Adopt-A-River Program

Program Overview

Taking care of our Columbia Basin Rivers– little ways to make a big difference!

Riverkeeper volunteers“We do not own the earth; we are its caretakers. We have a responsibility towards it. There was a time when we were so few that the earth could absorb and correct almost any mistake we made. But no more. Our power and influence is too great now. If we refuse to take care of the earth, or do a shoddy job of it, the effects of our mistakes will eventually come back to haunt us.” – Tom Brown Jr. from his field guide, Living with the Earth

The first caretakers of the Columbia River were the ancestors of the people who today belong to the tribes of Chinook, Nez Perce, Spokane, Celilo-Wyam, Wanapum, Wenatchee Band and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakima, and Colville to name a few. European, Asian, and African Americans populated the Columbia Basin region in the 1800’s, and near the turn of the century commercial fishers caught as much as 43 million pounds of Columbia River salmon and steelhead a year. Today the catch at best is around one to two million pounds; the massive decline has been attributed to a combination of mismanaged events commonly referred to as the 5 H’s: over-Harvest, Habitat loss & pollution, Hydropower dams & fish passage, Hatcheries & fish diseases, and waste from the Hanford Nuclear Site. You can help restore a clean, healthy river with abundant salmon runs by taking care of your stretch of adopted river and strengthening a network of caretakers from the Canadian headwaters all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Adopting-A-River is simply a one-year commitment to:

  • Check up on your adopted site at least once a season (4 x a year), and send us quarterly habitat assessments to document changes in wildlife, plants, and land-use at your site.

  • Log plant and animal observations in iNaturalist, our primary method for sharing habitat data with the public. Log in and search for the “Columbia Riverkeeper Adopt-a-River Project”, and be sure to add your observations to our project!

  • Pick-up trash at least twice a year – if the amount of trash is overwhelming, please call us to help organize a community clean-up!

Consider additional caretaking options at your own pace including:

  • Water quality monitoring: E.coli sample collection

  • Invasive zebra mussel monitoring

  • Native riverscape or rain gardens for stormwater remediation

Get Involved!

To get started, choose your favorite section of river—as big or small as you’d like—on the Columbia or a tributary. If somebody else has already adopted your preferred site, we’ll team you up! Read this welcome letter and submit a volunteer interest form and adoption waiver , and we’ll help match you with a site and send you an adoption certificate and caretaking packet. Please contact, 541-399-0769, with any questions.

Riverkeeper is proud to be coordinating the Adopt-a-River program in coordination with SOLV’s Oregon Adopt-a-River program (, and Portland State University’s Invasive Species Watchdog program (