Salmon and steelhead are known for their impressive migrations and ability to return to the streams of their birth.
While these ocean-going fish begin and end their lives in Idaho’s mountain streams, they spend much of the time outside of Idaho. As juveniles they will swim 466 miles to the Pacific Ocean, spend one to four years in the Pacific Ocean and then swim 466 miles back to Idaho as adults. During this time they will navigate eight large dams and reservoirs, multiple kinds of predators, and changes in ocean and river conditions.
Salmon and steelhead need certain things in order to successfully make their journey. Eggs need clean gravel and well-aerated water. Young fish need clear cool water in the summer, and shelter from ice and flows in the winter. When juvenile fish migrate they rely on the spring run-off and management of the dams to reach the ocean. Once in the ocean they follow the currents and food supplies. When adults return to Idaho to spawn they require certain water temperatures and river conditions to allow them to reach the streams of their birth.
Federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, conservation groups and private landowners are working to improve these fish’s ability to complete their journey.