Chinook in Upper Blue Creek © Thomas Dunklin

Once tremendously abundant, California wild salmon are now on the brink of extinction

The State of Salmon in California

Chinook, coho and steelhead were once tremendously abundant in most of California’s major rivers and streams. As recently as the 1960s, salmon and steelhead were so plentiful in streams that horses would get spooked trying to cross.

Due to water damming and diversions, habitat degradation, and more, salmon and steelhead populations have declined dramatically. They have even completely disappeared from many streams.

But there is hope. Wildlife and river restoration groups throughout the state are working together to change this trajectory.

The State of Salmon in California presents the problems salmon are facing and their population trends in the state’s major rivers and streams, as well as the transformative solutions that could bring these species back from the edge.

Statewide Status of Salmon and Steelhead

Click on one of the species below to view a statewide map showing where it lives and a graph of how its population numbers have changed over the past decades.

The upper Klamath River landscape in Klamath, northern California. The Yurok tribe owns land along the river and participates in a forest carbon offset program that was developed by the Nature Conservancy. © Kevin Arnold
The Shasta River shown flowing through the Nature Conservancy’s Shasta Big Springs Ranch below Mount Shasta in northern California. The upper reaches of the Shasta River hold the best hope for restoring salmon populations in the Klamath Basin of northern California and southern Oregon, and the Conservancy’s Shasta Big Springs Ranch is a key property in that recovery effort. The 4,136 acres Shasta Big Springs Ranch (formerly, Busk Ranch) is the source of large cold water springs that support over 80% of the coho salmon found rearing in the Shasta. Protecting this ranch is a major link in restoring the salmon habitat in California. © Bridget Besaw
View of oak woodlands and riparian habitat along the Michigan Bar in the Cosumnes River watershed, CA. Located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, the Cosumnes River and its watershed of wetlands and deltas offers habitat for thousands of birds and native fish as well as unique valley oak streamside ecosystems. TNC works to protect these natural communities from development, over-pumping of groundwater and a variety of other threats associated with a burgeoning population in the Great Central Valley of California. © Karen Gregg Elliott/TNC
Image of Santa Clara River snaking through vegetation, with exotic species in the foreground. The Nature Conservancy has played a large role in protecting the Santa Clara River and its tributaries in Southern California. 1/3 of the river winds through Ventura County, and TNC is taking on the LA portion of the river to reach the goal of protecting 30,000 acres. The Santa Clara River is one of the most important and intact river systems in Southern California and offers some of the last riparian and freshwater habitat for wildlife in Southern California within hundreds of miles. © Barbara Wampole

Restoration From Headwaters to the Sea

Coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead depend on all aspects of stream health during their lifecycle. From watershed headwaters to river’s mouth, salmon and steelhead rely on stream well-being for survival and reproduction.

Snapshots of our Salmon Rivers

See all Rivers

Click below to view a snapshot of salmon and steelhead populations in one of 55 monitored California rivers and streams. Snapshots include status and trends of fish populations, maps of historic and present distribution and the salmon community partnerships and projects restoring the salmon habitat.

Sacramento River (mainstem)

Chinook salmon - spawning male
Late Fall-run Chinook
Year Population Trend
2018 1,193
Chinook salmon - dark Columbia male
Spring-run Chinook
Year Population Trend
2018 0
Chinook salmon - ocean bright female
Winter-run Chinook
Year Population Trend
2018 2,638
Chinook salmon - spawning male
Fall-run Chinook
Year Population Trend
2018 9,435
Steelhead - male
Steelhead
Year Population Trend
2018
Read more
Sacramento River at Woodson Bridge © TNC

Restoration Partners

See all Partners

The salmon conservation community includes people working in non-profit conservation organizations, federal, state, and local resource agencies, water agencies, tribes, and private entities, such as timber companies. Over 100 organizations around the state are listed below that are involved in salmon recovery and habitat restoration efforts.

Learn which restoration partners are working on each river and how by visiting the Salmon Rivers page.