Shrinking Snowmelt Dries a River

Shrinking Snowmelt Dries a River

Use these maps and infographic to teach students about water issues in the Klamath River watershed.


5 - 8


Conservation, Earth Science, Meteorology, Geography, Physical Geography

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Investigate how diminishing snowpack affects the Klamath River by first exploring the river’s flow. Use the “River Upside Down” map to identify the river’s initial tributaries and where it enters the Pacific Ocean. Have students compare the Klamath to other major rivers to demonstrate why it is referred to as “upside down.”

Next, review the “Spring Snowpack Trends” map to observe changes in snowpack across the watershed. Ask: Where did the largest decreases in snowpack occur? Increases? Are there any conflicting changes? Provide pairs of students with copies of both maps and have them describe the topography of areas in which snowpack has changed. Direct students to verify whether lower elevations, rather than higher elevations, are experiencing decreases in snowpack, as stated.

Then have students identify the tributary waters flowing through areas of decreased snowpack. As a class, review the categories on the “River Upside Down” key. As students trace the tributaries, have them identify the types of land-use that exist nearby and then compare this to land-use along the Klamath River. Have students use their findings to deduce the kinds of stakeholders invested in the region and predict how they might be impacted by decreased snowpack.

Finally, share the “Adult Chinook” infographic and explain how Chinook salmon return to freshwater to spawn. Have students discuss changes in the population over time, connecting reduced snowpack to the state of the river. To conclude, have students use evidence from each resource to predict how climate change will impact salmon populations and the Klamath watershed in general.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
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Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
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Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Specialist, Content Production
Clint Parks
André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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