Connections of a River - Connectivity
(pg 8 of 9)
Above: Salmon being
mechanically transported around dams, by truck
and by barge.
The Columbia River in the northwestern United
States was once "the world's greatest salmon
highway, a commuting route for incomparable numbers
of chinook, coho, and steelhead," writes
Blaine Harden in A River Lost: The Life and
Death of the Columbia. When Lewis and Clark
came across the river in 1805, "the explorers found
salmon everywhere, leaping up rapids and
waterfalls, spawning in gravel shallows, rotting on
the shore, drying by the tens of thousands on
scaffolds in the Indian fishing camps."
An estimated 1 million spring and summer chinook
ascended the Columbia to spawn in the Snake or its
tributaries. Today? Fewer than 2,000. According to
an American Fisheries Society study in 1991, a
quarter of the Columbia's 400 distinct stocks of
wild salmon and steelhead were extinct, and more
than half faced extinction.
What is the difference? The string of dams,
constructed for power generation and navigation
along the lengths of the Columbia and Snake. Sixty
major dams and about 3,000 small ones impede the
flow of the Columbia River system.