StEELhead Discoveries Series - Part 10: June 2024


*This is Part 10 of an ongoing series on the campaign to Free the Eel and efforts to better understand and revive the iconic steelhead in the Pacific Northwest by Native Fish Society Fellow Samantha Kannry. View Part 1 - 9 HERE. Additional parts and updates will be posted over the next several months. Stay tuned!

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"On Sunday, May 12th 60 people came out to show their support for taking out the Eel River Dams and enjoy a less frequently traveled stretch of the mighty river. We floated about seven miles from McCann to Dyerville (the confluence of the mainstem Eel and South Fork). McCann is a small river community whose only road access is via a low water bridge that presents a serious hazard to boaters (unless you put in downstream of it as we did). Our flotilla included all matter of crafts, rafts, inflatable kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, hardshell kayaks and catarafts. We had a couple boats captained and paddled by the youth racing teams of Redwood Rafters (who went on to win the cadet division of the National Rafting Association Championship on the Clackamas River).

After getting everyone to the put-in, geared up and a quick safety talk, we began our float. The receding flows of spring provided us with a turquoise path to follow downstream. We made a lunch stop at the lovely Luna Farms for a quick tour of riverside living, dry farming and ancient fruit trees. The afternoon brought some strong winds, and as we neared the confluence the white caps felt as though they were pushing us back upstream. The stand-up paddleboarders got low and powered through the gusts. After arriving at the confluence, we bathed in the warmer waters of the snowmelt-free South Fork, reflected on what it means to “support dam removal” and how to continue to reach a wider audience.

The Eel River Dams are still in place, and while they appear to be headed towards removal, there are many factors and groups working against that end, or at least attempting to delay it. PG&E recently put forth a proposal to FERC to extend their deadline for the draft and final surrender applications for an additional six months (January 2025 instead of June 2024, and June 2025 instead of January 2025, respectively). While this delay seems minor, it is already years into the relicensing process, and likely not the last proposed delay. The delays and extensions have a way of accumulating and resulting in significant losses of precious time for the recovery of native fishes. We want to prevent this from happening to the best of our abilities. We hope that our little flotilla will continue to grow into a significant show of support and desire for the expedited removal of both dams. Come join us next year and engage in the public comment process in the meantime."

-Samantha Kannry


About the Author:

Samantha Kannry has been monitoring, studying, and swimming with summer-run steelhead in the Eel River and other rivers of Northwestern California for the past thirteen years. She joined NFS as a volunteer in 2015, then became a fish genetics fellow in 2020.

While it has been clear to the native peoples of the region since time immemorial that summer-run steelhead and the congeneric spring Chinook are separate populations, not everyone else sees it so clearly. Her research has focused on using conservation genetic tools to elucidate the distinction between summer and winter-run steelhead.

When not minking (a combination of hiking, swimming, snorkeling, sliding, shimmying, and boulder jumping) down rivers, she is usually growing and eating fruit, moving manure at Caudal Fin Farm, or bike touring distances large and small. All working towards re-establishing the inherent continuity between rivers, land, and people.

Read StEELhead Discoveries Part 1 - 7 HERE.


River Stewards

Join Us for a Guaranteed Good Time for a Great Cause! Where: The Miracle Barn at 65599 Tweed Road, Bend, OR / *Virtual auction available anywhere you have wifi! When: Saturday, August 17th, 4 - 7pm What: A FREE Central Oregon benefit for our wild, native fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving communities.