Regional overview

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Upper Columbia River region: Key takeaways

1The upper Columbia is about abundance–big rivers, big harvests, and big fish. Diverse communities, with different interests, are united by an understanding and appreciation for the role salmon play in our identity as a region.

2With sustained efforts, salmon are returning and communities are experiencing renewed fishing opportunities and economic growth. The runs are nearly double what they were 10 years ago, but endangered spring Chinook are in desperate need of continued recovery efforts to survive.

3While continuing to improve habitat, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board is looking broadly across a range of factors (forest health, hydropower, hatcheries, and harvest) affecting the long-term sustainability of our listed species. The board is developing new partnerships and seeking new opportunities to change the trajectory of salmon and steelhead.

Visit the Regional Recovery Organization’s Website:

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2018 progress and challenges


  • The number of salmon and steelhead returning to the upper Columbia region has increased steadily during the past several decades in response to recovery efforts and improved ocean conditions.
  • The runs of listed spring Chinook and steelhead are nearly double what they were 10 years ago.
  • Steelhead runs in two of the four watersheds are approaching recovery targets for abundance.
  • Each year, nearly 28,700 salmon and steelhead are harvested and $2.5 million is spent on fishing in the region.
  • The region has completed 441 habitat restoration and protection projects creating more than $250 million in economic activity and more than 1,890 jobs since 1999.
  • Partners have restored more than 100 miles of stream habitat, opened an additional 225 miles to fish passage, and protected nearly 5,000 acres of important habitat.


  • Despite progress during the long-term, the past few years of salmon returns have been much reduced because of poor ocean conditions and reduced survival.
  • Endangered spring Chinook continue to struggle to survive in the region and the cause of their continued lack of recovery is unknown.
  • Birds, sea lions, and large fish in the Columbia River that eat salmon greatly affect the number of fish that return to the upper Columbia. In some years the loss can be near  50 percent. The long migration distance contributes toward our species’ vulnerability to predation.
  • Upper Columbia salmon and steelhead have to migrate more than 500 miles and over six to nine dams as both juveniles and as adults.
  • Overstock, diseased, and pest-ridden forests in the region have contributed to recent megafires that have hurt our communities, damaged our economies, and devastated fish habitat.
  • Climate change has led to recent changes in less snow in the mountains meaning less water and warmer streams, harming cold water fish like salmon and steelhead.

About our region

Nestled in north central Washington, the Upper Columbia River Salmon Recovery Region is a region of startling contrast and rich complexity. Unparalleled habitat, vast working forests, robust hydropower and preeminent global agriculture all live here, as does a culture of caring and collaboration. Salmon travel more than 500 miles to reach the region, traversing the heart of Washington, and connecting and sustaining the communities and natural systems they pass through. Salmon sustain us here in the rural communities of Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan Counties. The region is home to five species of salmon and encompasses the major watersheds of the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan Rivers. We are the caretakers of three salmonid species at risk of extinction—spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.

Salmon recovery stories

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Upper Columbia River salmon recovery region of Washington state