Oregon’s Deschutes River is home to a diversity of native anadromous and resident fish including summer steelhead, spring Chinook Salmon, and Bull Trout. It also provides thermal refuge for salmon migrating up the Columbia to rivers further inland. These fish are part of a delicate and interconnected ecosystem that is essential for the long-term health of the region's natural resources, habitats, and local communities. However, this precious resource is under threat. Non-native fish species, poor water quality, and human impact have all taken a toll on the river, leaving its future uncertain. But there is hope. Native Fish Society is invested in our mission to restore the lower Deschutes River to its former glory, reviving its wild, native fish population and improving water quality for future generations.
The Deschutes River is facing numerous challenges. Non-native fish species, such as smallmouth bass and walleye, have been introduced to the river and are displacing and threatening the native species, leading to a decline in biodiversity. Additionally, the Deschutes is also suffering from human use: the Pelton Round Butte Dam complex has altered the entire river system, a large portion of Deschutes water is withdrawn for irrigation use, and increasing urbanization in the basin is adding further stress to this treasured waterbody.
Our key areas of focus on the Deschutes are Habitat and Heat. Learn more about the science behind the 5 H’s and their importance to the revival of wild abundance here.
Native Fish Society's goal is to improve water quality in the lower Deschutes through habitat restoration projects on key tributaries, and to continue advocating for the removal of Pelton Dam to ensure improved flows and cooler water temperatures. Additionally, to increase spring Chinook salmon and summer steelheads' resilience by establishing temperature and flow-based management frameworks.
How We Are Working To Achieve Our Goal:
We are working to prioritize stopping habitat degradation before it starts with the involvement of our River Stewards through important restoration projects for spawning and rearing habitats, and investing in habitat stewardship with indigenous people and tribal nations.
We are also ensuring Pacific Northwest state fish and wildlife agencies adopt and implement climate and ocean change policies. Policies as such include: priority for wild fish and climate adaptation measures, getting to carbon-zero by 2050, and management of lands and species to increase carbon sequestration.
Successes & Accomplishments to Date:
Improved communication from ODFW about the state of Deschutes steelhead in a more timely fashion through establishing collaborations and relations.
Initiated a stakeholder process to investigate potential opportunities for improving water quality in the lower Deschutes, particularly during summer months.
Continued restoration efforts led by Matt Mendes, Warm Springs tribal member and NFS Warm Springs River Steward, in support of stewardship activities, including trash cleanup, signing wild fish sanctuaries, riparian planting, youth outreach, and relationship building with Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs.
NFS aided in co-creating the Pelton Round Butte Fisheries Roadmap adopted by the Fish Committee used to guide reintroduction efforts and associated operations.
Completed independent review of water quality modeling and reports.
Established a reintroduction plan modification to only smolt releases in the upper basin in order to reduce residualization and genetic introgression with native Redband Trout.
How Can You Help?
You can help make a difference for the Deschutes River and its wild, native fish by volunteering, making a donation, or spreading the word about the importance of restoring this precious resource. Send us a message if you have any questions or would like to be notified of any upcoming volunteer opportunities and/or Action Alerts for the Deschutes River.
For these reasons and many more, Native Fish Society is dedicated to protecting and restoring the Deschutes. We play a leading role in holding PGE accountable to meet water quality standards below Pelton Round Butte, and River Stewards work to protect key instream and riparian habitats as well as using eDNA to locate Bull Trout in the upper basin. Together, we can make a positive impact and ensure the return of a wild and cool Deschutes River!