Upper Willamette River Chinook Salmon
The Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon is a threatened species. NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, along with the Science Centers, work to protect and conserve this species under the Endangered Species Act.
ESU Description: This evolutionarily significant unit, or ESU, includes naturally spawned spring-run Chinook salmon originating from the Clackamas River and from the Willamette River and its tributaries above Willamette Falls. Also, spring-run Chinook salmon from the following artificial propagation programs:
- McKenzie River Hatchery Program
- Willamette Hatchery Program
- Clackamas Hatchery Program
- North Santiam River Program
- South Santiam River Program
- Mollala River Program
Current Population Trends:
- ESA Status Reviews and Five-Year Updates for Upper Willamette River Chinook Salmon
- Willamette Falls Fish Counts
Critical Habitat: Designated September 2, 2005
Protective Regulations: Issued June 28, 2005 (70 FR 37159)
NOAA Fisheries delineated eight recovery domains, or geographic recovery planning areas, for the ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations on the West Coast. The Willamette River Recovery Sub-domain is part of the Willamette/Lower Columbia Recovery Domain. It encompasses the Willamette River sub-basins upstream of Willamette Falls (see map of recovery domains). This sub-domain is home to two ESA-listed salmon and steelhead species:
- Upper Willamette River Chinook
- Upper Willamette River steelhead
NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region manages recovery planning and implementation for this sub-domain through its Oregon and Washington Coastal Area Office.
More than a million salmon and steelhead once returned to Oregon’s Willamette River Basin. Over the course of the last two centuries, the effects of fisheries, hatchery fish, flood control and hydropower operations, and habitat alterations led to declines in these populations. These collective pressures contributed to the listing of Upper Willamette River spring Chinook salmon and steelhead under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.
NOAA Fisheries worked with its partners, most notably the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Governor’s Natural Resources Office, and the Upper Willamette River Stakeholder and Planning Team, to develop a recovery plan that addresses the biological needs of the population and the threats it faces. The Stakeholder Team consisted of representatives from several interests, including: agriculture, business, conservation, government, tribal, fishing, forestry, local government, soil and water conservation, and utility. Their input and collective efforts culminated in NOAA Fisheries' 2011 adoption of the Upper Willamette River Conservation and Recovery Plan for Chinook Salmon and Steelhead.
The recovery plan focuses actions on the biological needs of fish throughout each life stage in order to address the various threats they face. The two highest priorities are to reestablish natural production of salmon and steelhead above the Willamette's flood control dams and to protect high quality habitat while strategically improving degraded areas. These activities, coupled with sound harvest and hatchery management, will contribute to the long-term recovery of Upper Willamette River spring Chinook salmon and steelhead.
Recovery Plan Resources
Partnerships for Recovery
Salmon recovery requires action at all levels of government and by all stakeholders to be effective. Partnerships among federal, state, local, and tribal entities, together with non-governmental and private organizations, are key to restoring healthy salmon runs and ensuring the cultural, economic, and environmental benefits they provide. Implementing recovery actions is especially critical at the local level. NOAA Fisheries supports this by providing scientific and policy support, providing funding as available, and working with our partners to improve regulatory mechanisms for salmon recovery.
Key partners working to restore Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon and steelhead are identified below.
Federal & State Partners
- Bureau of Land Management
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Natural Resources Conservation Service
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- Oregon Governor's Natural Resources Office
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Local and Private Partners
- Nesika Wilamut
- Pudding River Watershed Council
- Clackamas River Basin Council
- Johnson Creek Watershed Council
- Molalla River Watch
- Calapooia Watershed Council
- North Santiam Watershed Council
- South Santiam Watershed Council
- McKenzie Watershed Council
- Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council
- Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council
- Luckiamute River Watershed Council
- Long Tom River Watershed Council
- Marys River Watershed Council
- Tualatin River Watershed Council
- Greater Yamhill Watershed Council
If you have questions, would like to learn more about recovery efforts in your watershed, or would like to get involved directly, please contact:
West Coast Region - Oregon and Washington Coastal Area Office