American Rivers Announces America’s Most Endangered River for 2012

Emily Nuchols  /  3 Min Read  /  Activism


Sometimes destruction is a good thing. Last year, we watched bulldozers and jackhammers break apart and remove massive chunks of concrete from the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River in Washington, and we cheered as the first flows of water broke through the cracks. We had been waiting for this moment for more than 20 years. The Elwha and its wild salmon and steelhead had been waiting for more than a century.

A month later, we stood motionless with hundreds of people, until we heard the first pop of dynamite exploding at the base of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington. With that dramatic eruption, the White Salmon broke free — reclaiming its wild course for the first time in 100 years.

Together, these two events marked the largest and most significant river restorations in history. More importantly, they marked a swell in momentum for restoring our nation’s broken rivers. Today for the first time in history, we are deconstructing dams and freeing rivers faster than we are building them. As dam removal completion nears on the Elwha and White Salmon rivers, we now wait to welcome home wild salmon and steelhead, tribes, fly fishermen and paddlers to these healing waters.

Year of the River. Video: Andy Maser

1_Potomac River
Pollution threatens the Potomac, putting clean water and public health at risk, while the U.S. House of Representatives has repeatedly put the Clean Water Act at risk – in 2011, 28 votes were cast in the House of Representatives to undermine Clean Water Act protections.

Photo: MV Jantzen

While we have our sights set on removing 100 dams this year, we also know that protecting and restoring all rivers – through removing dams, stopping Clean Water rollbacks and stopping harmful development – is crucial for all of us and our environment. Since the Clean Water Act was put in place 40 years ago, we have made great progress, thanks to the tireless work of many. Unfortunately, these safeguards are at risk again.

There’s no argument: we all need clean water. Fresh water is crucial to every single living thing on our planet, and the majority of our drinking water depends on healthy rivers. In addition to the water that we drink and that goes into the food we eat, rivers and streams give us places to fish, paddle and swim – not to mention homes for countless species of wildlife. We cannot live without it.


So, what’s the good news? You can help. Here are 3 ways you can help to protect and restore America’s most endangered rivers today.

  1. Take action to remove 100 dams in 2012.
  2. Protect your clean water and the Clean Water Act.
  3. Help protect America’s most endangered rivers.


Patagonia’s current environmental campaign, Our Common Waters, spotlights the need to balance human water consumption with that of animals and plants.

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