California

Scott River

Returning water to California’s most important coho salmon stream

Scott River
A major tributary to the Klamath, the Scott River, is California’s most important river for wild coho salmon, which are threatened or endangered throughout most of their range. Western Rivers Conservancy is working to restore significant flows to the South Fork Scott River, the largest, cleanest and coldest tributary to the Scott. In doing so, we will deepen our impact within the Klamath system and improve the odds for coho salmon in California and southern Oregon.
Photography | Nate Wilson
Scott River
The Scott River produces more than half of California’s wild coho, and conservation of spawning and rearing habitat is critical to ensuring their survival as a species, especially as California struggles with long-term drought and warming river temperatures. State and local organizations have invested millions of dollars in long-term restoration efforts on the 2.5-mile stretch of river that WRC is working to protect.
Photography | Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
Scott River
The 2.5-mile stretch of the South Fork Scott that WRC is working to protect includes Critical Habitat for southern Oregon/northern California Coast coho, a threatened species. Our efforts will also conserve habitat for northern spotted owl, bald eagle and American marten.
Photography | Nate Wilson
Scott River
The property WRC is working to conserve controls senior water rights on the South Fork Scott River. WRC’s purchase of the lands will allow us to dedicate these water rights in-stream, increasing summer-time flows in the South Fork Scott by up to 20 percent. This will make a real difference for migrating, spawning and rearing fish.
Photography | Nate Wilson
Scott River
WRC’s efforts on the South Fork Scott have also provided WRC the opportunity to acquire a nearby property and conserve a stunning viewshed along the Pacific Crest Trail. The property has been a high priority for the Pacific Crest Trail Association for years, and WRC’s acquisition of it will ensure these lands stays protected forever.
Photography | Spring Images/Alamy Stock Photography
Scott River
Coho salmon
Photography | Alamy Stock Photography
Scott River
In the face of the many challenges to the Klamath River basin, conservation of high-quality riverlands is of utmost importance. WRC’s work on the South Fork Scott River will benefit the fish, wildlife and people that depend not only on the South Fork and mainstem Scott rivers, but on the Klamath system as a whole.
Photography | Nate Wilson

In California, coho salmon are endangered throughout much of their range and only possess the slightly favorable status of threatened in the northernmost reaches of the state. When it comes to their survival in California, the Scott River, a major tributary to the Klamath River, is of utmost importance. Producing over half of the state’s wild coho population, the Scott River has clear water, abundant spawning beds and no main-stem dams to impede fish migration. Yet, since the days of the Gold Rush, the Scott River has been dramatically transformed, and the river and its fish face myriad challenges, from water diversion and diking to deforestation and drought. Perhaps the greatest stressor on coho today is the lack of water. Frequently, there is simply too little water in the river and its tributaries to sustain healthy populations of spawning, holding and rearing fish.

Building on our efforts within the Klamath River basin, Western Rivers Conservancy has embarked on an effort to return significant flows to the South Fork Scott River, the largest, cleanest and coldest tributary to the Scott. This year, we purchased the Bouvier Ranch and gained control of a critical water right on the South Fork Scott River. Control of that water will allow us to dedicate 2.6 cubic-feet-per-second in-stream for the benefit of coho, Chinook salmon and steelhead. Keeping this water in the South Fork Scott will increase summer-time flows by up to 20 percent, exactly when the river and its fish need those flows the most.

The project will also allow us to conserve 2.5 miles of designated Critical Habitat for southern Oregon/northern California Coast coho. Combined with our rare opportunity to return water to the South Fork Scott, this will be a major step in the right direction for the Scott River and its fish. And that step is critical. Millions of dollars have been invested in coho recovery within the Klamath Basin, and the one thing it all hinges upon is the presence of water in the river. WRC’s efforts at the Bouvier Ranch will add significant flows to the Klamath’s two most important coho streams and help guarantee the success of these investments while improving the health of the greater Klamath River system itself.

Our efforts at the Bouvier Ranch also provide the opportunity for WRC to protect a viewshed on the Pacific Crest Trail by acquiring a property that has been a top priority for the Pacific Crest Trail Association for years. The trail skirts the property at the northeast edge of the Trinity Alps Wilderness before crossing the South Fork Scott River, upstream of the Bouvier Ranch. Our goal is to protect the views that make the PCT so scenic while ensuring the river that hikers encounter is healthy both for people and the salmon that return each year to spawn.

Funding for the Scott River Project was made possible through generous contributions from multiple sources, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Joseph and Vera Long Foundation, the Bella Vista Foundation, the Betlach Family Foundation, the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation and with the generous support of many additional individuals, foundations and businesses.

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