River of Renewal
River of Renewal
River of Renewal
Item#: RIV-981-D
License:  Format: 

Running Time: 55 minutes
Gr. 9-Adult
Closed Captioned
A film by Jack Kohler, Steve Michelson, Stephen Most


"Highly recommended... for public, school and college libraries."
-Educational Media Reviews Online

"Recommended. The disastrous consequences of the long-term exploitation of California and Oregon's Klamath River is detailed in this low-key but important video. Useful as a study of the tragic consequences of ill thought-out projects as well as the need for a larger world view culminating in cooperation between traditionally opposing camps."
- School Library Journal

"Highly recommended. Effectively touches on many subject areas: economics, environmental science, contemporary American Indian issues, and the connection of local concerns with national sociopolitical operations."
-Video Librarian

"Wonderful and current...River of Renewal is a finely structured film that moves in a clear direction conceptually and geographically (up the river). It portrays all parties fairly and conveys the full tragedy of unplanned development and irresponsible selfishness, not only for humans but for the natural world that is our innocent victim. I highly recommend it for as many audiences as possible."
-Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

A clear and thorough hour-long documentary that illuminates the multifaceted battle for water and livelihoods on the Klamath River.
-Colin Carpenter, International Rivers

Its a compelling tale, made even more poignant by intimate moments with members of the tribal council, fifth-generation commercial fishermen, and salt-of-the earth farmers upstream all of whom depend on the Klamaths diminishing flow for survival.
-World Rivers Review


Best Documentary Feature, American Indian Film Festival


Broadcast nationally on PBS


All prices include DVD and PPR

Public Libraries-Circulation Only: $24.95
K-12 Schools, Public Libraries, Colleges, Universities & Gov't: $129

K-12 Schools, Public Libraries, Colleges, Universities & Gov't (with DSL): $429

River of Renewal chronicles the long conflict over the 10 million acre Klamath River Basin, which spans the Oregon-California border. Competing demands for water, food, and energy have pitted farmers, American Indians, and commercial fishermen against each other for decades.

Remarkably, this conflict over resources has led to a consensus for conservation in this vast river basin that was once North America's third greatest salmon-producing river. The outcome will likely be the largest dam removal project in U.S. history and the most ambitious effort ever to restore the habitat of a federally protected species.

River of Renewal shows one of the great rivers of America in crisis while also telling the story of a "sidewalk Indian", Jack Kohler, who discovers his roots among the Klamath River tribes. For Kohler, the conflict is a journey of self-discovery as he uncovers the elemental bond between California native tribes, the river, and its most legendary denizen, the salmon.

Kohler comes to the mouth of the Klamath River to make a film about the 1978 Salmon War. But an event occurs that brings the conflict into the 21st century. In May 2001, a federal judge's ruling under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to cut off irrigation water sparks an angry protest from local farmers. Then in 2002, ignoring the ESA, the Bush Administration orders the unlimited release of water to farmers. Later that year, 80,000 spawning salmon die in the Klamath estuary, which leads to the collapse of the salmon fishery off the California and Oregon coasts.

The polarization of Klamath Basin communities gives way to conflict resolution and consensus building. Recognizing that their livelihoods all depend on the health of the river, stakeholders who had been antagonists agree to share the water and to demand the removal of the four dams.

The hopeful outcome of the conflict is a lesson in the interdependence of economic recovery with ecological restoration, and the value of finding common ground among competing interests.

Click here to download the River of Renewal Viewer Guide