The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected water-quality data during 2002 and 2003 in the Lower Klamath River Basin, in northern California, to support studies of river conditions as they pertain to the viability of Chinook and Coho salmon and endangered suckers. To address the data needs of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, and pH were continuously monitored at sites on the Klamath, Trinity, Shasta, and Lost Rivers. Water-quality samples were collected and analyzed for selected nutrients, organic carbon, chlorophyll-a, pheophytin-a, and trace elements. Sediment oxygen demand was measured on the Shasta River. Results of analysis of the data collected were used to identify locations in the Lower Klamath River Basin and periods of time during 2002 and 2003 when river conditions were more likely to be detrimental to salmonid or sucker health because of occasional high water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen, and conditions that supported abundant populations of algae and aquatic plants. The results were also used to assess gaps in data by furthering the development of the conceptual model of water flow and quality in the Lower Klamath River Basin using available data and the current understanding of processes that affect water quality and by assessing needs for the develoment of mathematical models of the system. The most notable gap in information for the study area is in sufficient knowledge about the occurrence and productivity of algal communities. Other gaps in data include vertical water-quality profiles for the reservoirs in the study area, and in an adequate understanding of the chemical oxygen demands and the sediment oxygen demands in the rivers and of the influence of riparian shading on the rivers. Several mathematical models are discussed in this report for use in characterizing the river systems in the study area; also discussed are the specific data needed for the models, and the spatial and temporal data available as boundary conditions. The models will be useful for the future development of TMDLs for temperature, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen and for assessing the role of natural and anthropogenic sources of heat, oxygen-producing and -consuming substances, and nutrients in the Klamath, Shasta, and Lost Rivers.