Fish Flood Rogue River After Dams Come Down

Salmon, steelhead re-appear in areas once dammed

This page was published 13 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

Oregon’s second largest run of salmon outside the Columbia Basin is returning home to a remodeled Rogue River this fall, and it looks as if they like the updated digs.

The storied Rogue has been the setting for the most significant series of dam removals yet seen in the western United States, with four dams down in the last three years, opening up 157 continuous miles of free-flowing mainstem river for the first time in more than a century. Tributaries included, the removals have provided salmon and steelhead better access to 333 miles of habitat upstream of the former dams.

The human efforts to remove the dams stretched over 20 years—with Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood playing a key role along with local allies like WaterWatch of Oregon—but salmon have wasted no time in taking advantage of the fish-friendly changes.

As reported in Friday’s Oregonian newspaper, state biologists have already counted 63 redds, or nests of salmon eggs, in the former reservoir pool of Savage Rapids Dam, which was removed late last year. Incredibly, a recent survey crew on the stretch of river formerly covered by Gold Ray Dam, removed just a few weeks ago, counted 34 salmon redds and 35 live spawning salmon.

But fish aren’t the only ones flocking to the new Rogue. Anglers from near and far are relishing new fishing spots and coming away with colorful new additions to the Rogue’s history. Medford Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman tells of how the Rogue’s weeks-old "Lost and Found" riffle got its name.

Appropriately, the story involves some old fishing pals, a big steelhead, a prized rod, a lucky break and a stretch of river once thought lost to dams but now found – for the benefit of both fish and people.

Jim McCarthy worked with Earthjustice attorneys to shine a press spotlight on West Coast salmon and water issues.