BOOM! The White Salmon Runs Wild

Update 3/7/12: Friends of the White Salmon River fight new threat

OPB provides good coverage of the efforts by our allies at Friends of the White Salmon River and the Crag Law Center to oppose dense new development in the Wild and Scenic River Corridor.  Riverkeeper's Brett VandenHeuvel represented Friends of the White Salmon on this same issue in 2006 and we prevailed.  Now the threat of new wells new septic systems polluting the river is back.  The White Salmon is a national gem.  Thanks to all who are working to keep it that way.  

With Condit Dam Gone, New Growth Threatens White Salmon River, OPB

Photo by Rob Manning, OPB

Biologists and kayakers in Washington are eagerly watching how the White Salmon River evolves, in the wake of the recent removal of the Condit Dam. But area environmental groups find themselves focusing on the shores of the river these days. Rob Manning reports on a proposal to intensify development near the White Salmon River. Read the complete article.


Update 11/19/11: The River Returns

Riverkeeper's Executive Director, Brett VandenHeuvel tours the newly freed White Salmon River with the KGW News Team two-weeks after the blasting of Condit Dam. Watch the video clip below and view the full story here.


Watch the video of the demolition and newly-freed river

Brett VandenHeuvel provides a first-hand account of the historic day: the demolition event at the Condit Dam site; exploring the river; and evening celebrations. 

At the dam site, the pre-blast warning sirens rang out, I held my breath, and felt the dynamite explosion shake the ground.  We erupted in cheers and the White Salmon roared through a hole in the Condit Dam with the fury of a river that has been restrained for 98 years.

Check out this video of the blast and the newly-freed river – if you love rivers, it will make your spine tingle.


In the late 1990s, Columbia Riverkeeper (then Columbia River United) joined the Yakama Nation and conservation, fishing, and whitewater groups in opposing the relicensing of the dinosaur dam that produced only a tiny amount of power but blocked miles of critical salmon habitat.  In 1999, we signed an agreement with PacifiCorp and several state and federal agencies that required the demolition of the dam.  It’s been a long journey, but it all came together with one big boom. 

 The White Salmon River is now free


While the blast was certainly exciting, the most fascinating part of my day was watching the reservoir behind the dam transform into a raging river.  Over the last 98 years, the stagnant water behind the dam deposited over 2 million cubic yards of sediment in the reservoir.  The river immediately disgorged massive the silt that had choked it for so long.  We cheered as the White Salmon coughed out silt and mud, like clearing your lungs after bad chest cold.  The river downcut through 100 feet of sediment – churning out rafts of mud and logs – to expose its historic bedrock riverbed.  Next fall, Chinook salmon will swim over this basalt ledge on their way to spawn in gravels upstream. 

 Rivers are incredibly resilient if we give them a chance to flow.  Long may you run. 


What better reason to celebrate than a river restored?  I attended three official parties and several impromptu gatherings on the river's bank.  The PacifiCorp event was not as much of a celebration as I'd hoped.  There was definitely cheering by the few activists who were invited and by the tribes and some government agencies, but PacifiCorp staff were somewhat somber.  After touring the site, I found my people at a wonderful party our coalition threw at Wet Planet Whitewater at Husum Falls.  Three hundred folks watched the live stream of the blast and celebrated.  A special thanks to our partner conservation organizations for all of their work advocating for dam removal and then organizing a celebration:

Friends of the White Salmon

American Whitewater

American Rivers

Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Trout Unlimited

Hydropower Reform Coalition

By 6pm, we moved to the Pint Shack in Hood River for Riverkeeper's BOOM party.  We showed blast video and cheered and gawked, and cheered again!  Long-time activists Jay Letto and Daniel Dancer spoke about their inspiring 20-year history of activism.  Riverkeeper thanks all the amazing local activists who fought for a free White Salmon. 

An Oregonian article highlights the work of Phyllis Clausen, river activist and former director of Friends of the White Salmon.

Thanks to Cloud Cap Technology for exclusive aerial footage and PacifiCorps for the river level blast shots.

View amazing time-lapse photo project of the dam removal by University of Montana's Andrew Wilcox

And by Gorge filmmaker Andy Maser: