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Introduction How Rivers Run Stories Value Of A River What We Can Do
Connections of a River - Connectivity
Longitudinal disconnects (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.


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