US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Open-File Report 2013-1039 (2013) 36 pages.


Chiloquin Dam was constructed in 1914 on the Sprague River near the town of Chiloquin, Oregon. The dam was identified as a barrier that potentially inhibited or prevented the upstream spawning migrations and other movements of endangered Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris) suckers, as well as other fish species. In 2002, the Bureau of Reclamation led a working group that examined several alternatives to improve fish passage at Chiloquin Dam. Ultimately it was decided that dam removal was the best alternative and the dam was removed in the summer of 2008. The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a long-term study on the spawning ecology of Lost River, shortnose, and Klamath largescale suckers (Catostomus snyderi) in the Sprague and lower Williamson Rivers from 2004 to 2010. The objective of this study was to evaluate shifts in spawning distribution following the removal of Chiloquin Dam. Radio telemetry was used in conjunction with larval production data and detections of fish tagged with passive integrated transponders (PIT tags) to evaluate whether dam removal resulted in increased utilization of spawning habitat farther upstream in the Sprague River. Increased densities of drifting larvae were observed at a site in the lower Williamson River after the dam was removed, but no substantial changes occurred upstream of the former dam site. Adult spawning migrations primarily were influenced by water temperature and did not change with the removal of the dam. Emigration of larvae consistently occurred about 3–4 weeks after adults migrated into a section of river. Detections of PIT-tagged fish showed increases in the numbers of all three suckers that migrated upstream of the dam site following removal, but the increases for Lost River and shortnose suckers were relatively small compared to the total number of fish that made a spawning migration in a given season. Increases for Klamath largescale suckers were more substantial. Post-dam removal monitoring only included 2 years with below average river discharge during the spawning season; data from years with higher flows may provide a different perspective on the effects of dam removal on the spawning migrations of the two endangered sucker species.