Kwoneesum Dam

Tribal leadership to restore native waters

About the Project

Kwoneesum Dam is a 45-foot-high earthen structure on Wildboy Creek which flows into the lower Washougal River, a tributary of the Columbia River. The dam was built in 1965 to create a recreational lake at a Camp Fire Girls summer camp location, however, the organization abandoned the site in the late 1980s and sold it to an industrial timber company.

The beautiful forestland surrounding the 10-acre Kwoneesum Lake is the ancestral home of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. Salmon from the Wildboy and Washougal nourished countless generations of the Tribe’s ancestors, but the dam blocked coho and steelhead from accessing 6.5 miles of prime spawning and rearing habitat. In creating a warm, stagnant pool of water, the dam also prevents the transport of woody debris and sediment that could support critical salmon habitat downstream. The Tribe, in coordination with Columbia Land Trust, is committed to restoring the meandering flows of the creek, which will bolster the vitality of the larger river system.

In 2019, Columbia Land Trust began buying forestland near the dam to protect the area from encroaching growth of the nearby Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, starting with the 1,300-acre timber property surrounding the lake. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe, which has been restoring the Washougal River system, is managing the dam removal as well as the stream restoration.

Owner: Columbia Land Trust
Size: 45 feet high, 425 feet long
Project Cost: $9 million
ORF Investment: Land acquisition, design, engineering, and construction
Miles Opened: 6.5 miles
Fish: ESA-listed coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead
Status: Removal scheduled in 2024

  • Restore access to 6.5 miles of prime spawning and rearing habitat
  • Improve downstream habitat with replenished sediment, woody debris, and cooler water
  • Restore the Cowlitz Indian Tribe fishery
  • Eliminate safety hazards downstream of this state-classified high hazard dam
  • Protect more than 1,700 acres of valuable forestland for sustainable harvest and restore ecosystem function
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Project Partners

Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Columbia Land Trust

Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board

Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board

J. Murdock Charitable Trust