March Riverscape 

From The Riverkeeper

Hello Awesome River Folks - 

In our work there is often a sense of urgency, given the many needs of the river, and the species who call it home. While most of the time these days, I'm pretty "mussel centric" in my view of the river, sometimes we need to view things from the perspective of a fish, in this case winter steelhead. 

I imagine being that steelhead, and wondering at what it has to go through in order to survive in the Willamette and beyond. As you may know, winter steelhead are rainbow trout that are anadromous, meaning they migrate to the ocean and return to their natal river to spawn, that is, if they are lucky. They can also be called sea-run trout. 

Steelhead fry
Hatching up on some small tributary to the Santiam, and then residing there for a time while it grows, this little fish is preparing for a massive journey to the ocean and back. After it grows a bit, the juvenile fish heads downstream toward the Pacific. This initial foray for this little one puts it in contact with a large reservoir, and then dams that impede the river's flow and the passage of fish. If the little steelhead is lucky, it will survive its way over or through the dam and continue on. 

As this little fish heads downstream it may encounter any number of discharges of treated effluent into the Willamette, warmer plumes of water from other tributaries, as well as runoff from farms and cities. It also has to avoid predators the whole way to the ocean. In our case, this fish will find itself imbued with progressively more pollution as it makes its way past Salem, Newberg and Portland. 

Steelhead swimming upstream
Fish must be trucked around the Santiam's 469ft Detroit Dam

After eating and growing in the ocean (and avoiding some significant threats found there), the steelhead will head back upstream, seeking out its original river where it hatched. All the while it must deal with pollution, unnatural river flows due to dams, hatchery fish that may inhibit these fish, then getting back over the dams to once again reach the creeks or rivers that nourished the fish in its early days. 

Winter Steelhead being released from a truck 

In the case of the Willamette, the dams block migration over them, so if this mature adult steelhead is fortunate, it could be gathered by people at the base of the dam, put on a truck, and driven up past the dam and reservoir to be released into a more naturally functioning tributary. Then finally, if it has dealt with the myriad hurdles put in its way, the fish can spawn. 

At times the success of this life cycle is almost unfathomable given the constraints placed on our historically free flowing rivers and streams. This in part is why Willamette Riverkeeper works to curb the many forms of pollution in the Willamette and its tributaries, restore habitat, and to improve fish passage at dams. Frankly, time is running out for winter steelhead. Their numbers have dwindled to a few dozen fish over the last ten years. If we collectively do not make significant progress over the next few years, time may run out for this wild Willamette species. 

For the River, 


Travis Williams
Riverkeeper & Executive Director

Restoration Work Party: Mt Tabor Tree Planting- 3/24

Join us in partnership with One Tree PlantedPortland Parks & Recreation, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation to help plant trees at one of Portland's favorite urban natural areas in the Willamette Watershed, Mt. Tabor.

What: Help Plant Trees in Mt. Tabor!

Where: Mt Tabor Park (exact meet up location TBD) 

When: Saturday, March 24th from 9:00am to 12:00pm

Details: Celebrate the arrival of Spring by joining us for a morning of native planting at Mt. Tabor Park! We'll be planting native trees, shrubs and forbs in an under story forest at this urban natural area (which is actually a volcanic cinder cone). Dress for the weather and bring a water bottle. We will provide snacks, water refills, gloves, and tools. 

Questions? Contact or call 503-223-6418.

VIDEO: Our Mussel Study on Oregon Field Guide

Thanks to those of you who crowded into Lompoc Brewing's Sidebar location last month to join us for the broadcast premier of our Freshwater Mussel Study featured on OPB's Oregon Field Guide. If you missed it, you can view our segment below. 

click image above to view video

Mussel Shirts For Sale

If you watched Oregon Field Guide report on our Freshwater Mussels study, you know that mussels are amazing!  Help support our ongoing research by purchasing your own limited edition "mussel shirt," available now *in mens and women's sizes* through our website for $25 (includes shipping). Click here to place your order today.

Volunteers Needed: Trashy Tuesday


When: Tuesday, 3/20 from 11:30am to 1:30pm
Where: meet at the SE Portland Boathouse Dock

Details: Join us at the Portland Boathouse dock, and help us pick up trash in the central part of Portland along the Willamette. Park in the 2 hour visitor parking spaces near the building, on the street, or ride your bike. 

Reserve a seat in one of our canoes, or bring your own boat. We will provide trash bags, non latex gloves, and trash pickers. Dress for the weather and paddling (layers, boots, and rain gear). We will spend about an hour or so on the water. 

If river conditions evolve to become too challenging or unsafe, we will cancel in advance.

Register:  email

Supported by Global Delights Coffee Roasters

We would like to extend our gratitude to business owner, artisanal coffee roaster, and Willamette River rock star, Michael Lambros, of Global Delights Coffee Roasters in Eugene. 

Lambros is an active volunteer with our River Guardians program. Not only does he not hesitate to dive in and "get dirty for good" himself, but he also supplies free coffee for our volunteers. This year he is stepping up his efforts as an official business sponsor with Willamette Riverkeeper. For every pound of coffee purchased through Global Delights online store, $2 is donated back to our organization! 

"We at Global Delights feel strongly about authentically supporting our community and our environment. As part of that effort we realize the great importance of being good stewards to the rivers that feed our valley with the life sustaining waters that we all require, share and enjoy. In alliance with Willamette Riverkeeper, we strive through various efforts to keep our rivers clean from trash and chemicals while inspiring and educating our customers and neighbors to take part in these efforts with us.

Willamette Riverkeeper's River Guardians have worked diligently to maintain the integrity and health of our river, and we hope to help in their efforts and spread the word to get more people involved," says Michael.

Welcome to the Team

We are thrilled to welcome our new Development Director, Heather King, to our team! 

Heather comes to us by way of Boston and Philadelphia. A native East Coaster, she moved to the area last summer and enjoys spending much of her time on the river, in the mountains and on the coast. She has been a fundraiser for most of her professional career and is passionate about fundraising for missions she believes in- she puts the fun back in FUNdraising! Heather holds a MEd in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an MBA in Non-Profit Management from Brandeis University in Boston.

George, who we are convinced is part Muppet, is often found at Heather's side. Stop by our office and say hello, or email Heather at!
We Are Hiring

Your office is sure to have a river view :)

We're hiring a Restoration Program Associate  

Join our team! We are looking for a Restoration Program Associate. This position will focus on supporting Willamette Riverkeeper staff on a variety of ongoing restoration projects, community stewardship events, and paddle trips to various natural areas throughout the Willamette River Watershed. Most of the position responsibilities will be focused on supporting the restoration program in both a field and office setting.

For more details and how to apply click here. Application deadline is Thursday, March 22nd at 5pm.

In Flight

We were enthralled to observe these tundra swans take flight last weekend at Scappoose Bay during our River Discovery Paddling Trip! Thanks to all those who joined us for a beautiful morning, and to Radford Bean for sharing this photo with us!

Willamette Riverkeeper | 503-223-6418 | Email 


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