HELLS CANYON, Idaho (News Release) – Record numbers of Chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Snake River Basin below Hells Canyon Dam last fall. Idaho Power biologists counted the fishes’ nesting areas using an unmanned aerial vehicle.

A new video gives a drone’s eye view of the returning salmon.

More than 3,100 redds, where salmon lay their eggs, were counted in the Snake River. The total, including the Snake, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater and Salmon rivers, was more than 8,800 – the highest number since counts began in 1991. That first survey found just 55 redds, and it took a decade for the number to cross 1,000.

This is the first year Idaho Power has used the drone exclusively for the annual count. Previous surveys included flying a helicopter in Hells Canyon during the winter, when weather conditions can present challenges for pilots. The drone allows biologists to get a clear picture of the redds while keeping humans safely on the ground.