Californians and the entire nation rely on the state’s rivers – in particular the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin — to sustain life and contribute to the world’s 5th largest economy.  

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120 Union Street
Nevada City, CA 95959

Local communities depend on river habitats as well, and our work expands local access to natural spaces whether in the urban or rural context, the valleys or mountains. California is experiencing the severe impacts of climate change, manifesting in years-long drought, intensified floods and wildfires, and loss of biodiversity.

At American Rivers, we work with partners to put shovels in the ground, bringing to life landscape-scale projects in the Sierra Nevada, Central Valley, and along critical waterways that mitigate the far-reaching impacts of human activity and climate change while increasing access and appreciation of the rivers we love.  

Our methodology centers around the multi-benefit approach, where one powerful project can address multiple priorities. On a state and federal level, we advocate policies that help preserve and restore California’s rivers to build a more sustainable future. 

key issues

Dam Removal

The fastest way to bring a river back to life is by removing a dam. In California, we are building consensus among diverse stakeholders, negotiating with public regulators, and translating the complex into the comprehendible to develop and implement win-win solutions in the state water policy and project arena. In recent news, our dam removal work along the Klamath River in Northern California is expected to be the largest dam removal in the history of the United States. Learn more about our Dam Removal and Management work here and see how you can get involved! 

Klamath River, California | Josh Miller

Dam Removal on the Klamath River

For nearly 100 years, dams on the Klamath River have blocked salmon and steelhead trout from reaching more than 400 miles of habitat, encroached on Indigenous culture, and harmed water quality for people and wildlife. But now, four dams – J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate – built between 1908 and 1962, are coming down. This river restoration project will have lasting benefits for the river, salmon, and communities throughout the Klamath Basin.  

Pickel Meadow on the West Walker River in the Eastern Sierra Nevada | Matt Freitas

California Headwaters

Our work in the river headwaters that run down from the Sierra Nevada includes mountain meadow restorations, forest road remediation, and fuels management. Our team recognizes the complex and interconnected nature of mountain ecosystems. We adopt a comprehensive approach to restoration that considers the ecosystems as a composite whole, where stream, forest, and soil interact to create resilience to the stressors that threaten the Sierra Nevada. Through our partnerships such as the Sierra Meadows Partnership, we collaborate to put our passion into practice, complemented by a range of expertise.

San Joaquin River | Photo by Daniel Nylen

California Central Valley Program

California’s Central Valley is a vital region both ecologically and economically, with the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers flowing from their headwaters in the Sierra Nevada to nourish a landscape that stretches from above the Bay Area down to Southern California. With California facing an intense multi-year drought, protecting and restoring these rivers, their wetlands, and tributaries is a cornerstone of American Rivers’ work in California.

Ackerson Meadow, California | Photo by Madeleine Page

Mountain Meadow Restoration in California

A meadow is an area where shallow groundwater enables grass-like plants and wildflowers to flourish. Although meadows cover only two percent of the Sierra Nevada mountain landscape in California, they are critical to the health and resiliency of the region’s rivers due to the ecosystem benefits they provide. Unfortunately, approximately half of all meadows in the Sierra Nevada are in degraded condition, primarily due to historic human land uses.

News & Updates