Russian Riverkeeper


Mission Statement

Inspiring the community to protect the Russian River forever.


Russian Riverkeeper has been successfully protecting the River since 1993. Russian Riverkeeper, originally Friends of the Russian River, actively pursued conservation and protection of the River’s mainstem, tributaries and watershed through public education, citizen action, scientific research and expert advocacy. The original founders of Friends of the Russian River were Marty Griffin, David Bolling, Joan Vilms and Albert Slenderbrock who organized to address excessive gravel mining, collapse of our once great salmon and steelhed runs and pollution in the Russian River watershed. Among our early successes include a landmark conference in 1994, “The Russian River in Peril”, attended by 300 people including experts on fisheries, drinking water, and hydrology in addition to representatives from regulatory agencies and elected officials. Out of the conference came the agreement that the Russian River basin needed a comprehensive master plan that would provide a shared vision of restoration and enhancement of the River and its watershed.
In 2001, Russian Riverkeeper was launched as the 65th member of The Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots advocacy coalition of over 250 Waterkeeper organizations. Waterkeeper members are all locally directed and funded with a common purpose to preserve our rights to fishable, swimmable and drinkable waterways free of pollution.
Since 2001, Russian Riverkeeper has operated three main programs, Advocate, Educate and Celebrate to fulfill its mission to inspire the community to protect the Russian River forever. Our long-term goal is focused on regenerating the health of the Russian River by seeking opportunities to restore some of the over 80% of river and wetland area that has been lost over the last 100 years to channelization, gravel mining, agricultural and urban development. In doing so, we can recover tens of millions of dollars in ecosystem services such as groundwater recharge, flood protection, pollution sequestration and wildlife habitat we have lost that are so critical to making our community and wildlife resilient to the effects of our changing climate.

Program Details

Our advocacy program actively reviews regulatory permits including gravel mining proposals, stormwater pollution control permits, water flow levels and other issues that affect the health of the River. We partner with other local organizations, hire expert scientists and attorneys and engage our members in speaking out and advocating for a healthy Russian River!
Russian Riverkeeper is very active in educating the public and school groups on issues affecting the health of the Russian River and what we can all do to make a difference. Most people want to protect the health of the Russian River but often aren’t sure how to do it or are not aware that everyday activities can have a negative effect on the river’s health. Today thanks to the hard work of many researchers and educators, we know that many of the problems facing the River are solvable and our job is to provide information on solutions to the problems.
Riverkeeper also gives presentations to industry and business groups on various topics to increase the understanding of the River and its critical role in the community and why working to improve its health builds a stronger community. Riverkeeper is constantly increasing the educational resources on how we can make a difference and enjoy a healthy river today and in future generations.
Since the early 1900’s when the railroads started bringing visitors from the San Francisco area to Guerneville and Healdsburg the Russian River has been a major destination for recreation and relaxation where the people could get away from the hectic city life. Over a hundred years later, the hectic pace that once reigned in the cities has invaded the rural Russian River watershed. We discovered that many people locally do not go swimming or visit the river leading to many in our community having no connection to the River despite its vital importance to our community. When people are not connected to something they care less, pay attention less and apathy creeps in and when a problem is facing the River it’s easy to brush it off.
Apathy towards rivers is a big problem because our every day actions have a profound effect on the health of the Russian River and our waterways across the state. Polluted urban run-off is a great example as we are all the cause of this major source of pollution but if we do not care about the River why would we change our behavior to keep it clean? Alumni RRK board member Jib Ellison came up with the idea of bringing back the historic boat races on the River in an effort to get our community back to the River to have fun…and re-connect with the River. Jib’s thought led to the Great Russian River Race in partnership with Sonoma County Regional Parks and River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe Trips. Soon after the Healdsburg Water Carnival returned to the River for the first time in decades bringing several thousand residents to the River for more fun….and more people “re-discovering” what a great treasure we have in the Russian River.
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PO Box 1335
Healdsburg, CA 95448
United States
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