The State of Western Rivers: California

A deep dive into the health and future of vital waterways

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The State of Western Rivers: California
Redwood Creek flows past old growth and second growth redwoods in Redwood National Park, including the tallest tree on earth.
A new report says Redwood Creek in Humboldt County, California, which supports endangered coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout and offers recreational opportunities including class III whitewater rafting, deserves protection.
Steve Evans

Healthy rivers are crucial for supporting biodiversity and providing clean drinking water and recreational opportunities. Yet in California and across the West, rivers are under increasing threat as the climate warms, placing greater stress and demand on freshwater resources. Despite their immense value to people, wildlife, and ecosystems, few rivers and streams are safeguarded under federal or state law.

To support greater awareness of and protection for ecologically important rivers, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned Conservation Science Partners to assess the rivers in six Western states: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. The California analysis found that thousands of miles of waterways, including the South Fork Elk River and Redwood and Salmon creeks, are worthy of preservation through state-level protections, federal wild and scenic designations, or other mechanisms because of their ecological, economic, and cultural importance.

Rogue River, Oregon
Rogue River, Oregon
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How Much Do You Know About U.S. Rivers?

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They benefit people, wildlife, ecosystems, and economies—but many face serious threats.

The Little Cimarron River
The Little Cimarron River
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More U.S. Rivers Deserve 'Outstanding' Designation

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In many American communities, rivers irrigate the farms that feed families, quench people’s thirst—rivers are the source of more than two-thirds of the drinking water in the U.S.—sustain wildlife habitat, and provide an economic boost for communities. Yet only a very small portion of those waterways are protected from threats ranging from pollution to damming, which would wreck the water’s natural flow.

The Rogue River
The Rogue River
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Preserving Thousands of Miles of Oregon's Rivers

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Looking at a map of Oregon, it’s hard to miss the intertwining rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes—a natural network that delivers clean drinking water to Beaver State communities, supports a thriving outdoor recreation economy, and provides vital habitat for wildlife.

America’s Overdose Crisis
America’s Overdose Crisis

America’s Overdose Crisis

Sign up for our five-email course explaining the overdose crisis in America, the state of treatment access, and ways to improve care

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America’s Overdose Crisis

Sign up for our five-email course explaining the overdose crisis in America, the state of treatment access, and ways to improve care

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California’s Region 1 Water Quality Control Board initiated an analysis of the Smith River (above) as an ONRW but has not completed the effort. This river, a pacific salmon stronghold, is worthy of the designation.
California’s Region 1 Water Quality Control Board initiated an analysis of the Smith River (above) as an ONRW but has not completed the effort. This river, a pacific salmon stronghold, is worthy of the designation.

A Deep Dive Into America's Rivers

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Clean, free-flowing rivers and their associated tributaries and wetlands support diverse, complex, and dynamic ecosystems that deliver myriad important benefits to people, nature, and the economy.

 Chad Brown, far left, leads urban youth from Portland, Oregon, on a day of fishing.
 Chad Brown, far left, leads urban youth from Portland, Oregon, on a day of fishing.
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Nonprofit Connects Urban Youth, Veterans With Nature

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One way to mark National Rivers Month is to hear from Chad Brown, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Desert Storm/Desert Shield and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.