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Trout on the Wind: a film about the removal of Hemlock Dam

Posted: 03/05/2011
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Since it's premiere last year, "Trout on the Wind" has continued to attract accolades and awards. The 10 minute short video documents the removal of the dam located within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Trout Creek is a tributary of the Wind River which runs into the Columbia River Gorge.  Historically, Trout Creek provided a significant portion of the prime habitat for steelhead.  Built in the 1930's, the dam has aged and fell into disrepair and resident fish populations were struggling to hold on.  This film takes you to the river and introduces you to the people that made this inspiring river restoration effort a reality.

View the 10 Minute Short Version of the Film

Trout on the Wind Accolades
Official Selection Columbia Gorge Film Festival 2010
Official Selection Salem Film Festival 2010
Official Selection Yosemite Film Festival 2010
John Muir Award Yosemite Film Festival 2010
Official Selection Wild & Scenic Film Festival 2011
Honorable Mention Western Watersheds Resources Initiative Film Competition (10 minute short)
Best Accomplished Documentary National Paddling Film Festival 2011

"Trout on the Wind" is a presentation of the Hydropower Reform Coalition, a Sam Drevo Production produced by Ralph Bloemers. You can obtain a copy of the full-length 23 minute version of the film by contacting the Thomas O'Keefe at American Whitewater, Rich Bowers with the HydroPower Reform Coalition or Ralph Bloemers at the Crag Law Center.


Trout Creek is located just north of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Washington State.  The creek flows south through the Gifford Pinchot National to the Columbia River about an hour and a half drive east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.  Over 90% of the land in this 225 square mile drainage is owned by the public and is part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Mt. Adams is just a short distance to the Northeast as the eagle flies and the small towns in this area provide a gateway to Mt. St. Helens.

The canyons of the Wind River were wild and unsettled until the early 1900s.  In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt sought to pull the United States out of the Great Depression by putting people back to work.  Through his New Deal, Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservation Corps and the CCC boys as they came to be known constructed the Hemlock Dam to provide water and power for a work camp in the area.  In the 1970s, the dam fell into disrepair and resident fish populations were struggling to hold on.   In 1995, the Forest Service began working with local organizations, contractors and citizens to figure out what needed to be done to recover the river.

In 2009, the Forest Service joined forces with local citizens, contractors and conservation groups to remove Hemlock Dam and restore more than 20 miles of habitat for Columbia River steelhead.  Local filmmakers and avid whitewater kayakers Sam Drevo and Ralph Bloemers documented the project and produced a short film Trout on the Wind.

Trout on the Wind: The Hemlock Dam Removal Story was completed in early May of 2010, and it documents the project from its start to its finish.  After the dam was removed and within minutes of clean water being put back in the stream, a biologist working on the project shot footage of Steelhead trout making their way up the newly restored reach.  Trout on the Wind takes you to the river and introduces you to the people that made this inspiring modern-day restoration effort a reality.

The role that dam removal plays in river restoration is beginning to unfold and each of these restoration projects offer us a chance to recover our natural heritage and celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  These are exciting times, where people are working together to employ different dam removal techniques to improve conditions for native fish in the Gorge.  The Columbia Gorge is fast becoming the heart of river restoration through dam removals and local people are getting excited as future projects to remove other dams in the region begin to unfold.


Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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Volcano Country (OR/WA)

The rivers of Volcano Country within and surrounding the Gifford Pinchot National Forest represent some of the nation's most spectacular whitewater resources.

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