This paper is concerned with development and application of a conceptual model of the river restoration process and, through a specific case study, a demonstration of the challenges that arise when combining ecological and geomorphological principles with social and economic issues. Thus, it demonstrates the difference between the ideal goals of river restoration and the practical determinants of the nature of a river restoration that derive from individual and community goals. It begins by exploring theoretically what a river restoration project might involve. It then introduces the options developed for restoration of a particular case study river and the associated decisionmaking process. As a result of strong community involvement, institutional and financial regulations, the location of the restoration site in a National Park, and the influence of governmental and non-governmental organizations, the actual decisionmaking process resulted in a practical river restoration that departed significantly from the idealized goals of a restoration defined in purely scientific terms. It is argued that these practical limitations are likely to remain the dominant influence upon the nature and scope of river restoration projects.