The Klamath River Basin straddles northern California and southern Oregon and has been the locus of a century-long struggle for multivalent resilience—resilience of resident Native American tribes in the face of settlement by Europeans and others, resilience of immigrant settlers pursuing agriculture in a water-limited environment, and resilience of native ecosystems and fish species in the face of significant hydrologic fragmentation via dams and irrigation infrastructure resulting in severely reduced access to and changes in habitat. Recently, however, the communities of the Klamath Basin have worked together in an effort to transform regional environmental governance to promote greater resilience across all these valences. This article uses the four-phase adaptive cycle model that Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling described in 2002 to trace the history of the Klamath Basin social-ecological system (“SES”) through periods characterized by vulnerability, resilience, and transformation. We conclude that while Klamath Basin stakeholders have worked out a compromise settlement that may signify the emergence of a new, more resilient regime of environmental governance, the Basin’s future is uncertain. We identify important thresholds that, if triggered, could move the SES into alternate regimes, and we consider whether formalization of emergent institutions through legislation might influence this trajectory.

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