10 American Rivers With a Bright Future

We hear a lot these days about threatened rivers—waters that are in peril as fisheries and recreational resources. No doubt, it is in every angler’s interest to support efforts to help conserve those rivers. But there are positive stories out there and examples of rivers that are realizing the beneficial effects from conservation and cleanup efforts. With that in mind, we’ve created this list of America’s Renewed Rivers:

1. Penobscot River, Maine. On June 11, 2012, the Great Works dam was removed, opening the way (literally) for migrating Atlantic salmon once again on what had historically been one of the most prolific Atlantic salmon fisheries in the United States.

2. South Platte River, Colorado. Grassroots cleanup efforts by volunteers in the greater Denver area have made a dramatic improvement on the urban Platte. Anglers can catch trout, smallmouth bass and carp in the shadows of tall buildings.

3. St. Mary’s River, Virginia. Once a great brook trout river, the St. Mary’s was ruined by the effects of acid rain. Clean Air Act regulations, however, have once again increased pH levels, which bodes well for the future of this native brook trout fishery .

4. North Umpqua River, Oregon. Considered a bastion of northwest steelhead fishing, the Umpqua once suffered considerably under the effects of logging. Its legendary steelhead runs are now once again shaded by mature timber.

5. San Miguel River, Colorado. As with many rivers in the Rockies, the San Miguel was affected by mine pollution but capped tailings and increased stream restoration efforts downstream from the town of Telluride have helped restore the San Miguel as an alpine freestone trout fishery.

6. East River, New York. For striped bass fishing, few spots offer the uniqueness of the East River. Striper runs are getting better by the year.

7. Detroit River, Michigan. These once-severely-polluted waters that connect Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie actually teem with smallmouth bass, walleyes, carp, panfish and other species. The smallie fishery is arguably among the best in the country.

8. Yampa River, Colorado. A recent water lease negotiated by the Colorado Water Trust will send water downstream during this severe drought year, protecting the future of the trout here.

9. Delaware River, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. The shad runs on the Delaware are matched by a growing resident smallmouth bass population in areas that once felt the impact of pollution.

10. Tennessee River System. A collection of the nation’s premier bass fisherieslakes is formed by the Tennessee River, including the renowned Wheeler Lake and Lake Guntersville. But recent efforts to enhance habitat have also make a profound positive impact on the river stretches of the system as well.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.