Deadbeat Dam Alert: Free the Snake

Last week, some of the OARS Idaho crew hopped in a dory and joined more than 300 people – everyone from farmers and outdoor enthusiasts to business owners and conservationists – to “Free the Snake.”  The group was demonstrating for removal of four deadbeat dams in Southeastern Washington, which if successful, would begin the largest wild salmon recovery effort in the world, restore tourism in the area and revitalize the fishing and recreation economies of communities throughout Idaho, the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies.

What Happened?

Historic runs of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin numbered over 16 million in the early 1800s. Human impact including habitat loss, dams, overfishing and deteriorating oceanic conditions all impacted salmon and steelhead runs. Today, less than 10 percent of historic populations return—heavily augmented by hatcheries—and Chinook, Chum, Coho, Sockeye Salmon and Steelhead Trout are all listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Why #FreeTheSnake?

Scientists and economists advocate removing the four aging Snake River Dams to reduce the cumulative effect of dams on the various fish species.  Ocean-migrating fish bring important ocean nutrients into more sterile inland ecosystems. They also provide food for a variety of species including otters, bears, eagles and osprey. Additionally, salmon and steelhead are central to many native cultures including the Nez Perce and the Shoshone-Bannock and are an important aspect of the region’s tourism economy.

Learn more: Watch Patagonia’s short film, “Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River.”

Ready to speak out for wild rivers and their important fish friends?  Visit or sign the petition at to join more than 130,000 people who have already asked government leaders to #FreeTheSnake.


Additional writing & research: Cari Morgan.  Media: Patagonia, Ben Moon and Whitney Hassett

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