The Columbia Watershed

NWNL offers this list as a helpful resource,
but does not necessarily endorse the viewpoints of the videos below.

The Columbia Wetlands: A Meditation by Frank Purschwitz, from Wildsight, July 2016 (2:13)

Incorporating impressive river aerials and wildlife close-ups, this film conveys the magnificence of this transboundary, diverse wetlands flowing between the Purcell and Rocky Mountain Ranges in Canada’s Kootenay region in British Columbia. Serving as headwaters of the Columbia River, it is one of the largest intact wetlands in North America.

NWNL Notes: This film was produced by Wildsight, a strong stewardship organization in Canada’s Upper Columbia River Basin. NWNL interviewed several stewards working for Wildsight during its Columbia River Source-to-Sea Expedition in 2007. The impact of this RAMSAR-designated important wetlands was so strong that NWNL returned in 2008 to document just the Columbia Wetlands and its stewards.

Upriver, a film for the Willamette, a trailer by Freshwaters Illustrated, 2016 (1:22)

Description by USDA: Oregon’s Willamette River system, one of the largest in the Columbia River Basin, has one of the nation’s most active river conservation and restoration movements. This film highlights the inspired work of a network of stewards who have been protecting and restoring streams for the fish and wildlife that depend on them. The USDA Blog has more details: An Oregon National Forest at the Heart of a Movement.

My Brother's Keeper, Part Two of a three part series about Holistic Watershed Management in the Columbia Basin by Wildsight, 2015 (2:32)

NWNL Comment: This Canadian video was sent to NWNL by Wildsight, a nonprofit focused on threats to British Columbia’s Upper Columbia River. NWNL interviewed two stewards working with Wildsight on our 2007 and 2008 expeditions to the Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin and has followed their work with great respect since then. “My Brother’s Keeper” offers a sobering insight into the transboundary concerns of the region’s First Nations, the most elder guardians of our water resources and unique, life-giving biodiversity. They ask us all, whether in US or Canada, to develop “a new narrative” for water resource management in the Columbia watershed that is more holistic, reminding us that “the only thing we can govern is ourselves.”

Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River by Patagonia, 2015 (7:30)

Patagonia Comment: Snake River Salmon have been trucked, put on barges, diverted up fish ladders – all in the hope that enough would bypass the four dams standing in their way to reach their historic habitat, and ensure their future existence. But it’s not working. The time has come to breach the dams and reconnect wild salmon to this important watershed. More info at

NWNL Comment: This follow-up to the award-winning DamNation film by Patagonia Inc. has many salmon advocates quoting compelling facts supporting removal of the lower four Snake River Dams. Sadly, the Pacific Northwest spends $1 billion per year on salmon recovery with little reward; but breaching the lower four Snake River Dams would be “the biggest watershed restoration in North America, if not on earth,” according to Sam Mace of Save our Wild Salmon. David Brower, one of the earliest US environmentalists, said “If you are against a dam, you are for a river.”

Parker’s Top 50 Favorite Things about Northwest Rivers by American Rivers, 2015 (3:28)

American Rivers Comment: “The rivers of this region give us clean drinking water, shape our communities, provide the currents and eddies for salmon and trout fishing, and create a beautiful backdrop for outdoor recreation of all kinds. It’s the rivers that make living in the Pacific Northwest so special. As one native to the region put it, ‘The rivers are at the heart of just about everything that’s important around here.’”

NWNL Comment: It is so important, as our partner American Rivers knows, to understand the values of our rivers. Only then can we have the awareness and passion with which to protect them! Thank you for sharing, Parker!

Condit Dam Removal by Andy Maser, 2012 (2:03)

NWNL Comment: On October 26, 2011, the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River was intentionally breached as part of the dam’s decommissioning and removal by PacifiCorp. Barely a year later, all the concrete was gone and the river now flows freely. The salmon have returned, and rafters and kayakers are regularly using the river. This video shows a brief time-lapse view of the breach and resulting river flow.

See NWNL’s Condit Dam Removal video page for a longer description and links to additional information.

No Water No Life documented the dam in June 2007, knowing it was slated for removal. NWNL’s May 2014 Snake River Expedition returns to the old dam site to compare ecosystems before and after removal of the Condit Dam. The expedition will then continue on to investigate the future of the lower four dams on the Snake River, largest tributary of the Columbia River Basin.

Why Pacific Lamprey Matter to Columbia Basin Tribes by Freshwaters Illustrated in partnership with Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, 2012 (5:31).

Filmmaker’s Commentary: Pacific lamprey have been on earth for around 450 million years but in the past 50 years, they’ve been pushed to near extinction in the Columbia River Basin. Lamprey have been a part of the cultures of the tribes in the Pacific Northwest since time immemorial and in this video [the tribes] share their feelings on this amazing creature as well as what they are doing to help keep them from going extinct.

NWNL Commentary: Biodiversity is a big web in every watershed, and in the Columbia the Pacific Lamprey are a threatened species. Before dams, when there population was much bigger, they were a great food source to the local tribes. Their anatomy doesn’t allow them to make the needed 90° turns around dams’ concrete fish ladders, but they need to get upstream to spawn. Otherwise they will disappear from the Snake and Columbia River Basins.

Clark Fork River Superfund Site by Makailah McKinley, 2011 (3:26).

Description by Makailah McKinley: “This video was filmed during Society of Environmental Journalists Conference tour of the Clark Fork River Superfund Site, on Oct. 14, 2010, as well as during the walk with Prof. Erick Greene on Oct. 17. I edited the film on iMovie during layovers on my way home to Asheville, North Carolina. A special thanks to everyone involved with the conference, especially the video workshops. I also have my first attempt at a photo blog and will soon have an essay up from the tour on my new blog.”

NWNL Comment: This environmental journalist recorded discussions in the field about chemical pollution in the Clark Fork (which flows to Lake Pend Oreille), which comes from copper in the Berkeley Pit, one of largest open mines in the world. He also briefly covers the story of the Milltown Dam Removal that addressed remediation of one of the US’s largest Superfund Sites.

Glacial Lake Missourla by, 2011 (16:18).

Description by Huge Floods: Slideshow featuring Glacial Lake Missourla features.

NWNL Comment: During the last Ice Age (18,000 years ago), an ice dam in the Clark Fork River backed up a water to form the Glacial Lake Missoula in Idaho. What is now Missoula, Montana, was then 950 feet underwater. Between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago, ice dams holding back this lake would suddenly rupture, the last break releasing 13 times the amount of water in the Amazon Basin. These cataclysmic floods created the wavy river bottom features still visible in the scablands in Washington and the spectacular Columbia River Gorge now dividing the states of Washington and Oregon. The video shows maps and geologic features still visible today.

Wild Salmon of the Pacific by and International League of Conservation Photographers, 2011 (3:40).

Description by ILCP: Salmon face an incredible journey, migrating from freshwater to the ocean, across borders, through cities, public and private lands, farms, and timber forests. From nursery to ocean and back, salmon face hydroelectric dams, mining, erosion, competition from hatchery fish, over fishing, loss of habitat, poaching and give their life so that the next generation can thrive. Salmon are resilient, but man-made obstacles combined with the threat of climate change may be more than they can handle.

NWNL Comment: The Wild Salmon Center is a Portland-based organization NWNL interviewed in 2007. This video explores the future of wild salmon throughout the Pacific Rim and the over 100 species that depend on salmon – including humankind. The film was co-sponsored by the International Center of Conservation Photography, a NWNL Partner.

The Bonneville Flood by, 2010 (15:00).

Description by Huge Floods: The Story of Lake Bonneville Flood by with photos and illustrations of many amazing features created when 1,000 cubic miles of water raced down the course of the Snake River approx. 17,400 years ago. View more photos and videos of the Ice Age Floods at and

NWNL Comment: This film documents how, 17,000 years ago, the release of waters from a massive ice-age lake in Utah scoured and shaped Snake River, the largest tributary of the Columbia River.

The Hemlock Dam Removal Story – Columbia Basin Restoration by HydroPower Reform Coalition, 2010 (11:33).

Description by Crag Law Center: Hemlock Dam was built in the Great Depression to provide water for a work camp in the area. The dam was build on Trout Creek, a tributary of the Wind River, in the Columbia River Gorge.

The dam was removed in the summer of 2009 and over 12 miles of upstream habitat was restored for Columbia River Steelhead. The Forest Service worked with local contractors, conservation groups, the Bonneville Power Administration, federal agencies and native tribes to secure funding for the dam removal and complete this ambitious restoration project.

The Crag Law Center worked with the Gifford Pinchot Task Force to ensure that the project moved forward smoothly. Crag intervened in a challenge to the water quality certification for the project and contended that the Washington Department of Ecology had complied with federal law in approving the dam removal.

This 10-minute version of the film is an edited version of the full feature-length 23-minute version of the film which is available directly from the Crag Law Center. Contact Ralph Bloemers at 503-525-2727 to obtain a copy of the feature length or look for it to appear in various film festivals across the country.

Copyright 2010 HydroPower Reform Coalition

NWNL Comment: Over 60% of the world’s rivers have been dammed or diverted, and the Columbia River Basin is the most heavily dammed river in the world. Dams block fish from their spawning grounds and nutrients from reaching downstream floodplains. In the Columbia watershed there used to be 10 to 16 million salmon spawning each year. Now 12 salmon species in the Columbia are considered endangered. (For a larger view and longer description, see Hemlock Dam Removal in NWNL’s Columbia River Basin pages.)

The Ice Age Flood by Byron Pickering, 2010 (3:23).

Description by Pickering A video story of the Montana megafloods, featuring Byron Pickering’s painting of “Glacial Lake Missoula.”

NWNL Comment: This short video superimposes text describing the story of Montana’s Ice Age megafloods over an artistic visualization of what that Pleistocene landscape might have looked like 18,000 years ago.

Salmon in the Trees by Amy Gulik, 2010 (2:57).

Description by Salmon in the Trees: Salmon in the Trees tells the story of the remarkable connection between salmon and trees in the Tongass rain forest of Alaska.

NWNL Comment: This trailer for the book of the same name offers a simple, yet scientific, explanation of how anadromous* fish help maintain the health of our freshwater resources. Conservation photographer Amy Gulick’s book Salmon in the Trees raises awareness of the critical role of salmon in the health of Alaskan watersheds. This web of biodiversity between bears, salmon, trees and our fresh water resources is just as critical in the Columbia River Basin; however today hydro-dams block the Columbia’s salmon migration from Canada’s Rockies out to Oregon’s Pacific Ocean coast.

*Definition of anadromous: adjective; (of a fish, such as the salmon) migrating up rivers from the sea or ocean to spawn.