 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 under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, hundreds of miles of streams in the region violate water quality standards as defined under the Clean Water Act. For example, temperature violations resulting from reduced shade following loggingharm fish in the Rogue Basin and toxic algae threatens public health on the Klamath River.
Few experiences 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 Falls on the Rogue River or at 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 opposing projects that harm salmon and water quality while advocating for actions that help restore riparian health. Protect the best and restore the rest. We save old-growth forests that stabilize soils and provide critical habitat for salmon while encouraging road removal and maintenance to minimize sedimentation from a crumbling logging road system. We are proud to have launched the Rogue Riverkeeper program in 2009 to watchdog Clean Water Act implementation in this southern Oregon salmon stronghold. Retaining streamside forest canopy cover, preventing destructive in-stream mining activities, and reducing the impact of poorly maintained logging roads on streams and creeks are continuing priorities.