Thousands of years BP
Native Americans inhabit the region we define as Oregon today.

Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest coast and the Columbia River rely on salmon as major food source, a foundation for life, culture, economy, and spirituality.

Pre-1800s
Estimated annual runs of salmon and steelhead are 10-16 million fish. The Northwest Power Planning Council estimate of aboriginal harvest is 42 million pounds annually for all species.

1792
Captain Robert Gray enters the river we now call the Columbia, and names it after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva.

1802
Congress establishes the US Army Corps of Engineers.

1804-1806
Captains Lewis and Clark travel with their party from Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River.

1800s
Oregons streams, rivers, and lakes teem with beaver, and commerce in beaver pelts attracts explorers, trappers, and traders to the region.

1807-1812
David Thompson, a British explorer and fur trader, is the first European to travel the length of the Columbia River.

1811
The Pacific Fur Company is established where Astoria is today.

1823
The first commercial harvest of salmon by Euro-American settlers is made.

1843
Civil government is established in the Oregon Country. Major immigration to Oregon begins along the Oregon Trail.

1848
The Oregon Territory is organized. Gold is discovered in California.

1851-1852 Gold is found along Jackson Creek in southern Oregon.

1853
Joel Palmer becomes superintendent of Indian affairs; he later initiates the reservation system in Oregon.

1855
Treaties are signed with the Columbia River tribes. The tribes cede most of their lands, but reserve exclusive rights to fish within their reservations and rights to fish at all usual and accustomed places...

About this time, the era of cattle drives begins.

1859
Congress ratifies the Oregon State Constitution, and the state accepts the congressional proposal to be admitted to the Union.

The first irrigation project in the Columbia River Basin is implemented.

1862
Congress passes the Homestead Act, allowing 160 acres to those who would live on and work the land. Gold is discovered in eastern Oregon, in Baker and Grant counties.

1867 The first salmon cannery on the lower Columbia begins production.

1868
John West establishes a cannery at Westport between Portland and Astoria. Many canneries open over the next 12 years.

1870
There are 173 sawmills in Oregon, 138 of which use water power.

1877
Chief Joseph leads the Nez Perce from Oregon to Canada.

1878
Salmon canning increases from 10,000 cases in 1869 to 450,000 cases in 1878. Salmon becomes the leading export after wheat and flour. Oregon begins limiting the duration of the fishing season.

1879
The first fish wheel is built on the Columbia River.

1880s
Heavy logging occurs in the Blue Mountains.

1883
The transcontinental railroad is established.

The non-Indian chinook catch is 43 million pounds; 55 canneries are in operation at or near the Columbia River.

1887
The first Pacific Northwest salmon hatchery is established in Oregon.

1888
The US Fish Commission commits to salmon propagation on the Columbia River.

1890
The relative importance of the Oregon salmon fishery declines for the next 30 years from impacts related to overfishing, irrigation, and pollution.

1899
There are 76 fish wheels in use on the Columbia. Joint Oregon/ Washington fishery management begins.

1900-1910
A period of large-scale logging occurs in the Columbia River Basin.

1917
The United States enters World War I.

1922
Purse seines are outlawed on the Columbia River.

1927
Fish wheels are outlawed by the Oregon legislature.

1929
The Great Depression begins.

1933
Rock Island Dam, the first of the dams on the Columbia River Mainstem, is completed.

1934
Washington state outlaws fish wheels on the Columbia River.

1935
Oregon fisheries yield over $242 million, 75% from salmon.

1936
Early development of the commercial crabbing industry occurs.

1938
Bonneville Dam, the furthest downstream of the mainstem dams on the Columbia, is completed. This site now delineates the treaty fishing area, upstream from the dam, from the nontreaty commercial fishing area downstream.

1941
Grand Coulee Dam is completed, and blocks salmon access to approximately 1,100 river miles of chinook, sockeye, and steelhead habitat, including the majority of that used by sockeye in the upper Basin.

The United States2 enters World War II.

1948
Oregon fisheries increase over five-fold in value. About this time, traps and seines are outlawed in the Columbia River.

Mid 1950s
The shrimp industry develops in Oregon.

1950-1975
Oregon fishers adopt trolling; the amount of fish landed at Oregon ports increases significantly.

1956
Gillnetters are run out by anglers, except in Tillamook Bay and the Columbia River downstream from The Dalles.

1957
The Dalles Dam, which floods the major Indian fishing area on the Columbia Celilo Falls, is completed.

1958
Brownlee Dam and other upstream barriers block 1,600 river miles of upper Snake River fish habitat.

1967
Hells Canyon Dam is completed, and ends salmon runs to the upper Snake River Basin.

1968
Barging of juvenile salmon around the lower Snake River dams to preserve Idaho's anadromous fish runs begins.

1970
The National Environmental Policy Act is enacted.

1970s
Court cases clarify tribal fishing rights.

1973
Statewide land use planning is approved. Congress passes the Endangered Species Act.

The trawl fishery begins in Oregon.

1975
Congress deauthorizes Asotin Dam, and designates the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

1976
The Forest Management Act passes, thus providing for harvest practices which preserve biological diversity and meet multiple-use objectives.

The Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act asserts exclusive US management authority 200 miles out from the coast, and establishes regional management councils.

1980
The last Columbia River cannery closes. Congress passes the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, which aims to give anadromous fish equal consideration with hydropower development and operation on the Columbia and Snake rivers; the act forms the Northwest Power Planning Council.

1985
The United States-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty is signed and later ratified by Congress, and sets up a process for managing ocean salmon fisheries for conservation and equity.

1990
Oregon has 6,200 commercial fishers. Fishers begin to harvest large volumes of Pacific whiting. Senator Mark Hatfield calls a Salmon Summit.

1991
Sockeye from the Columbias largest tributary, the Snake, are listed as endangered by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

1992
Snake River spring and summer chinook are combined and together with fall chinook are listed as threatened. The American Rivers Council lists the Columbia as the most endangered river in America.

1994
The Columbia River is closed to commercial salmon fishing by non-Indians. Snake River chinook are reclassified as endangered.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that greater than two-thirds of ocean fish stocks are in decline, fished to capacity, or recovering as a result of reduced fishing pressure.

1995
Commercial fishing yields 240 million pounds of product, and more than $7million at harvest level.

1996
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature adds 118 marine species to its list of threatened species.

Present
The first major discussions about altering dams occur. The Pacific Fishery Management Council discusses cuts in commercial fishing for snapper, black cod, lingcod, Dover sole, and other West Coast groundfish suspected of overexploitation. The National Marine Fisheries Service lists some stocks of Columbia River steelhead and proposes listing coastal coho under the Endangered Species Act3.

Fish and wildlife users generate their greatest economic impact in Oregon through sport fishing; the remainder is divided among commercial fishing, sport hunting, and wildlife viewing4.


Adapted from Wilkinson (1992), Martin (1994), Dietrich (1995), Petersen (1995), Taylor (1996), the video program, The Oregon Story: Fishing, and the following: Dicken and Dicken (1979, Two Centuries of Oregon Geography. I. The Making of Oregon: A Study in Historical Geography, Oregon Historical Society), Dicken and Dicken (1982, Two Centuries of Oregon Geography. II. Oregon Divided: A Regional Geography, Oregon Historical Society), Dodds (1977, Oregon: A Bicentennial History, W. W. Norton and Company), Jackson and Kimerling (1993, Atlas of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University Press), ODonnell (1988, That Balance So Rare: The Story of Oregon, Oregon Historical Society), Warren and Ishikawa (1991, Oregon Handbook, Moon Publications), and Wills (1995, A Historical Album of Oregon, The Millbrook Press).

2Dick Russell. 1995. Fishing down the food chain. The Amicus Journal 17(3):16-24.

3It's likely that no wild coho remain in the Columbia River Basin.

4Columbia, as well as every county with a coastlineClatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, and Tillamook, list fishing as a principal industry.