In this milestone episode, we talk about the Klamath Dam Removal with Ann Willis. Ann shares her incredible conservation journey, starting from a 6-day white water raft trip.

We explore the unique characteristics of the Klamath River, the catalyst for conservation efforts following a devastating fish kill, and the ambitious goals set by American Rivers for dam removal across the nation.

Klamath Dam Removal with Ann Willis. Hit play below!



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Klamath Dam Removal

Klamath Dam Removal Show Notes with Ann Willis

02:47 – Ann’s journey into conservation began with a 6-day rafting trip on the Middle Fork Salmon River. This led her to work as a white-water raft guide for several years.

After realizing the need for a more sustainable career, she delved into river science for 15 years and ultimately led her own research program at the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Ann Willis guiding a raft down the Grand Canyon. Photo credit: Amy Quinton

10:00 – The Klamath River was a highly productive ecosystem until around 1918 when the construction of hydroelectric dams began. Among those dams were Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, Iron Gate, and JC Boyle.

Klamath Dam Removal
Klamath River, Shane Anderson

18:42 – In the early 2000s, a significant event that catalyzed conservation efforts in the Klamath River was a massive fish kill.

During a drought, water shortages and poor water quality caused by the dams led to the devastating sight of dead fish floating for miles along the riverbanks.

30:00 – Monitoring efforts in the Klamath River assess stream flow, water quality, and the presence and distribution of aquatic life such as insects and fish.

35:00 – The removal of dams can have a positive impact on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with reservoirs. Additionally, it encourages the shift towards more sustainable and emissions-friendly energy sources like solar and wind power.

Klamath Dam Removal
Photo via

About American Rivers 

38:00 – In light of American Rivers’ 50th Anniversary, Ann gives advice to those advocating for the removal of the Snake River dams.

Hells Canyon on the Snake River, ID. The Snake River is one of the next large dam removal campaigns to improve river health for people and the environment. Photo credit: Ann Willis

46:00 – Ann acknowledges the lack of diversity in conservation organizations. She added that there are also Eurocentric notions that need to be reevaluated, like the idea that these natural spaces are resources for us to profit from or benefit from rather than steward and enhance.

49:00 – American Rivers was founded in the 1970s, a period before the establishment of significant environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

49:30 – There was a notable incident where the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire due to extreme pollution. We talked about this in an episode with Alex Czayka.

51:00 – American Rivers has set ambitious goals to address dams across the country that have reached the end of their practical lifespan. Their vision includes the removal of 30,000 dams by 2050.

59:24 – People interested in the dam removal can reach out to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation.

Klamath Dam Removal
Photo via

Check out American Rivers:


Instagram: @americanrivers

Facebook: American Rivers

Klamath Dam Removal Related Podcast Episodes

WFS 498 – The Dirtbag Diaries with Fitz Cahall – Duct Tape Then Beer, Climbing, Yosemite


WFS 495 – cc – Hetch Hetchy Valley, BearVault, Yosemite Outfitters

WFS 493 – Western Reserve Land Conservancy with Alex Czayka – Cuyahoga River, Steelhead, Ohio

Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below

Klamath Dam Removal

Klamath Dam Removal Conclusion with Ann Willis

Ann Willis has shed light on the remarkable Klamath Dam Removal project and the broader mission of American Rivers. From the challenging journey of conservation to the promising future of river restoration, this conversation ignites hope. What’s your next river adventure, and how can you contribute to the preservation of these vital ecosystems?