A total of 453 journal articles, reports, books, and book chapters addressing threats to riparian ecosystems in western North America were analyzed to identify, quantify, and qualify the major threats to these ecosystems as represented in the existing literature. Publications were identified either as research, policy, literature review, historical comparison, or management papers. All papers were evaluated based on year of publication, area of interest, and type(s) of threats addressed. Research papers, however, were assessed in more depth. The publications ranged from the 1930s to 2010 and addressed the following threats: dams, pollution (point and nonpoint), grazing, land use change, timber harvesting, water diversion, road construction, recreation, mining, groundwater pumping, invasive species, climate change, salinity, fire, insect and diseases, woody encroachment, watershed degradation, elimination of native vegetation, beavers, fire suppression, and fuel management. While the types of threats vary on spatial and temporal scales, some persist through decades in western North America. This analysis shows that grazing has been perceived as a dominant threat since the 1980s, but has been diminishing in the past decade, while invasive species, dams and, in recent years, climate change are increasingly represented in the literature as threats to riparian ecosystems in western North America.