Juvenile Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha moving downstream through tributaries of the upper Willamette River basin can spend months in reservoirs created by dams. While residing in the reservoirs, they often obtain heavy infections of the freshwater parasitic copepod Salmincola californiensis. The physiologic effect these parasites have on salmonids is poorly understood. We developed a method to infect juvenile Chinook Salmon in a laboratory with the copepodid stage of S. californiensis. Infected and uninfected fish were subjected to a swimming challenge to ascertain swimming endurance. Severity of gill damage was assessed using a dissecting microscope. Juvenile Chinook Salmon naturally infected with S. californiensis in Cougar Reservoir, Oregon, were also challenged and compared with their lab-infected counterparts. Copepod infection greatly impaired the swimming ability of laboratory fish, and the naturally infected fish were entirely incapable of swimming at low velocity. Chinook Salmon collected in the wild were more heavily infected than the laboratory fish and had trouble surviving collection and transport to our laboratory. The intensity of infection and severity of gill damage were positively correlated with diminished swimming ability, suggesting that heavy infection with copepods impairs gas exchange and osmotic regulation, which likely results in diminished fitness and decreased survival of infected fish.