From Upper Klamath Lake in south-central Oregon, the Klamath River flows southwest into California and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. The Klamath is the second largest river in California. The entire river below Iron Gate Dam is a state and federally designated Wild & Scenic River. Several major tributaries of the Klamath are also protected in the state and federal systems, including the Scott River, Salmon River, Wooley Creek, and the Trinity River. In addition, several smaller tributaries of the Klamath are eligible and have been recommended for federal Wild & Scenic protection by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
The Klamath River was one of the original rivers included in the California (state) Wild & Scenic Rivers System when the system was established in 1972. The Klamath and several other state rivers were added to the federal system at the request of Governor Jerry Brown and upon the approval of Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus in 1981.
The Klamath’s salmon and steelhead populations are the specific extraordinary and outstanding values protected by state and federal law. The river supports several anadromous fish species, including threatened coho salmon and green sturgeon, spring and fall chinook salmon, steelhead trout, coastal cutthroat trout, white sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey. The river’s anadromous fishery is important to the sport and commercial fishing industries, as well as Native American subsistence and ceremonial culture.
Despite its Wild & Scenic protection, the Klamath’s salmon and steelhead fisheries have declined in the past decades, primarily due to modified flows, high water temperatures, and pollution generated by upstream water supply and hydroelectric dams. State and federal agencies, along with Indian Tribes and conservation groups, are working to restore the Klamath and its anadromous fisheries by removing four of the upstream hydroelectric dams. State designation of the river in 1972 stopped four massive water supply dams planned for the river.