It is becoming frighteningly common to hear about animal species that are now endangered due to the effects of global warming and climate change. Fortunately, in some cases, animal populations are slowly starting to climb again due to better protection laws and increased awareness.
It is not just the animal kingdom that has been, and continues to be, under threat from human activity, though. Our water systems are in grave danger as well, and the nonprofit group American Rivers is working hard to create more awareness and change some of the laws that are endangering rivers around the country. Every year they publish a list of the top 10 most endangered rivers in America and list possible solutions.
10 Stikine River
The Stikine river runs from northwest British Columbia, Canada through to southeast Alaska, United States. Along the river, there is the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, which is a 45-mile canyon that is 300m deep. The river supports a vast array of marine life, including five species of salmon. Due to the abundance of food, there have been many Native American settlements along its shore over the years.
The river is largely threatened due to the mining that takes place nearby, and the pollution it causes local environments. American Rivers is petitioning for better protection laws be put in place for the river, its wildlife, and the inhabitants who depend on it.
9 Big Darby Creek
Big Darby Creek is a river that runs through northwestern central Ohio. It is a lovely, meandering river that is home to many different species of wildlife and marine life, having "one of the most biologically diverse aquatic systems in the Midwest." The river is also a favorite among canoeist and outdoor enthusiasts.
Up until recently, Big Darby Creek and its major tributary Little Darby Creek were protected by local conservation laws. However, in 2018, builders began developing right outside the conservation boundaries. American Rivers explained that this is a concern due to possible pollution run-off from the development, and that building should be paused until a suitable plan can be put in place to protect the rivers.
8 Buffalo National River
The Buffalo river holds the status as being the first river in the United States to ever be designated a national river. The Buffalo National river runs 153 miles through the state of Arkansas. The bottom 75% of the river flows through land that is managed by the National Park Service, and as such, this part of the river is protected.
With its beautiful winding ways and stunning cliffs along it, the river is a popular place for people to canoe and fish. The problem that is endangering this river is the enormous amount of pollution being dumped into the river in the form of hog poop. Yes, hog poop. There is a large farm, C & H Hog Farms, that sits only 6 miles from the river, and there are toxic levels of E. coli contamination.
7 South Fork, Salmon River
South Fork, Salmon River runs through the state of Idaho, and it is an 86-mile tributary of Salmon River. It drains into the Salmon River Mountains and is a popular spot for canoeists and rafters, taking advantage of some fun white water rapids.
In the past, mining companies did significant damage to the area, costing the state $13 million over the course of 40 years to repair the damage. Now, there is increased interest in pursuing mining again, as mining companies want to go after the gold in the area. Although Midas Gold, who now owns the land in the area, assures that they can mine in an environmentally-friendly way, conservationists are still concerned about possible pollution and damage.
6 Chilkat River
Chilkat River is a breathtaking river that meanders through the mountainous range of the Takshanuk Mountains, running through British Columbia and into Alaska before emptying into the ocean.
Recent discussions about possible mining starting up again on a tributary of this river have caused concern for the river and the many species of wildlife that depend on it. The river is a feeding ground for bears and bald eagles, with its plentiful populations of salmon running through. There is also the Tlingit tribal village of Klukwan nearby who depend on this river for their very survival.
5 Willamette River
The Willamette River is a major tributary to the Columbia River, making up approximately 15% of Columbia river's water flow. The main part of the river is 187 miles long and runs throughout northwestern Oregon. The river is a huge part of Oregon's landscape, with two of its major cities, Portland and Salem, settled right at the basin in Willamette Valley.
There are several large dams throughout the river that have been constructed over the years, and these are wreaking havoc on the Chinook salmon and steelhead trout populations. The dams hinder the fish's ability to swim upstream for spawning and makes it incredibly difficult for the juvenile fish to swim downstream to the ocean. Structural modifications to these dams are necessary to protect the fish and allow more of them to swim through to the ocean.
4 Green-Duwamish River
The Green River is a large tributary of the Duwamish River that flows through the state of Washington. The Green River is 65 miles long, and the last 12 miles of the river flow through Seattle, Washington. There have been concerns for this river for many years due to extensive pollution from industries in the area.
Now, in recent days, the concern has become more about the river's flooding than pollution. The flooding is becoming a large problem, and the King County Flood Control District is considering expanding the levee system in order to combat the flooding problem. This solution, however, creates more problems in that it will hinder the local Chinook salmon's ability to survive in the waters, making the temperature of the river too warm.
3 Upper Mississippi River
The Upper Mississippi River is part of the larger Mississippi river, and it flows 1,250 miles from its start in Lake Itasca, Minnesota to Cairo, Illinois, where it joins up with the Ohio River to form the Lower Mississippi River. This river is very prone to flooding, and in recent years has caused significant problems for the residents of the area.
Unfortunately, to combat the massive flooding problem, several towns and cities in the area have been creating levees along the river system, many of which do not have permits. This endangers the local wildlife along the river and can even cause further flooding problems by forcing the water into smaller channel systems down the river.
2 Hudson River
The Hudson River is the second most endangered river in America, according to American Rivers' 2019 results. This river originates in the beautiful Adirondack mountains of eastern New York and runs 315 miles from north to south, eventually draining into the Atlantic ocean at the New York Harbor.
With sea levels rising rapidly and an increase in severe storms threatening the safety of the residents of the area, as well as the wildlife, people are trying to come up with solutions to combat the problem. However, their solution to a flood barrier creates additional worries for conservationists, who are concerned that a huge wall will disrupt tidal currents and make it difficult for marine life to live normally.
1 Gila River
Unfortunately, the Gila River wins the sad title of being the #1 most endangered river in the United States, according to American Rivers. The Gila River is another large tributary of the Colorado River system, and it runs 649 miles through New Mexico and Arizona. Indigenous peoples have lived along the river for over 2,000 years, but it has only been in recent years that there has been a concern for this river system.
Human development along the river has caused the need for diversion and flood control, which in turn is further endangering animal and marine life along the river. The river no longer contributes as much water to the Colorado River, and without increased protection, the Gila River could cease to exist completely.