To characterize the pattern of recovery following release of unilateral ureteral obstruction of 24-hr duration, rats were studied with whole kidney clearance techniques, 3 hrs, 8, 14, and 60 days after release. The single nephron glomerular filtration rate (SNGFR) of superficial and juxtamedullary nephrons was estimated with a modification of Hanssen's technique in rats studied 8 and 60 days after ureteral release. The whole kidney glomerular filtration rates (GFR) were decreased markedly 3 hrs after relief of obstruction, but gradually increased and by 14 days, the GFR of the postobstructed kidney (POK) and the contralateral kidney (CK) were comparable. This recovery of GFR was not a consequence of a homogeneous improvement in SNGFR. At 8 days, more than 15% of superficial and juxtamedullary nephrons were not filtering in the POK. This decrease in the percent of filtering nephrons persisted to 60 days post release, indicating a permanent loss of nephron units. The SNGFR of the residual nephrons of the POK was significantly greater than that of the CK at 8 and 60 days following ureteral release. Thus, acute unilateral ureteral obstruction results in a permanent loss of filtering nephrons, which is offset by hyperfiltration of those remaining. Abnormalities in renal tubule function persisted beyond the time (14 days) when whole kidney GFR had returned to normal. These abnormalities were in distal tubule function. Urine osmolality was consistently lower at all time intervals post release, as was net acid excretion. The results of the present study suggest that these abnormalities are a consequence of the reduction in the number of filtering juxtamedullary nephrons and/or to abnormalities in collecting duct function.